Commentary and Misinformation on Wisconsin Test Scores: Voucher, Public and Higher Academic Standards

St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson, via a kind reader’s email:

Dear supporters of St. Marcus School,

I need your help in setting the story straight. Perhaps you read the bold headline in the local section of the Journal Sentinel yesterday — “Wisconsin voucher students lag in latest state test.” That claim is not accurate. You need to understand that this is misinformation about the Choice program. I want you to know the truth — and be our voices in sharing this with others.
The state released the 2012 WKCE test scores this week, conveniently comparing the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) to all of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and showing that MPS “beat” MPCP in every subject area.
Unfortunately, this is a gross misrepresentation of reality and is not an “apples to apples” comparison. The information that was released FAILED to do the appropriate comparison of MPS low-income students to MPCP, whose students are almost ENTIRELY from low-income families. When doing an accurate comparison of MPCP to MPS’s low-income population, choice schools beat MPS in all subjects except math. (Remember MPS has many students who are not in poverty and are high-achieving. By nature, almost allMPCP students are low-income.)
Beyond the program averages, our St. Marcus students are doing tremendously well, outpacing both the MPS and MPCP numbers by wide margins:

This may seem unimportant, since people are often negative about the choice program. However, it is actually very important at this time to set the record straight. Legislators are reading this misinformation, our supporters are reading this misinformation and so is the general public. At a time when there is much debate about the amount of the choice voucher funding and the expansion of the program, it is essential that we set the record straight. We need to get correct information to our supporters and legislators immediately!
At St. Marcus, it has been demonstrated that it is possible to educate the urban poor, even very poor children, in a highly effective manner. To protect the well-being of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and to enable St. Marcus to continue to grow and deliver excellent education to more students please take ACTION:
Forward this e-mail to your friends and certainly any legislators you know.
Contact your legislator directly and encourage them to support an increase in the voucher amount for MPCP schools. (Unbelievably, the current voucher amount of $6,451 is lower than the voucher amount back in 2006!)
Thanks for acting in support of your friends at St. Marcus and the awesome students achieving great things in schools like ours.
If you have any other questions or concerns, you can contact me.
Henry Tyson, Superintendent

Listen to a 2012 interview with Henry Tyson, here.
The Wisconsin State Journal:

The lower scores do not reflect falling performance. Students just need to know more to rank as high as they used to.
Most states are doing the same thing and will benchmark their exams to international standards.
Just as importantly, the computerized assessments of the near future will adjust to the ability of students. That will give parents and educators much better, more detailed and timely information about what students know and what they still need to learn.
Some critics will disparage any and all testing, pretending it will be the only measure Wisconsin will use for success. Others have lamented the increasing role of the federal government in the process.

Phil Hands cartoon.