Wisconsin hopes to mirror Massachusetts’ test success for teaching reading

Alan Borsuk:

A second-grade teacher notices that one of her students lacks fluency when reading aloud. The first thing the teacher should do to help this student is assess whether the student also has difficulties with:
A. predicting
B. inferring
C. metacognition
D. decoding
Don’t worry if you’re not into metacognition. The correct answer is decoding — at least according to the people who put together the test teachers must pass in Massachusetts if they are going to teach children to read.
The Massachusetts test is about to become the Wisconsin test, a step that advocates see as important to increasing the quality of reading instruction statewide and, in the long term, raising the overall reading abilities of Wisconsin students. As for those who aren’t advocates (including some who are professors in schools of education), they are going along, sometimes with a more dubious attitude to what this will prove.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction officially launched the era of the new test for reading licenses with a memo sent last week to heads of all teacher preparation programs in the state. The memo spelled out the details of implementing a law passed in 2011 that called for Wisconsin to use the Massachusetts test. The memo included setting the passing score, which, after a short phase-in period, will match what is regarded as the demanding Massachusetts standard.
In a nutshell, after Jan. 31, 2014, anyone who wants to get a license that allows them to teach reading in Wisconsin will have to pass this test, with 100 multiple choice questions and two essay questions, aimed at making sure they are adequately prepared to do so. (Those currently licensed will not need to pass the test.)
Why Massachusetts? Because in the 1990s, Massachusetts launched initiatives, including requiring students to pass a high school graduation test, requiring teachers to pass licensure tests specific to the subjects they teach, and increasing spending on education, especially in schools serving low-income children.
At that point, Wisconsin and Massachusetts were pretty much tied, and down the list of states a bit, when it came to how students were doing. Within a few years, scores in Massachusetts rose significantly. The state has led the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math achievement for a decade. Wisconsin scores have stayed flat.

Many notes and links on Wisconsin’s adoption of Massachusetts (MTEL) elementary English teacher content knowledge standards. UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg’s recommended Wisconsin’s adoption of MTEL.