Where I really worry is the remaining portion of kids, those whose scores are described as “below basic.” In the language of the state Department of Public Instruction, that means a student “demonstrates minimal understanding of and ability to apply the knowledge and skills for their grade level that are associated with college content-readiness.” In other words, they’re really not good at these things and, frankly, probably have futures to match.
Depending on how you slice the data, the “below basic” kids come to 20% to 40% of students statewide. That’s a lot of kids.
The even bigger problem is that they are far disproportionately found in schools serving low-income students and minority students. There are, for example, several dozen schools of all kinds in Milwaukee where the “proficient” and “advanced” totals are in single digits, year after year, and where the “below basic” totals are over 60% or worse.
A couple of examples: At Auer Avenue school in the Milwaukee Public Schools system, 82.5% of students were below basic in reading and 85.3% in math. The combined proficient and advanced figure was 1.4% for each subject. A private school example: The totals for Hickman Academy, on Milwaukee’s north side, were 85% below basic in both reading and math. No students were proficient in math, and 2% were so in reading.