Politifact joins the Wisconsin Reading mulligan party

Wisconsin’s new Governor, Democrat Tony Evers, recently acknowledged his support for thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge exam mulligans.

Now comes Politifact:

As proof, Thiesfeldt’s staff pointed to the most recent Wisconsin Student Assessment System results. The annual tests include the Forward Exam for grades three to eight and ACT-related tests for grades nine to 11.

In the 2018-19 tests, 39.3% of students were rated as proficient or advanced in English Language Arts, and 40.1% reached those levels for math, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

For starters, calling 60% the “vast majority” is overstating things quite a bit.

But let’s focus on the “grade level” part of Thiesfeldt’s claim. Is it reasonable to say anyone below proficient is also below grade level?

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

Politifact is correct to say that proficiency on state txams don not necessarily align with grade level performance, a nebulous term which means different things at different times in different contexts. This means Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt was technically incorrect when he equated the two during a radio interview.


But Thiesfeldt was not being technical. He was not having a conversation about psychometrics and cut-scores, how to set them and how to anchor them from one year to the next so scores can be compared over time. He was making the point that we’re not doing very well. He was pointing to the bar and making sure we know how few students get over it. We can forgive him If that complex story is hard to tell in the kind of one sentence sound bites the media both requires and then dissects.

It might help to know that before 2013, before we were required to set our categorical cut-scores for proficient. advanced, etc., at new, more rigorous levels aligned with national standards.

Wisconsin set them at laughably low levels. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel missed this part of the story when it reviewed

The Wisconsin Department of Public instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirements (Foundations of Reading, based on Massachusetts’ best in the States MTEL requirement)

“the majority of ALL 11th-grade students in Madison read and write below basic proficiency. Translated: they are functionally illiterate.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

More on our long term, disastrous reading results, here.

“an emphasis on adult employment”.