Wisconsin DPI’s Ongoing Assessment Process (those Who Brought Us The WKCE)

Molly Beck: State education officials have tapped a former state lawmaker’s company to create a new exam for Wisconsin elementary and middle school students, replacing the problematic Badger Exam that students took for the first and last time this spring. The state is negotiating a contract with Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corporation to build a test … Continue reading Wisconsin DPI’s Ongoing Assessment Process (those Who Brought Us The WKCE)

Study praises Wisconsin for raising the bar on state exams; RIP WKCE Low Standards?

Erin Richards Eight years ago, a study found Wisconsin had one of the lowest bars in the country for rating students proficient in reading and math on the state standardized test. That means children here looked more academically accomplished than they probably really were — something the state aimed to remedy by raising the scores … Continue reading Study praises Wisconsin for raising the bar on state exams; RIP WKCE Low Standards?

Commentary on Madison’s 2012 WKCE Results

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

This report includes data from the Fall 2012 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE). In this report, we focus on reading and math scores. Students in grades 4, 8, and 10 also take Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts tests, but these tests are not used for school accountability in the same manner as Reading and Math tests and are not aligned to the new rigorous standards, so they are not directly comparable.
This year, WKCE results reflect the state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards in that DPI has adjusted the cut scores for each performance level to reflect higher expectations for student proficiency. As a result, MMSD’s scores (and scores for every district in the state) look very different from prior years.
1. The new cut scores can be applied to last year’s scores to provide a more meaningful year-to-year comparison. Scores have remained roughly unchanged from last year when the same scale is used.
2. Achievement gaps between subgroups of students exist across grades and locations and show few signs of either increasing or decreasing.
3. Scores showed some changes from last year at the building level, but these changes were mostly small.
4. Schools with more students scoring “Advanced” in Fall 2011 faced smaller negative impacts from the new performance cut scores.
In addition, overall proficiency rates in MMSD are close to state averages. Asian and White students in MMSD significantly outperform the state averages for their racial groups in both Reading and Math. In addition, large achievement gaps exist statewide as well as within MMSD.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

2012-13 MMSD WKCE Results


Tap or click to view a larger version.

Higher bar for WKCE results paints different picture of student achievement
Matt DeFour
Wisconsin student test scores released Tuesday look very different than they did a year ago, though not because of any major shift in student performance.
Similar to recent years, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results show gains in math and reading over the past five years, a persistent and growing performance gap between black and white students, and Milwaukee and Racine public school students outperforming their peers in the private school voucher program.
But the biggest difference is the scores reflect a higher bar for what students in each grade level should know and be able to do.
Only 36.2 percent of students who took the reading test last October met the new proficiency bar. Fewer than half, 48.1 percent, of students were proficient in math. When 2011-12 results were released last spring, those figures were both closer to 80 percent.
The change doesn’t reflect a precipitous drop in student test scores. The average scores in reading and math are about the same as last year for each grade level.
Instead, the change reflects a more rigorous standard for proficiency similar to what is used for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is administered to a sample of students in each state every other year and is referred to as “the nation’s report card.”
The state agreed to raise the proficiency benchmark in math and reading last year in order to qualify for a waiver from requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The benchmark did not rise for the language arts, science and social studies tests.
“Adjusting to higher expectations will take time and effort,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said. “But these are necessary changes that will ultimately help our schools better prepare all students to be college and career ready and link with work being done throughout the state to implement new standards.”
Evers also called on the Legislature to include private voucher schools in the state’s new accountability system.
He highlighted that test scores for all Milwaukee and Racine students need to improve. Among Milwaukee voucher students, 10.8 percent in reading and 11.9 percent in math scored proficient or better. Among Milwaukee public school students, it was 14.2 percent in reading and 19.7 percent in math.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program, including to such districts as Madison.
Changes in Dane County
The state previously announced how the changing bar would affect scores statewide and parents have seen their own students’ results in recent weeks, but the new figures for the first time show the impact on entire schools and districts.
In Dane County school districts, the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the test dropped on average by 42 percentage points in reading and 25 percentage points in math.
Madison schools had one of the smallest drops compared to its neighboring districts.
Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham noted schools with a higher number of students scoring in the “advanced” category experienced less of a drop. Madison’s smaller drop could reflect a higher proportion of students scoring in the top tier.
At the same time, Madison didn’t narrow the gap between minority and white student test results. Only 9 percent of black sixth-graders and only 2 percent of sixth-grade English language learners scored proficient in reading.
“It reinforces the importance of our work in the years ahead,” Cheatham said. “We’re going to work on accelerating student outcomes.”
Middleton-Cross Plains School Board president Ellen Lindgren said she hasn’t heard many complaints from parents whose students suddenly dropped a tier on the test. Like Madison and other districts across the state, Middleton-Cross Plains sent home letters bracing parents for the change.
But Lindgren fears the changing standards come at the worst time for public schools, which have faced tougher scrutiny and reduced state support.
“I’m glad that the standards have been raised by the state, because they were low, but this interim year, hopefully people won’t panic too much,” Lindgren said. “The public has been sold on the idea that we’re failing in our education system, and I just don’t believe that’s true.”
Next fall will be the last year students in grades 3-8 and 10 take the paper-and-pencil WKCE math and reading tests. Wisconsin is part of a coalition of states planning to administer a new computer-based test in the 2014-15 school year.
The proposed state budget also provides for students in grades 9-11 to take the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT college and career readiness tests in future years.

Superintendent Cheatham is to be commended for her informed, intelligent and honest reaction to the MMSD’s results when compared to those of neighboring districts.
View a WKCE summary here (PDF).

“When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous”: An Update on Madison’s Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap





170K PDF via a kind Andrew Statz email:

MAJOR FINDINGS
1. Students who have spent more time in MMSD perform better on the WKCE than their peers who have spent less time in MMSD.
2. Students who have spent more time in MMSD are demographically different from recent arrivals, who are less likely to be white and more likely to be low-income.
3. When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous.
Based on these findings, MMSD may be better served by refining its core curriculum to meet students’ needs based on demographic characteristics rather than the recency of their arrival in MMSD. The recent arrivals report is attached. Our official statement about our findings follows.
The most notable anomaly is among 10th grade students. In both Reading and Math, 10th grade students who had spent one year in MMSD performed as well as students who had spent their entire careers in MMSD and substantially better than new students as well as students who had spent between 2 and 9 years in MMSD. This suggests that students who enter MMSD in 9th grade are altogether different from students who enter in other grades. The high performance level for students spending one year in MMSD prior to 10th grade may reflect students entering MMSD in 9th grade after attending private schools through 8th grade.
——————————–
It is the district’s responsibility to meet students where they are in their learning and identify needed interventions, enrichment or other programs to advance that learning. That means we need to have curriculum and programs that work for all of the students we serve, regardless of demographic background or how long they have been in the district.
Unfortunately, we know that achievement gaps exist in schools across the country, and no single district has entirely eliminated them. Focusing only on how long a student has been in our district does not underscore the complexity of the issue and is not the most effective predictor of achievement.
Instead, strengthening classroom instruction and ensuring interventions and enrichment that advance learning for every student regardless of demographic characteristics will yield the best results.
However, we do know that mobility, including moving from another district or moves within MMSD, does have some impact on achievement. Exploring community solutions to enhance stability throughout a student’s education could both increase achievement and help close gaps.

Related: Madison’s Mayor on Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap; District Plans to Release Data “Within 3 Weeks”.
Larry Winkler kindly published a more detailed analysis, here.
I asked several observers for their perspective on the rhetoric, assertions and the Friday report. Here’s one:
“When the data were first presented, the argument put forth was that the performance of newly arrived students explained much of the performance gap that we see in our schools. However, when the District examined the effects of race and socioeconomic status in the analysis, they found that the performance of low income and minority students who had been in the MMSD for many years was not significantly different from the performance of low income and minority students who were new to the District.
It is disappointing that the District and the Mayor’s office ran so far and so fast with their initial, incomplete analysis.”
UPDATE: Larry Winkler kindly created a set of charts scaled by percentages.

Opt Out — Just Say No to the WKCE

TJ Mertz:

The WKCE testing and related assessments are scheduled for next week in the Madison Metropolitan School District schools (full schedule of MMSD assessments, here), but your child doesn’t have to be part of it. You can opt out. Families with students in grades 4,8, & 10 have a state statutory right to opt out of the WKCE; I have been told that it is district practice to allow families to opt out of any and all other, discretionary, tests. We opted out this year. In order to opt out, you must contact your school’s Principal (and do it ASAP, (contact info here).
The WKCE does your child no good. Just about everyone agrees that even in comparison to other standardized tests, it is not a good assessment. Because results are received so late in the year, it isn’t of much use to target student weaknesses or guide instruction. There are no benefits for students.

New WKCE Cut Scores

Wisconsin CESA, via a kind reader’s email:

The Department of Public Instruction has established performance standards (cut scores) for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) reading and mathematics content areas to more closely align with national and international expectations of what is required to be college and career ready. The higher cut
scores are comparable to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) cut scores. The performance level descriptors that accompany the college and career ready cut scores have been revised to reflect the higher expectations required with these higher performance benchmarks.

Can We Correlate WKCE Scores to Anything?

sp-eye:

It’s time somebody looked (at least in the public eye) at some of the demographics and policy/practices and how they may or may not relate to achievement (in terms of WKCE scores).
First a very brief less in the art of correlation. We can take any two pieces of information and mathematically determine whether or not there is a pattern…a correlation. The mathematical tool is the correlation coefficient. It provides a number ranging from -1 (perfect inverse correlation, as X increases, Y decreases) to +1 (perfect correlation, as X increases/decreases, so does Y). Then, all we need to do is apply some statistics based on the size of our data set to determine whether or not the correlation is significant (statistically speaking). For this exercise we looked at the 95% level of confidence, which means that there would be 5% or less chance that the correlation observed resulted from chance alone.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

Sun Prairie’s WKCE Data

sp-eye:

The Sun Prairie School District has “use data to drive decisions” as part of its credo.
So…here’s the data. This is how we stack up against other Dane Co. school districts.
As always, we highlight grades 4,8, and 10 because at these grades students are tested beyond reading an math. At these grades, all students are tested in Language Arts, Science and Social Studies in addition to Reading and Math.
You decide…are we doing as well as you think we should?
How about instead of some 200 page Monitoring Report that could cure the world’s worst case of insomnia, the school board hold a working session where they talk candidly about our district’s educational performance on the WKCE?

WKCE & Madison Students

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Finally, the troubling differences in levels of student learning that give rise to our achievement gap present an enormous challenge for our teachers. We as a District have long been committed to inclusive and heterogeneous elementary school classrooms. Consequently, given the gap, our teachers frequently lead classrooms with a number of high-achieving students and a number of struggling students. Imagine how much dedication and ingenuity it must take for our classroom teachers to provide a learning environment where all their students can thrive. It would be helpful to hear from teachers about how they think they can be most effective in teaching all students in classes with such a wide span of developed capabilities, given our resource limitations.
Even test results as generally uninformative as the WKCE make clear the extent of our achievement gap in Madison. From the perspective of the WKCE and based on statewide averages, our white students on the whole seem to be doing just fine while our African-American students on the whole are struggling. This shouldn’t come as news to anyone, but it does underscore what’s at stake when over the next several weeks the School Board starts to decide what components of the superintendent’s achievement gap plan we’re actually willing to raise taxes to support.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use

Wisconsin’s annual school test (WKCE) still gets lots of attention, but it seems less useful each year

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin (and just about every other state) is involved in developing new state tests. That work is one of the requirements of getting a waiver and, if a bill ever emerges form Congress, it will almost certainly continue to require every state to do testing.
But the new tests aren’t scheduled to be in place for three years – in the fall of 2014. So this fall and for at least the next two, Wisconsin’s school children and schools will go through the elaborate process of taking a test that still gets lots of attention but seems to be less useful each year it lives on.

The oft-criticized WKCE often provides grist for “successes”. Sometimes, rarely, the truth about its low standards is quietly mentioned.
I remember a conversation with a well educated Madison parent earlier this year. “My child is doing well, the WKCE reports him scoring in the 95th percentile in math”……
www.wisconsin2.org is worth a visit.

Madison School District Administrative Analysis of the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School; WKCE Rhetoric

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Critique of the District (MMSD)
Page # 23: MPA – No College Going Culture among Madison’s New Student Population
The data on student performance and course-taking patterns among students in MMSD paint a clear picture. There is not a prevalent college going culture among Black, Hispanic and some Asian student populations enrolled in MMSD. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. The majority of these students are failing to complete a rigorous curriculum that would adequately prepare them for college and 21st century jobs. Far too many are also failing to complete college requirements, such as the ACT, or failing to graduate from high school.
Page # 23: No College Going Culture among Madison’s New Student Population –
MMSD Response
MMSD has taken many steps towards ensuring college attendance eligibility and readiness for our students of color. Efforts include:
AVID/TOPS
East High School became the first MMSD school to implement AVID in the 2007-2008 school year. Teens of Promise or TOPS became synonymous with AVID as the Boys and Girls Club committed to an active partnership to support our program. AVID/TOPS students are defined as:
“AVID targets students in the academic middle – B, C, and even D students – who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. These are students who are capable of completing rigorous curriculum but are falling short of their
potential. Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families. AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation.”
Source: http://www.avid.org/abo_whatisavid.html
The MMSD has 491 students currently enrolled in AVID/TOPS. Of that total, 380 or 77% of students are minority students (27% African-American, 30% Latino, 10% Asian, 10% Multiracial). 67% of MMSD AVID/TOPS students qualify for free and reduced lunch. The 2010- 2011 school year marked an important step in the District’s implementation of AVID/TOPS. East High School celebrated its first cohort of AVID/TOPS graduates. East Highs AVID/TOPS class of 2011 had a 100% graduation rate and all of the students are enrolled in a 2-year or 4- year college. East High is also in the beginning stages of planning to become a national demonstration site based on the success of their program. This distinction, determined by the AVID regional site team, would allow high schools from around the country to visit East High School and learn how to plan and implement AVID programs in their schools.
MMSD has a partnership with the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) and they are conducting a controlled study of the effects of AVID/TOPS students when compared to a comparison groups of students. Early analysis of the study reveals positive gains in nearly every category studied.
AVID pilot studies are underway at two MMSD middle schools and support staff has been allocated in all eleven middle schools to begin building capacity towards a 2012-2013 AVID Middle School experience. The program design is still underway and will take form this summer when school based site teams participate in the AVID Summer Institute training.

I found this commentary on the oft criticized WKCE exams fascinating (one day, wkce results are useful, another day – this document – WKCE’s low benchmark is a problem)” (page 7):

Page # 28: MPA – Student Performance Measures:
85% of Madison Prep’s Scholars will score at proficient or advanced levels in reading, math, and science on criterion referenced achievement tests after three years of enrollment.
90% of Scholars will graduate on time.
100% of students will complete the SAT and ACT assessments before graduation with 75% achieving a composite score of 22 or higher on the ACT and 1100 on the SAT (composite verbal and math).
100% of students will complete a Destination Plan before graduation.
100% of graduates will qualify for admissions to a four-year college after graduation.
100% of graduates will enroll in postsecondary education after graduation.
Page # 28: Student Performance Measures – MMSD Response:
WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. Cut scores equated with advanced are needed due to the low benchmark of Wisconsin’s current state assessment system. What specific steps or actions will be provided for students that are far below proficiency and/or require specialized support services to meet the rigorous requirements of IB?
Recommendation:
No Child Left Behind requires 100% proficiency by 2014. Madison Prep must be held to the same accountability standards as MMSD.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.
Madison School District links & notes on Madison Prep.
TJ Mertz comments, here.

Sun Prairie Schools’ WKCE Results Above State Averages

Scott Beedy, via a kind reader’s email:

The 2010 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results reveal strong academic achievement for students in the Sun Prairie Area School District, according to district officials.
This past November, Sun Prairie administered the WKCE to more than 3,400 students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10. Students in grades 3 through 8 were assessed in reading and math. Students in grades 4, 8 and 10 were also assessed in language arts, science, social studies and writing.
It is important to note that testing in the fall shows the impact of instruction from the previous school years and just two months at the designated grade level. For example, 6th grade scores reflect proportionately more about the 5th grade program than about the 6th grade program.
Combining all grade levels, 88 percent of Sun Prairie students are proficient or advanced in reading and 86 percent are proficient or advanced in math, according to district officials. The numbers are both an increase from last year.

Much more on the recent WKCE results, here.

Milwaukee Voucher School WKCE Headlines: “Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn’t perform better in state tests”, “Test results show choice schools perform worse than public schools”, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS”; Spend 50% Less Per Student

Erin Richards and Amy Hetzner

Latest tests show voucher scores about same or worse in math and reading.
Students in Milwaukee’s school choice program performed worse than or about the same as students in Milwaukee Public Schools in math and reading on the latest statewide test, according to results released Tuesday that provided the first apples-to-apples achievement comparison between public and individual voucher schools.
The scores released by the state Department of Public Instruction cast a shadow on the overall quality of the 21-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which was intended to improve results for poor city children in failing public schools by allowing them to attend higher-performing private schools with publicly funded vouchers. The scores also raise concerns about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back the mandate that voucher schools participate in the current state test.
Voucher-school advocates counter that legislation that required administration of the state test should have been applied only once the new version of the test that’s in the works was rolled out. They also say that the latest test scores are an incomplete measure of voucher-school performance because they don’t show the progress those schools are making with a difficult population of students over time.
Statewide, results from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam show that scores didn’t vary much from last year. The percentage of students who scored proficient or better was higher in reading, science and social studies but lower in mathematics and language arts from the year before.

Susan Troller:

Great. Now Milwaukee has TWO failing taxpayer-financed school systems when it comes to educating low income kids (and that’s 89 per cent of the total population of Milwaukee Public Schools).
Statewide test results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction include for the first time performance data from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which involves about 110 schools serving around 10,000 students. There’s a total population of around 80,000 students in Milwaukee’s school district.
The numbers for the voucher schools don’t look good. But the numbers for the conventional public schools in Milwaukee are very poor, as well.
In a bit of good news, around the rest of the state student test scores in every demographic group have improved over the last six years, and the achievment gap is narrowing.
But the picture in Milwaukee remains bleak.

Matthew DeFour:

The test results show the percentage of students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program who scored proficient or advanced was 34.4 percent for math and 55.2 percent for reading.
Among Milwaukee Public Schools students, it was 47.8 percent in math and 59 percent in reading. Among Milwaukee Public Schools students coming from families making 185 percent of the federal poverty level — a slightly better comparison because voucher students come from families making no more than 175 percent — it was 43.9 percent in math and 55.3 percent in reading.
Statewide, the figures were 77.2 percent in math and 83 percent in reading. Among all low-income students in the state, it was 63.2 percent in math and 71.7 percent in reading.
Democrats said the results are evidence that the voucher program is not working. Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, the top Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee, said voucher students, parents and taxpayers are being “bamboozled.”
“The fact that we’ve spent well over $1 billion on a failed experiment leads me to believe we have no business spending $22 million to expand it with these kinds of results,” Pope-Roberts said. “It’s irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and a disservice to Milwaukee students.”
Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who is developing a proposal to expand the voucher program to other cities, took a more optimistic view of the results.
“Obviously opponents see the glass half-empty,” Vos said. “I see the glass half-full. Children in the school choice program do the same as the children in public school but at half the cost.”

Only DeFour’s article noted that voucher schools spend roughly half the amount per student compared to traditional public schools. Per student spending was discussed extensively during last evening’s planning grant approval (The vote was 6-1 with Marj Passman voting No while Maya Cole, James Howard, Ed Hughes, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss and Arlene Silveira voted yes) for the Urban League’s proposed Charter IB School: The Madison Preparatory Academy.
The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Wisconsin DPI WKCE data.
Yin and Yang: Jay Bullock and Christian D’Andrea.
Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Governance: Madison School Board Members Proposed 2010-2011 Budget Amendments: Cole, Hughes, Mathiak, Moss & Silveira. Reading Recovery, Teaching & Learning, “Value Added Assessment” based on WKCE on the Chopping Block

Well worth reading, particularly Maya Cole’s suggestions on Reading Recovery (60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use) spending, Administrative compensation comparison, a proposal to eliminate the District’s public information position, Ed Hughes suggestion to eliminate the District’s lobbyist (Madison is the only District in the state with a lobbyist), trade salary increases for jobs, Lucy Mathiak’s recommendations vis a vis Teaching & Learning, the elimination of the “expulsion navigator position”, reduction of Administrative travel to fund Instructional Resource Teachers, Arlene Silveira’s recommendation to reduce supply spending in an effort to fund elementary school coaches and a $200,000 reduction in consultant spending. Details via the following links:
Maya Cole: 36K PDF
Ed Hughes: 127K PDF
Lucy Mathiak: 114K PDF
Beth Moss: 10K PDF
Arlene Silveira: 114K PDF
The Madison School District Administration responded in the following pdf documents:

Much more on the proposed 2010-2011 Madison School District Budget here.

A Remarkable Headline: “WKCE results very similar to last year; non-low income students continue to do well”

Ken Syke, Madison School District Public Information:

Three conclusions from this year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination results for Madison School District students:

  1. The performance of Madison School District students was relatively unchanged from last year in reading and math across the seven tested grade levels.
  2. MMSD’s non-low income students continue to outperform their Wisconsin peers in reading and math.
  3. Small gains were made in 10 of 14 scores on the achievement gap but the differences remain too significant.

1. In reading, across the seven grades tested, four grade levels had an increase in the percentage of students scoring at the Proficient or higher performance categories compared with the previous year while three grades showed a decline in the percentage. In math, four grades increased Proficient or higher performance, one grade declined and two grades remained the same. (See Table 1 below.)

The WKCE has been criticized for its lack of rigor. It may be replaced in the not too distant future.

Wisconsin Likely to Adopt “Common Core” K-12 Standards, Drop Oft-Criticized WKCE

Gayle Worland:

Wisconsin students can count on one hand the number of times they’ll still have to take the math section — or any section — of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the annual weeklong test whose results for 2009-10 were scheduled to be released Wednesday.
That’s because the WKCE is expected to give way in a few years to tests based on new national academic standards proposed last month that could become final this spring.
The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and all 50 U.S. states except Alaska and Texas in the fall signed on to the development of the Common Core State Standards for math and English, which spell out what the nation’s public schoolchildren should be taught from kindergarten through high school.
When the final standards are unveiled, probably in late May, Wisconsin likely will adopt them, said Sue Grady, executive assistant to the state school superintendent.

Wisconsin Assessment Recommendations (To Replace the WKCE)

Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance, via a kind reader’s email [View the 146K PDF]

On August 27, 2009, State Superintendent Tony Evers stated that the State of Wisconsin would eliminate the current WKCE to move to a Balanced System of Assessment. In his statement, the State Superintendent said the following:

New assessments at the elementary and middle school level will likely be computer- based with multiple opportunities to benchmark student progress during the school year. This type of assessment tool allows for immediate and detailed information about student understanding and facilitates the teachers’ ability to re-teach or accelerate classroom instruction. At the high school level, the WKCE will be replaced by assessments that provide more information on college and workforce readiness.

By March 2010, the US Department of Education intends to announce a $350 million grant competition that would support one or more applications from a consortia of states working to develop high quality state assessments. The WI DPI is currently in conversation with other states regarding forming consortia to apply for this federal funding.
In September, 2009, the School Administrators Alliance formed a Project Team to make recommendations regarding the future of state assessment in Wisconsin. The Project Team has met and outlined recommendations what school and district administrators believe can transform Wisconsin’s state assessment system into a powerful tool to support student learning.
Criteria Underlying the Recommendations:

  • Wisconsin’s new assessment system must be one that has the following characteristics:
  • Benchmarked to skills and knowledge for college and career readiness • Measures student achievement and growth of all students
  • Relevant to students, parents, teachers and external stakeholders
  • Provides timely feedback that adds value to the learning process • Efficient to administer
  • Aligned with and supportive of each school district’s teaching and learning
  • Advances the State’s vision of a balanced assessment system

Wisconsin’s Assessment test: The WKCE has been oft criticized for its lack of rigor.
The WKCE serves as the foundation for the Madison School District’s “Value Added Assessment” initiative, via the UW-Madison School of Education.

For now, the test everyone hates (WKCE) is sticking around

Alan Borsuk:

All across Wisconsin, schools received boxes and boxes of stuff they didn’t want last week.
Unfortunately, they were about the most important deliveries they’ll get this year: Hundreds of thousands of test booklets for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the state’s annual standardized test.
The testing window, one of the biggest events in every school year, is about to open. More than 400,000 students in third through eighth grade, as well as in 10th grade, will be tested in either two or five subjects in coming weeks, with a handful of schools starting this week and the large majority doing the testing in November.
It’s the test everyone loves to hate. It takes up large amounts of time and disrupts schedules for days on end. There are widespread complaints about what is actually tested. The test yields almost nothing that is useful to teachers in shaping the way they educate students. It’s often a public relations problem and sometimes a nightmare if a school’s scores are low or sometimes even just not better than the prior year.
Furthermore, the test is dying a slow death, and everyone knows it.
Just to be contrary, let’s say something good about the WKCE. For all its flaws, it’s the only broad scale accountability tool we’ve got in this state. It succeeds in putting a lot of heat on schools across the state, and many of them need it.
And the test scores are actually a pretty good reflection of student achievement in a school – which is to say, I’ve never heard of a school with low scores that could make a convincing case that the kids were actually doing well and the scores were off base.
But the state testing system is moving toward an overhaul, and for good reasons.

The Overhaul of Wisconsin’s Assessment System (WKCE) Begins

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction [52K PDF]:

Wisconsin will transform its statewide testing program to a new system that combines state, district, and classroom assessments and is more responsive to students, teachers, and parents needs while also offering public accountability for education.
“We will be phasing out the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE),” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “We must begin now to make needed changes to our state’s assessment system.” He also explained that the WKCE will still be an important part of the educational landscape for two to three years during test development. “At minimum, students will be taking the WKCEs this fall and again during the 2010-11 school year. Results from these tests will be used for federal accountability purposes,” he said.
“A common sense approach to assessment combines a variety of assessments to give a fuller picture of educational progress for our students and schools,” Evers explained. “Using a balanced approach to assessment, recommended by the Next Generation Assessment Task Force, will be the guiding principle for our work.”
The Next Generation Assessment Task Force, convened in fall 2008, was made up of 42 individuals representing a wide range of backgrounds in education and business. Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, and Joan Wade, administrator for Cooperative Educational Service Agency 6 in Oshkosh, were co-chairs. The task force reviewed the history of assessment in Wisconsin; explored the value, limitations, and costs of a range of assessment approaches; and heard presentations on assessment systems from a number of other states.
It recommended that Wisconsin move to a balanced assessment system that would go beyond annual, large-scale testing like the WKCE.

Jason Stein:


The state’s top schools official said Thursday that he will blow up the system used to test state students, rousing cheers from local education leaders.
The statewide test used to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law will be replaced with a broader, more timely approach to judging how well Wisconsin students are performing.
“I’m extremely pleased with this announcement,” said Madison schools Superintendent Dan Nerad. “This is signaling Wisconsin is going to have a healthier assessment tool.”

Amy Hetzner:

Task force member Deb Lindsey, director of research and assessment for Milwaukee Public Schools, said she was especially impressed by Oregon’s computerized testing system. The program gives students several opportunities to take state assessments, with their highest scores used for statewide accountability purposes and other scores used for teachers and schools to measure their performance during the school year, she said.
“I like that students in schools have multiple opportunities to take the test, that there is emphasis on progress rather than a single test score,” she said. “I like that the tests are administered online.”
Computerized tests give schools and states an opportunity to develop more meaningful tests because they can assess a wider range of skills by modifying questions based on student answers, Lindsey said. Such tests are more likely to pick up on differences between students who are far above or below grade level than pencil-and-paper tests, which generate good information only for students who are around grade level, she said.
For testing at the high school level, task force member and Oconomowoc High School Principal Joseph Moylan also has a preference.
“I’m hoping it’s the ACT and I’m hoping it’s (given in) the 11th grade,” he said. “That’s what I believe would be the best thing for Wisconsin.”
By administering the ACT college admissions test to all students, as is done in Michigan, Moylan said the state would have a good gauge of students’ college readiness as well as a test that’s important to students. High school officials have lamented that the low-stakes nature of the 10th-grade WKCE distorts results.

The Madison School District on WKCE Data

Madison School District 1.5MB PDF:

The 2008-09 school year marked the fourth consecutive year in which testing in grades 3 through 8 and 10 was conducted in fulfillment of the federal No Child left Behind law. The Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) is a criterion-referenced test (CRT) where a student’s performance is compared to a specific set of learning standard outcomes. The WKCE-CRT includes testing in all seven grade levels reading and math and in grades 4, 8 and 10 additional testing in language arts, science and social studies. Just under 12,400 MMSD students participated in this year’s WKCE-CRT.


Under NClB, schools are required to test 95% of their full academic year (FAY) students in reading and math. Madison’s test participation rates exceeded 95% in all grade levels. Grades 3 through 8 achieved 99% test participation or higher while the District’s 10th graders reached 98% in test participation.



In general, performance was relatively unchanged in the two academic areas tested across the seven grade levels. In reading, across the seven grades tested four grade levels had an increase in the percentage of students scoring at the proficient or higher performance categories compared with the previous year while three grades showed a decline in the percentage. In math, three grades increased proficient or higher performance, three grades declined, and one remained the same.



The changing demographics of the district affect the overall aggregate achievement data. As the district has experienced a greater proportion of students from subgroups which are at a disadvantage in testing, e.g., non-native English speakers, or English language learners (Ells), the overall district averages have correspondingly declined. Other subgroups which traditionally perform well on student achievement tests, i.e., non-low income students and white students, continue to perform very high relative to statewide peer groups. Therefore, it is important disaggregate the data to interpret and understand the district results.

Jeff Henriques recently took a look at math performance in the Madison School District.

Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum

WKCE Scores Document Decline in the Percentage of Madison’s Advanced Students

For many years now, parents and community members, including members of Madison United for Academic Excellence, have expressed concerns about the decline in rigor and the lack of adequate challenge in our district’s curriculum. The release this week of WKCE scores for the November 2008 testing led me to wonder about the performance of our district’s strongest students. While most analyses of WKCE scores focus on the percentages of students scoring at the Advanced and Proficient levels, these numbers do not tell us about changes in the percent of students at each particular level of performance. We can have large increases in the percent of students scoring at the Proficient and Advanced levels because we have improved the performance of students who were previously at the Basic level on the WKCE, but yet fail to have any effect on the performance of our district’s strongest students. This is the argument that we are improving the performance of our low ability students, but failing to increase the performance of our already successful students. An examination of the numbers of students who are performing at just the Advanced level on the WKCE provides us with some insight into the academic progress of our more successful students.
I decided to examine WKCE math scores for students across the district. While it is not possible to track the performance of individual students, it is possible to follow the performance of a cohort as they advance through the system. Thus students who are now in 10th grade, took the 8th grade WKCE in 2006 and the 4th grade test in 2002. Because there have been significant changes in the demographics of the district’s students, I split the data by socio-economic status to remove the possibility of declines in WKCE performance simply being the result of increased numbers of low income students. Although the WKCE has been criticized for not being a rigorous enough assessment tool, the data on our students’ math performance are not encouraging. The figures below indicate that the percent of students scoring at the Advanced level on the WKCE decreases as students progress through the system, and this decline is seen in both our low income students and in our Not Economically Disadvantaged students. The figures suggest that while there is some growth in the percent of Advanced performing students in elementary school, there is a significant decline in performance once students begin taking math in our middle schools and this decline continues through high school. I confess that I take no pleasure in sharing this data; in fact, it makes me sick.

Because it might be more useful to examine actual numbers, I have provided tables showing the data used in the figures above. Reading across a row shows the percent of students in a class cohort scoring at the Advanced level as they have taken the WKCE test as they progressed from grades 3 – 10.

Percent of Economically Disadvantaged Students Scoring at the Advanced Level on the WKCE Math Test Between 2002 and 2008

Graduation Year 3rd Grade 4th Grade 5th Grade 6th Grade 7th Grade 8th Grade 10th Grade
2005
8
2006
8.8
2007
11
7.7
2008
5.6
8.7
2009
8.5
6.7
2010
9.2
8.4
2011
12
12.5
11.1
8
2012
9.7
10.4
9.5
8.2
2013
15.3
14.7
15.1
11.7
10.8
2014
12
13.6
16.1
13.2
2015
20.1
15
18
11.7
2016
15.4
17.1
18.4
2017
12.9
17
2018
13.8

The Death of WKCE? Task Force to Develop “Comprehensive Assessment System for Wisconsin”

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction [150K PDF], via a kind reader’s email:

Wisconsin needs a comprehensive assessment system that provides educators and parents with timely and relevant information that helps them make instructional decisions to improve student achievement,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster in announcing members of a statewide Next Generation Assessment Task Force.
Representatives from business, commerce, and education will make recommendations to the state superintendent on the components of an assessment system that are essential to increase student achievement. Task force members will review the history of assessment in Wisconsin and learn about the value, limitations, and costs of a range of assessment approaches. They will hear presentations on a number of other states’ assessment systems. Those systems may include ACT as part of a comprehensive assessment system, diagnostic or benchmark assessments given throughout the year, or other assessment instruments and test administration methods. The group’s first meeting will be held October 8 in Madison.

A few notes:

.

Dane County, WI Schools Consider MAP Assessement Tests After Frustration with State WKCE Exams
Waunakee Urges that the State Dump the WKCE

Andy Hall takes a look at a useful topic:

From Wisconsin Heights on the west to Marshall on the east, 10 Dane County school districts and the private Eagle School in Fitchburg are among more than 170 Wisconsin public and private school systems purchasing tests from Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit group based in the state of Oregon.
The aim of those tests, known as Measures of Academic Progress, and others purchased from other vendors, is to give educators, students and parents more information about students ‘ strengths and weaknesses. Officials at these districts say the cost, about $12 per student per year for MAP tests, is a good investment.
The tests ‘ popularity also reflects widespread frustration over the state ‘s $10 million testing program, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
Critics say that WKCE, which is used to hold schools accountable under the federal No Child Left Behind law, fails to provide adequate data to help improve the teaching methods and curriculum used in the classrooms.
They complain that because the tests are administered just once a year, and it takes nearly six months to receive the results, the information arrives in May — too late to be of use to teachers during the school year.
The testing controversy is “a healthy debate, ” said Tony Evers, deputy state superintendent of public instruction, whose agency contends that there ‘s room for both WKCE and MAP.
….
“It ‘s a test that we feel is much more relevant to assisting students and helping them with their skills development, ” said Mike Hensgen, director of curriculum and instruction for the Waunakee School District, who acknowledges he ‘s a radical in his dislike of WKCE.
“To me, the WKCE is not rigorous enough. When a kid sees he ‘s proficient, ‘ he thinks he ‘s fine. ”
Hensgen contends that the WKCE, which is based on the state ‘s academic content for each grade level, does a poor job of depicting what elite students, and students performing at the bottom level, really know.
The Waunakee School Board, in a letter being distributed this month, is urging state legislators and education officials to find ways to dump WKCE in favor of MAP and tests from ACT and other vendors.

The Madison School District and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research are using the WKCE as a benchmark for “Value Added Assessment”.
Related:

“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”

Peter Sobol on the 2007 Wisconsin DPI State test results (WKCE):

The results for the WKCE test administered in November 2007 were finally released on May 30th. That is more than six months after the test was given. Worse, the data files containing the detailed results that can be used for proper statistical analysis of the results are STILL not available for download. Assessments are information that degrades over time. The fact that it takes six months to get the data out (whatever its other shortcomings) cheats the taxpayers of the full value of their investment.
At the very least the WI DPI should be embarrassed by the fact it takes this long to release the test results. Personally I find it outrageous. I had an email exchange with DPI officials concerning this long delay and the loss of value, this is an excerpt from part of that response (italics mine):

… The WKCE is a large-scale assessment designed to provide a snapshot of how well a district or school is doing at helping all students reach proficiency on state standards, with a focus on school and district-level accountability. A large-scale, summative assessment such as the WKCE is not designed to provide diagnostic information about individual students. Those assessments are best done at the local level, where immediate results can be obtained. Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum.

Does anyone else find the fact that the state issues WKCE results to individual students surprising given the above statement?

The Madison School District, together with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research is using local WKCE results for “Value Added Assessment“.
Much more on the WKCE here.
Minnesota recently administered their first online science test.

Analyzing Madison High School’s WKCE Scores

“Madtown Chris”: For those folks so enamored of the various suburban “great schools” you should make sure you look at the facts. Specifically, I’m pretty amazed at the relatively poor performance of Waunakee HS. It’s down in the 66th percentile statewide. That’s not terrible but it’s not a super-dooper school either. Contrast it with West … Continue reading Analyzing Madison High School’s WKCE Scores

Analysis of Local Schools & Districts Based on 2007 WKCE Data

Madtown Chris, via email: The 2007 state testing data is out and I thought I’d take another look. Again I’m looking here at Dane County area schools only compared with each other and state-wide as well. The data you will see only includes non-poor students — you can read more about why below. Some Madison … Continue reading Analysis of Local Schools & Districts Based on 2007 WKCE Data

More on WKCE scores – Missing Students

Chan Stroman posted a valuable and in-depth examination of the District’s WKCE scores, and is it in the spirit of that posting that I would like to share my own little examination of our most recent test results. Rather than focusing on the scores of our students, this is an investigation of the numbers of … Continue reading More on WKCE scores – Missing Students

2006 MMSD WKCE Scores: A Closer Look

Test scores from the November 2006 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) and companion Wisconsin Alternate Assessment (WAA) were released by the state Department of Public Instruction this week. The MMSD press release on Madison students’ scores (“Despite changes and cuts, Madison students test well”) reports the following “notable achievements”: that reading scores have remained … Continue reading 2006 MMSD WKCE Scores: A Closer Look

MMSD: “Madison Students Top Peers in WKCE Tests”

Madison Metropolitan School District: Madison students tested on the 2005-06 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) surpassed their state peers in the “advanced” category — the highest category — at all grade levels and in both reading and math, district officials said today. More than 12,000 of the district’s 24,490 students took the tests. This … Continue reading MMSD: “Madison Students Top Peers in WKCE Tests”

Wisconsin’s “Broad interpretation of how NCLB progress can be “met” through the WKCE”

A reader involved in these issues forwarded this article by Kevin Carey: Hot Air: How States Inflate Their Educational Progress Under NCLB [Full Report: 180K PDF] Critics on both the Left and the Right have charged that the No Child Left Behind Act tramples states’ rights by imposing a federally mandated, one-size-fits-all accountability system on … Continue reading Wisconsin’s “Broad interpretation of how NCLB progress can be “met” through the WKCE”

Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques [PDF]: Dear Simpson Street Free Press: Thank you for leading the way in looking more closely at recent reports of an increase in MMSD minority student graduation rates and related issues: http://simpsonstreetfreepress.org/special-report/local-education/rising-grad-rates http://simpsonstreetfreepress.org/special-report/local-education/act-college-readiness-gap Inspired by your excellent work, we decided to dig deeper. We call the result of our efforts … Continue reading Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement

Wisconsin Lawmaker: Lack of rigorous goals contributed to state’s achievement gap (decades go by)

Molly Beck: The huge gap in average academic achievement among racial groups in Wisconsin is likely a result of state education officials not setting rigorous goals to address the problem years ago, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Wednesday. Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said Wednesday that state lawmakers and education officials did not … Continue reading Wisconsin Lawmaker: Lack of rigorous goals contributed to state’s achievement gap (decades go by)

Wisconsin K-12 Academic Standards And The Department Of Public Instruction Superintendent Campaign

Molly Beck: He said the revision is necessary because the current state report card system should be more “honest and transparent” about how well schools are educating students. The current system rates schools higher than student test scores indicate, he said. “Fundamentally, the ratings are very likely to go down because that represents how our … Continue reading Wisconsin K-12 Academic Standards And The Department Of Public Instruction Superintendent Campaign

Wisconsin Student Performance on the Forward Exam

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: It has become common knowledge that Wisconsin students do not perform well in 4th grade reading, and that efforts to improve performance over the past two decades have been largely ineffective. On the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the only means we have to compare Wisconsin apples-to-apples … Continue reading Wisconsin Student Performance on the Forward Exam

Wisconsin’s Performance on the 2015 NAEP

Tap for a larger version. Wisconsin Reading Coalition: Are you interested in how Wisconsin 4th graders’ reading performance stacks up against other 4th graders nationwide? The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), administered every two years, is the one way we can get answers. See the attached document for the results from the 2015 NAEP, … Continue reading Wisconsin’s Performance on the 2015 NAEP

Badger Exam results; Madison Substantially Lags State Results….

Tap for a larger version. Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: LETRS Training For the fourth year, the Milwaukee Summer Reading Project will offer free training in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) in Milwaukee. Ten Saturday classes run from March into June. There are approximately ten open spots, with registration … Continue reading Badger Exam results; Madison Substantially Lags State Results….

analysis of math, reading scores ‘very disconcerting’

Greg Toppo: Decades of bleak results from kids’ standardized tests now seem almost routine, but a new study made public Tuesday scratches beneath the surface to pin down just how many students in major U.S. metropolitan areas can actually read or do math proficiently. The results: Startlingly few. If all of Detroit’s fourth-graders took the … Continue reading analysis of math, reading scores ‘very disconcerting’

Wisconsin grades as proficient in standardized testing chaos

Alan Borsuk: The standardized tests a few hundred thousand Wisconsin third- through eighth-graders will take this spring will be the third version of such tests used in three years, each with a different definition of proficiency. Months overdue, results the Department of Public Instruction released Wednesday did not include data for individual schools or districts … Continue reading Wisconsin grades as proficient in standardized testing chaos

Statewide Data Release/Embargo Update for Badger, ACT, and DLM

Green Bay data and assessment: A release of state ­level data is scheduled for Wednesday, January 13. The release will provide state ­level results in PDF format for the public (including media), not in the WISEdash Public Portal​. via a kind reader. Rather interesting that the resilts will be stick in pdf files…. The Wisconsin … Continue reading Statewide Data Release/Embargo Update for Badger, ACT, and DLM

Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Governance Model

Chris Rickert: The case heard by the state Supreme Court on Tuesday pits Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration against Evers and public education backers who object to the 2011 Act 21. That law gave the governor power to approve or reject the administrative rules state agencies create to implement statutes. A court blocked the law … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Governance Model

Wisconsin DPI “Rule Making” vs. Legislation in the Courts..

Molly Beck: The conservative legal group Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty in a court filing this week asked the state Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court decision that upheld Evers’ rule-making authority related to education. The brief was filed on behalf of the state’s largest business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the … Continue reading Wisconsin DPI “Rule Making” vs. Legislation in the Courts..

Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 test Regime…

Molly Beck: According to the Department of Administration, bids were sought for a Web-based exam testing third- through eighth-graders in English and fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders in math and science. A separate bidding process was set up for a new exam to test students in social studies. Daniel Wilson of the DOA said the process … Continue reading Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 test Regime…

Wisconsin schools chief urges Scott Walker to veto education measures

Erin Richards: Education issues have been some of the most controversial elements of the 2015-’17 state budget. The proposal calls for allowing much more public money to flow to private, mostly religious schools while keeping public school funding mostly flat. Public schools would see a modest increase in funding in the second year of the … Continue reading Wisconsin schools chief urges Scott Walker to veto education measures

Latest glitch delays Common Core exam in Wisconsin

Erin Richards: The new standardized state achievement exam has been in the works for years, and is expected to be a much better gauge of student performance than the old pencil-and-paper, fill-in-the-bubble Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. The Badger Exam will be taken online and should be tougher, because it will align with the more … Continue reading Latest glitch delays Common Core exam in Wisconsin

To test or not to test, public education’s epic drama

Alan Borsuk: Not long ago, some people on the left and some on the right hated tests, but they weren’t much of a force. Now, everyone hates tests — there are too many, they waste time, they don’t prove anything, they stress everyone out, they’re of low quality, they distort education, they’re being used for … Continue reading To test or not to test, public education’s epic drama

One of N.J.’s Top Superintendents Explains What’s Wrong with the Opt-Out Movement

Laura Waters: Remember, we’re arguing about standards that have been in place for five years and assessments that haven’t even been given yet. Can we wait two weeks before passing judgement? Also in the comments section, Anne Clark, who never takes fools lightly, has her own responses to anti-testers. She notes that there was plenty … Continue reading One of N.J.’s Top Superintendents Explains What’s Wrong with the Opt-Out Movement

Court rules against measure letting Scott Walker halt school administrative rules

Patrick Marley: Parents of students and members of teachers unions sued Walker over the law as it applied to rules put together by the Department of Public Instruction, which is headed by Evers. Walker is a Republican and Evers is aligned with Democrats, though his post is officially nonpartisan. The state constitution says that “the … Continue reading Court rules against measure letting Scott Walker halt school administrative rules

K-16 Governance: An Oxymoron? Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Jim Schutze: When Hall was early on the board, the university revealed to regents there were problems with a large private endowment used to provide off-the-books six-figure “forgivable loans” to certain faculty members, out of sight of the university’s formal compensation system. Hall wanted to know how big the forgivable loans were and who decided … Continue reading K-16 Governance: An Oxymoron? Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Wisconsin students will take scaled back Common Core-aligned tests this spring

Molly Beck Wisconsin students are set to take a new kind of standardized test next month — one that is online, interactive and expected to be more rigorous than the annual pencil-and-paper exam given to students for years. But a technical glitch in the creation of the new test for students in third through eighth … Continue reading Wisconsin students will take scaled back Common Core-aligned tests this spring

No profit left behind

Stephanie Simon: A POLITICO investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas. The review also found Pearson’s contracts set forth specific performance targets — but don’t penalize the company when it fails … Continue reading No profit left behind

Problem’s Swirl Around Wisconsin’s next student test….

Erin Richards: Costs to administer the new test have gone millions of dollars over budget. And administrators learned last week that a key technological feature of the new test — its ability to adapt to students’ individual ability levels by offering harder or easier questions as they take the exam — won’t be ready this … Continue reading Problem’s Swirl Around Wisconsin’s next student test….

How many good schools are there really?

Sam Coughlan: How many good and outstanding schools are there in England? Record levels, never been so many before. That’s the official verdict of the education watchdog Ofsted. “The proportion of schools judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection reached 81%. “This is the highest proportion of good or outstanding schools there has … Continue reading How many good schools are there really?

Despite angst over standardized testing, Wisconsin may be on right path

Alan Borsuk: This may be the most politically incorrect thing I’ve ever said in this space: There are positive things to say about what’s going on in standardized testing in Wisconsin. Everybody hates testing. Kids, teachers, politicians of all stripes. Even the biggest testing advocates in the country say there is too much testing. Testing … Continue reading Despite angst over standardized testing, Wisconsin may be on right path

Commentary on 0.0015% of Wisconsin K-12 spending over the past 10 years

Molly Beck: Over the past 10 years, Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that were subsequently barred from the state’s voucher system for failing to meet requirements related to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing, a State Journal review has found. More than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the … Continue reading Commentary on 0.0015% of Wisconsin K-12 spending over the past 10 years

Wisconsin’s DPI Lags again: Minnesota Publicly Links High School Graduation to College Achievement Data

Mila Koumpilova Six years ago, 225 students graduated from St. Paul’s Como Park High School. More than 70 percent went to college. Almost 40 percent got a degree. That’s the sort of information Minnesota educators and parents have long wished they had. Now, it is readily available for the first time on a newly launched … Continue reading Wisconsin’s DPI Lags again: Minnesota Publicly Links High School Graduation to College Achievement Data

Wisconsin Sen. Olsen unbowed by pressure from Common Core opponents

WisPolitics Olsen said he sees the Common Core standards as an improvement over Wisconsin’s old standards and points to support from the conservative Fordham Foundation and business leaders like Bill Gates, who argue the standards are needed to remain competitive in a global economy. He wants to avoid a situation similar to Indiana, which dropped … Continue reading Wisconsin Sen. Olsen unbowed by pressure from Common Core opponents

Why 14 Wisconsin high schools take international standardized test

Alan Borsuk: Patricia Deklotz, superintendent of the Kettle Moraine School District, said her district, west of Milwaukee, is generally high performing. But, Deklotz asked, if they talk a lot about getting students ready for the global economy, are they really doing it? PISA is a way to find out. “It raises the bar from comparing … Continue reading Why 14 Wisconsin high schools take international standardized test

Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools

Erin Richards & Kevin Crowe: Reading and math proficiency for students attending private, mostly religious schools in Milwaukee with the help of taxpayer-funded vouchers ticked up in 2013 from 2012, according to the latest state standardized test score results. On average, students in Milwaukee’s private-school voucher program still performed lower than students in the city’s … Continue reading Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools

Benchmarking UK students vs Chinese: Light Years From Wisconsin

Richard Adams: England’s GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against their Chinese counterparts from 2017, in a response from exam regulators to ministers’ calls to toughen up a marking system they say has been discredited by years of grade inflation. At the urging of the education secretary, Michael Gove, Ofqual has unveiled a plan to link … Continue reading Benchmarking UK students vs Chinese: Light Years From Wisconsin

Civics & the Ed Schools; Ripe for Vast Improvement

I have a special interest in Civics education. My high school civics/government teacher drilled the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers into our small brains. This Vietnam Vet worked very hard to make sure that we understood how the US political system worked, or not. While reading the ongoing pervasive spying news, including … Continue reading Civics & the Ed Schools; Ripe for Vast Improvement

2013 Madison Summer School Report

Scott Zimmerman:

The district provided a comprehensive extended learning summer school program, K-Ready through 12th grade, at ten sites and served 5,097 students. At each of the K-8 sites, there was direction by a principal, professional Leopold, Chavez, Black Hawk and Toki, and oral language development was offered at Blackhawk and Toki. The 4th grade promotion classes were held at each elementary school, and 8th grade promotion classes were held at the two middle school sites.
Students in grades K-2 who received a 1 or 2 on their report card in literacy, and students in grades 3-5 who received a 1 or 2 in math or literacy, were invited to attend SLA. The 6-7 grade students who received a GPA of 2.0 or lower, or a 1 or 2 on WKCE, were invited to attend SLA. As in 2012, students with report cards indicating behavioral concerns were invited to attend summer school. Additionally, the summer school criterion for grades 5K-7th included consideration for students receiving a 3 or 4 asterisk grade on their report card (an asterisk grade indicates the student receives modified curriculum). In total, the academic program served 2,910 students, ranging from those entering five-year-old kindergarten through 8th grade.
High school courses were offered for credit recovery, first-time credit, and electives including English/language arts, math, science, social studies, health, physical education, keyboarding, computer literacy, art, study skills, algebra prep, ACT/SAT prep, and work experience. The high school program served a total of 1,536 students, with 74 students having completed their graduation requirements at the end of the summer.
All academic summer school teachers received approximately 20 hours of professional development prior to the start of the six-week program. Kindergarten-Ready teachers as well as primary literacy and math teachers also had access to job embedded professional development. In 2013, there were 476 certified staff employed in SLA.

Jennifer Cheatham:

Key Enhancements for Summer School 2014
A) Provide teachers with a pay increase without increasing overall cost of summer school.
Teacher salary increase of 3% ($53,887).
B) Smaller Learning Environments: Create smaller learning environments, with fewer students per summer school site compared to previous years, to achieve the following: increase student access to high quality learning, increase the number of students who can walk to school, and reduce number of people in the building when temperatures are high. ($50,482)
C) Innovations: Pilot at Wright Middle School and Lindbergh Elementary School where students receive instruction in a familiar environment, from a familiar teacher. These school sites were selected based on identification as intense focus schools along with having high poverty rates when compared to the rest of the district. Pilot character building curriculum at Sandburg Elementary School. ($37,529)
D) Student Engagement: Increase student engagement with high quality curriculum and instruction along with incentives such as Friday pep rallies and afternoon MSCR fieldtrips. ($25,000)
E) High School Professional Development: First-time-offered, to increase quality of instruction and student engagement in learning. ($12,083)
F) Student Selection: Utilize an enhanced student selection process that better aligns with school’s multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) so that student services intervention teams (SSIT) have time to problem solve, and recommend students for SLA. Recommendations are based on student grades and standardized assessment scores, such as a MAP score below the 25th percentile at grades 3-5, or a score of minimal on the WKCE in language arts, math, science, and social studies at grades 3-5. (no cost)
Estimated total cost: $185,709.00
Summer School Program Reductions
The following changes would allow enhancements to summer school and implementation of innovative pilots:
A) Professional development (PD): reduce PD days for teachers grades K-8 by one day. This change will save money and provide teachers with an extra day off of work before the start of summer school (save $49,344.60).
B) Materials reduction: the purchase of Mondo materials in 2013 allows for the reduction of general literacy curricular materials in 2014 (save $5,000).
C) Madison Virtual Campus (MVC): MVC is not a reimbursable summer school program as students are not in classroom seats. This program could be offered separate from summer school in the future (save $18,000).
D) Librarians: reduce 3 positions, assigning librarians to support two sites. Students will continue to have access to the expertise of the librarian and can utilize library resources including electronic equipment (save $12,903.84).
E) Reading Interventionists: reduce 8 positions, as summer school is a student intervention, it allows students additional learning time in literacy and math. With new Mondo materials and student data profiles, students can be grouped for the most effective instruction when appropriate (save $48,492).
F) PBS Coach: reduce 8 positions, combining the coach and interventionist positions to create one position (coach/interventionist) that supports teachers in setting up classes and school wide systems, along with providing individual student interventions. With smaller learning sites, there would be less need for two separate positions (save $24,408).
G) Literacy and Math Coach Positions: reduce from 16 to 5 positions, combining the role and purpose of the literacy and math coach. Each position supports two schools for both math and literacy. Teachers can meet weekly with literacy/math coach to plan and collaborate around curriculum and student needs (save $27,601.60).
Estimated Total Savings: $185,750.04
Strategic Framework:
The role of the Summer Learning Academy (SLA) is critical to preparing students for college career and community readiness. Research tells us that over 50% of the achievement gap between lower and higher income students is directly related to unequal learning opportunities over the summer (Alexander et al., 2007). Research based practices and interventions are utilized in SLA to increase opportunities for learning and to raise student achievement across the District (Odden & Archibald, 2008). The SLA is a valuable time for students to receive additional support in learning core concepts in literacy and math to move them toward MMSD benchmarks (Augustine et.al., 2013). SLA aligns with the following Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Strategic Framework goals:
A) Every student is on-track to graduate as measured by student growth and achievement at key milestones. Milestones of reading by grade 3, proficiency in reading and math in grade 5, high school readiness in grade 8, college readiness in grade 11, and high school graduation and completion rate.
B) Every student has access to challenging and well-rounded education as measured by programmatic access and participation data. Access to fine arts and world languages, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, and advanced coursework.

Wisconsin’s Common Core education standards face public, GOP scrutiny

Jon Swedien:

Tom Larson is one of the legislators responsible for reviewing the set of academic standards for public schools in Wisconsin, yet the rural Colfax assemblyman admitted last week that he was still trying to catch up with the arguments swirling around the “Common Core.”
In 2010, state schools Superintendent Tony Evers voluntarily agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards, which cover math and English and promote literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects for students from kindergarten through high school. According to the Common Core website, the standards also define a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st century.
On paper, that all sounds good, but, in the real world, the Common Core standards have sparked a firestorm of controversy in the Badger State and elsewhere.
Speaking Monday before a group of local education officials in Eau Claire, Larson said he had been selected as one of nine representatives to sit on the Assembly Select Committee on Common Core Standards.

Related: the oft criticized WKCE.

This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim

Pat Schneider:

isconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.
“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”
Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.
Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.

Related: Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE assessment and wisconsin2.org

Alabama fumbling ball on education

Josh Moon:

The video that was posted online appeared to be a tour of the spa area at some swanky new hotel.
There were cascading waterfalls into hot and cold pools. There was an arcade section. A smoothie bar. Flat-screen TVs adorned every open space. There were lockers the members at Augusta National would find acceptable.
This was luxury, no doubt. But it was not at a hotel.
Instead, this shaky video tour was of the inside of a college football team’s training and lounge area. Specifically, it is the training, weight room and lounge area within the Mal Moore Athletic Complex on the campus of the University of Alabama.
Pricetag: $9 million. (And that’s just for the upgrades. The original facility, which opened in 2005, cost about $50 million.)
We have lost our minds.
And I say that not simply because a college football team’s training area now has a waterfall and a smoothie bar, which would, I think, be reason enough for me to make that statement, but also because these $9 million in upgrades to facilities that were pretty darn good to start with occurred at a school that just raised tuition on the average student for the sixth consecutive year.
This year, it went up 3 percent. Last year, it jumped 7 percent.

Related: Alabama participated in the 2011 TIMSS global exam along with Minnesota and Massachusetts. Wisconsin has never benchmarked our students via the global exams. We have been stuck with the oft-criticized WKCE.

Wisconsin DPI & Data Politics

Jason Stein:

In the most recent release of schools data by DPI, the agency gave the information to the media ahead of time — a practice known as an embargo that gives journalists time to properly digest the data with an agreement not to publish until a certain deadline.
But DPI highlighted all the voucher students’ scores against all the Milwaukee Public Schools’ students scores, instead of separating out the scores of low-income MPS students and comparing only those to the voucher students. That data was not included in the initial release. As a result, it was not included in the stories that the media initially wrote about the results, but was addressed in follow-up stories.
The DPI said the income limit was moot because of a GOP-led law change that allowed more mixed-income children to use vouchers, meaning it was fair to compare all the students in voucher schools to all the children in public schools. Voucher advocates said DPI had an agenda and made their students’ scores appear lower than they would have been against those of only the low-income MPS students.
Other data that can be requested from DPI about voucher schools include: school policies, accreditation status, hours of instruction, the number of applications they have accepted and not accepted, their waiting list numbers, application numbers and payment amounts.

Related:
“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”
.

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Increases, Voucher Changes

Jason Stein

Lawmakers also want to expand school voucher programs beyond the borders of Milwaukee and eastern Racine County. The programs allow parents who meet income thresholds to send their children to religious schools and other private schools at taxpayer expense.
Under the motion approved 12-4 along party lines by Republicans on the budget panel:

  • Public schools would receive $150 more per student in general aid this fall and another $150 increase the following year. The plan would cost $289 million over two years, with $231.5 million funded with state taxes and the rest with an additional $52 million in higher local property taxes and an increase in expected revenues from the state lottery.
    School districts would have the authority to spend this new money. Walker wanted to give schools $129 million in state aid but require all of it to go toward property tax relief, rather than be used for new expenses.
    Under the budget committee’s proposal, total property taxes would increase by less than 1% per year, with school levies going up somewhat more than that.

  • A new voucher program would become available to all students outside Milwaukee and Racine. It would be limited to 500 students the first year and 1,000 students every year thereafter. Walker wanted no limits on the number of students in the program after the second year.
    If there are more students seeking slots in the program than allowed, the proposal would allocate the available slots by lottery. The slots would go to the 25 schools with the most applications, with each school getting at least 10 seats.

  • The new program would be available to students in any school district. Walker wanted to make it available in districts with 4,000 or more students that were identified as struggling on school report cards issued by the state.
  • No more than 1% of the students of any given school district could participate in the new program.
  • Over 12 years, the negative financial impacts for the Milwaukee Public Schools from the voucher program here would be phased out.
  • The new program would be available to students of families making 185% of the federal poverty level or less — well below the income thresholds for Milwaukee and Racine. Those programs are available to families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level, with a higher threshold for married couples.
  • Voucher schools in all parts of the state would receive $7,210 per K-8 student and $7,856 per high school student — up from $6,442 currently. Walker wanted to provide $7,050 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and the same larger increase to high school students.



Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers (PDF):

Today, Republican leaders are finalizing a deal to likely expand Wisconsin’s private school voucher program statewide. While this dramatic proposal has significant implications for citizens and taxpayers across Wisconsin, it has been developed behind closed doors with no public input, no public hearings, and no public fiscal analysis. If this proposal becomes law, taxpayers across Wisconsin will be financing a new entitlement for private school children whose tuition is currently paid for by their parents. To address the lack of information about the potential fiscal effects of this program, the attached table estimates potential long-term costs of statewide subsidization of private school tuition on a district-by-district basis. Cost to subsidize current private school students only: up to $560 million annually
While some lawmakers claim the purpose of the program is to provide educational choices to those who cannot afford it, the current school choice programs in Milwaukee and Racine provide vouchers to families who are already choosing to send their children to private schools. As many as 50% of the children participating in the Racine choice program were already in private schools when they began receiving a state-funded subsidy in
2011-12. If the voucher program is expanded statewide, it can be assumed that current private school families would also be eligible for this new entitlement.

Related:

Fascinating: UW education dean warns school boards that ALEC seeks to wipe them out

Pat Schneider:

ALEC is still at it, Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, cautions in “School Boards Beware,” (PDF) a commentary in the May issue of Wisconsin School News.
The model legislation disseminated by the pro-free market American Legislative Exchange Council’s national network of corporate members and conservative legislators seeks to privatize education and erode the local control, Underwood says.
“The ALEC goal to eliminate school districts and school boards is a bit shocking — but the idea is to make every school, public and private, independent through vouchers for all students. By providing all funding to parents rather than school districts, there is no need for local coordination, control or oversight,” she writes in the magazine of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Underwood, who says that Wisconsin public schools already face unprecedented change, last year co-authored a piece about ALEC’s grander plans, a “legislative contagion (that) seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011.”
In her recent piece, Underwood argues that a push to privatize education for the “free market” threatens the purpose of public education: to educate every child to “become an active citizen, capable of participating in our democratic process.”

Related:

  • The state this year will start rating each school on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student test scores and other measurables. The idea, in part, is to give parents a way to evaluate how a school is performing while motivating those within it to improve.
  • Several schools across the state — including Madison’s Shorewood Elementary, Black Hawk Middle and Memorial High schools — are part of Wisconsin’s new teacher and principal evaluation system, which for the first time will grade a teacher’s success, in part, on student test scores. This system is to be implemented across Wisconsin in 2014-15.li>And instead of Wisconsin setting its own student benchmarks, the state is moving toward using Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 other states. State schools are starting new curricula this year in language arts and math so students will be prepared by the 2014-15 school year to take a new state exam tied to this common core and replacing the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.

Although Underwood says she generally backs most of these changes, she’s no fan of the decision announced last month that makes it easier for a person to become a public school teacher — even as those who are studying to become teachers must now meet stiffer credentialing requirements. Instead of having to complete education training at a place like UW-Madison en route to being licensed, those with experience in private schools or with other teaching backgrounds now can take steps to become eligible for a public teaching license.

“I think that’s really unfortunate,” says Underwood, who first worked at UW-Madison from 1986-95 before coming back to town as education dean in 2005.

Related:

Do Americans Know How Well Their State’s Schools Perform?

Martin West:

Among the most common rationales offered for the Common Core State Standards project is to eliminate differences in the definition of student proficiency in core academic subjects across states. As is well known, the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (NCLB) required states to test students annually in grades 3-8 (and once in high school), to report the share of students in each school performing at a proficient level in math and reading, and to intervene in schools not on track to achieve universal student proficiency by 2014. Yet it permitted states to define proficiency as they saw fit, producing wide variation in the expectations for student performance from one state to the next. While a few states, including several that had set performance standards prior to NCLB’s enactment, have maintained relatively demanding definitions of proficiency, most have been more lenient.
The differences in expectations for students across states are striking. In 2011, for example, Alabama reported that 77 percent of its 8th grade students were proficient in math, while the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests administered that same year indicated that just 20 percent of Alabama’s 8th graders were proficient against NAEP standards. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, roughly the same share of 8th graders achieved proficiency on the state test (52 percent) as did so on the NAEP (51 percent). In other words, Alabama deemed 25 percent more of its students proficient than did Massachusetts despite the fact that its students performed at markedly lower levels when evaluated against a common standard. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has gone so far as to accuse states like Alabama of “lying to children and parents” by setting low expectations for student performance.

Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE is similar to Alabama’s proficiency approach, rather than Massachusetts. Yet, Alabama has seen fit to compare their students to the world, something Wisconsin has resisted.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org.

Debunking Five Common Myths About School Choice

Christian D’Andrea:

Recently, Step Up for Public Schools (SUPS) released a pamphlet titled “The Truth about Vouchers and Privately Run Charters.” Unfortunately, a better title for their flier would have been “Half-Truths.” SUPS raises several tired talking points about school choice in Wisconsin that have been repeatedly debated, disproven, and regurgitated over more than two decades of voucher discussion.
Today, we’ll break down their “Fast Facts” on how the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Parental Private School Choice Program (Racine) have affected education in the Badger State. While there are also some interesting statements about non-instrumentality charter schools (the same schools that regularly outscore both regular public schools and instrumentality charter schools in Milwaukee, we’ll save that for another day. Let’s look at what the SUPS has to say about Wisconsin’s voucher programs.
1. Students in the taxpayer-funded private school voucher program do not perform better than their peers in neighborhood public schools.
A: In more than 20 years of operation, there has only been one apples to apples comparison of student growth between similarly matched students from MPS and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). That study – the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) – showed very few statistically significant differences between the two groups of pupils. What they did find was that voucher students were 4-7 percent more likely to graduate, attend a four-year college, and stay in that college than their peers. While factors like parental involvement may have played a role, the study strongly suggests that these schools were a significant force behind the improved attainment of the students that chose vouchers.
One thing is clear – there’s no evidence that these voucher schools are hurting students, despite having only 50 percent or less of the funding that their traditional public school peers have had in Milwaukee. As the state’s data collection and standards improve and we learn more about student growth and the impact that individual teachers have, we’ll develop a better understanding of where MPS and MPCP schools stand in terms to serving students on a year-to-year basis.

Voucher Commentary from Madison’s new School Board President

2013-2014 Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

The proponents of the proposed expansion of Wisconsin’s private-school voucher program have run out of substantive arguments. Governor Walker’s “This is about children” illustrates how vacuous their efforts at persuasion have become.
When Governor Walker’s budget was first announced, his initial talking points in support of his voucher expansion plan featured the claim that schools in the nine targeted school districts were failing and vouchers were necessary to provide a lifeline to students who needed help to pursue other schooling options. Neither the governor nor his supporters are pushing that argument any more. It seems that they got the point that it is not a smart move politically for the governor to go around trashing the public schools in some of the larger urban areas of the state.
While proponents have claimed that students in voucher schools do better academically, the wind has gone out of the sails of that argument as well. DPI has reported that students in voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine performed worse on the WKCE than students in the public schools in those communities. Voucher school advocates can point to data that supposedly support their view, opponents can counter with contrary figures, and at best the evidence on improved student performance is a wash. There is no reason to think that students in the nine districts targeted for voucher expansion would do any better in the private schools in their area than they would in their neighborhood public schools. No one has offered an argument to the contrary.
Voucher proponents sometimes try to construct a cost-savings argument around the fact that the per-pupil amounts that voucher students would receive are less than the average per-pupil expenditures by their school districts. But this argument goes nowhere because no one is proposing that the public schools shut down as voucher schools expand. Consequently, there’s really not much of a response to the observation credited to former Governor Tommy Thompson that “We can’t afford two systems of education.”
Additionally, voucher schools have not discovered a magic bullet that allows them to educate students across the spectrum of needs more economically. Here’s a telling excerpt from an op ed by the Choice Schools Association advocating for much higher voucher payments and posted on line by the right-wing MacIver Institute:

Vouchers are hardly an existential threat to the Madison School District. Rather, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores are the essential issue, one that merits endless attention and improvement.
2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.

Commentary on Madison and Surrounding School Districts; Middleton’s lower Property Taxes

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here in Madison, our attention is primarily focused on our troubling achievement gaps, and those gaps are achingly apparent in the new WKCE scores. Under new superintendent Jen Cheatham’s leadership, we’ll continue to pursue the most promising steps to accelerate the learning of our African-American, Latino and Hmong students who have fallen behind.
At the same time, we also need to continue to meet the needs of our students who are doing well. I am going to focus on the latter groups of students in this post.
In particular, I want to take a look at how our Madison students stack up against those attending schools in other Dane County school districts under the new WKCE scoring scale. The demographics of our Madison schools are quite a bit different from those of our surrounding school districts. This can skew comparisons. To control for this a bit, I am going to compare the performance of Dane County students who do not fall into the “economically disadvantaged” category. I’ll refer to these students as “non-low income.”

I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton.

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.
Blessings,
Henry Tyson, Superintendent
414-303-2133
henry.tyson@stmarcus.org

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.

State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action

The Madison Urban League, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2013
Media contact: Kaleem Caire
kcaire@ulgm.org
608.729.1249
Click Here for Urban League’s 2013-14 Agenda
State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action
Madison, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released students’ results on the annual statewide achievement test, Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE). The results confirm concerns raised by the Urban League of Greater Madison, that disadvantaged students and students of color are severely underperforming in many of Wisconsin’s public schools, particularly in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
All Wisconsin public school students completed the test in November 2012. This revised test raised the standards of performance for all students, thereby providing a more accurate picture of students who are on track to graduate from high school academically ready to succeed in college or a career. Test results show that all students, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status or disability, are struggling to achieve to high standards in Madison-area public schools.
This afternoon, the Urban League of Greater Madison joined Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, and leaders of other community organizations, at a press conference where Cheatham shared MMSD’s results. Cheatham presented data showing that an astounding 92% of African American and 85% of Latino students are reading below their grade level, and 90% of African American and 77% of Latino children are failing in mathematics. The data further showed that a large percentage of white students have fallen behind as well, with 42% are reading below grade level and 33% failing in math.
In reflecting on the scores, Darrell Bazzell, the Chair of Urban League’s Board of Directors said, “These numbers are a stark message that Madison’s public schools are at a tipping point and that our community must embrace change. The implications for our region are profound. For the sake of our community and our children, Madison can, and must, do better for all students and families.”
Bazzell further stated that, “Every citizen in our community must say that ‘we will no longer harbor these gaps; that we accept responsibility for addressing these challenges; and that we will commit to doing all that we can to ensure all of our children succeed. We must also acknowledge where we are not succeeding and commit to change in smart, innovative and effective ways that lead to real progress for our kids’.”
In response to these troubling statistics, Urban League President and CEO, Kaleem Caire, shared that, “When 90% of Black children cannot read at their grade level, we are significantly reducing the possibility of success for an entire generation. This issue negatively affects not only this generation of children, but also the vitality of our entire region. If not addressed quickly, it will affect the quality of the lives of all citizens who call Madison home.” To address these challenges, Caire said “The Urban League is working to build a pipeline of high quality cradle to career educational and employment services that positively impact the entire family, move all children towards high performance, and prepare youth and adults for career success.” He further highlighted, “We have already begun working with the Madison Schools, other area school districts, employers and community partners to ensure that we attack the persistence of underachievement and other contributing factors, such as poverty, at its core. ”
The Urban League’s 2013-14 Strategic Plan creates opportunities that will help the community overcome these challenges. Caire enthusiastically shared that, “We are a community of great people, great teachers and great families who are passionate about helping others transform their lives. But our passion now must become our reality.”
About the Urban League of Greater Madison
The Urban League of Greater Madison’s mission is to ensure that African Americans and other community members are educated, employed and empowered to live well, advance professionally and contribute to the common good in the 21st Century. We are committed to transforming Greater Madison into the Best [place] in the Midwest for everyone to live, learn, and work. We are working to make this vision a reality through a comprehensive strategic empowerment agenda that includes programs & services, advocacy, and partnerships & coalition building. www.ulgm.org
Urban League of Greater Madison | 2222 S. Park Street | Suite 200 | Madison | WI | 53713

Related: The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school
Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.
The recently released WKCE results.

Florida Teachers’ Union Sues State on Data-Based Teacher Evaluations

Laura Waters:

Motoko Rich in the New York Times describes the federal lawsuit, initiated by seven Florida teachers with support from local NEA affiliates, which contends that the Florida DOE’s system of grading teachers based on student outcomes “violates teachers’ rights of due process and equal protection.”

Much more on “value added assessment, here“. Madison’s value added assessment scheme relies on the oft-criticized WKCE.

NJ DOE Releases New School Performance Reports; Wisconsin? Stays Quo…

Laura Waters:

At long last the New Jersey Department of Education has released its “NJ School Performance Reports,” which replace the old School Report Cards. Details on school performance is greatly expanded now includes, according to the Christie Administration’s press release, “brand new data on college and career readiness and provide comparison to “peer schools” in order to provide a more complete picture of school performance for educators and the general public.”
Here’s coverage from the Star-Ledger, The Record, the Courier-Post, Asbury Park Press, Press of Atlantic City, NJ Spotlight, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The state also released the annual Taxpayers’ Guide to Education. Annual per pupil spending in NJ (if you use the state’s algorithm; others say it inflates costs) is $18,045, up 4.2% since last year.
Of course, there’s enormous range within that average. Fairview Boro (Bergen), for example, spends $13,317 per pupil. Asbury Park City spends $30,502. The plush magnet schools in Bergen County spend $35,900.

The Wisconsin DPI…..
April, 2013: Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
.
March, 2013: Evers on report cards: this last year was a pilot year. It’s just not ready for prime time.
June, 2008: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes

Chris Rickert:

Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
Under Walker’s plan, districts with at least 4,000 students and two or more schools getting a D or an F under a new rating system would be eligible for vouchers. Evers — no fan of vouchers anyway — says the report cards were not intended for such use and need more refinement over several years.
But what was the purpose of spending more than a year working with a diverse group of education and business groups and state elected officials to create the report cards — which replaced the widely panned No Child Left Behind system — if not to use them to make consequential decisions about education?
On Thursday, Department of Public Instruction director of Education Information Services John Johnson called the report cards a “work in progress” that aren’t an appropriate tool for making a “major policy decision.”
Among their current limitations are that they are based on tests that are expected to change two years from now, they can’t show growth in high school student achievement, some schools weren’t rated, and there’s too little data to reliably identify trends in school performance.
Adam Gamoran, director of the UW-Madison-based Wisconsin Center for Education Research and a skeptic on voucher programs, agrees that the tool isn’t perfect and may well change, but “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them now” to rate schools.
It’s also not as if DPI itself didn’t expect to use the report cards. Its budget request — which Walker didn’t include in his budget — included about $10.3 million over the next two years to replicate best practices from schools deemed high-performing by the report cards, as well as to help schools deemed low-performing by the report cards get better.

John Nichols appears to support the present DPI approach. Status Quo K-12 vs a Little “Reform” Rhetoric at a Wisconsin Budget Hearing.
Related: The Wisconsin DPI in 2008:
“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.
http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2013/03/wisconsin_educa_14.php
A citizen, parent, voter and taxpayer might ask what the DPI has been
with state and federal taxpayer dollars since 2008?
Meanwhile, Alabama (!), Minnesota, Florida and Massachusetts are
continuing to aim high and compare their students to the world.
http://nces.ed.gov/Timss/benchmark.asp
And, Vietnam is teaching computer science concepts in primary school.
http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2013/03/primary_school_.php

Wisconsin education chief: Governor’s new report cards not ‘ready for prime time’

Matthew DeFour:

The state’s top education official warned the Legislature’s budget committee Thursday that Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to tie funding and voucher expansion to new state report cards could undermine bipartisan reform efforts already underway.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said the new report cards “aren’t ready for prime time” and will look “a lot different eight years from now.”
Evers agreed with Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, a member of the Joint Finance Committee and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, that the report cards should be used “as a flashlight and not a hammer.”

“If we use them as a hammer it’s going to make all the other transformative efforts we’re doing more difficult
,” Evers said, referring to new curriculum, testing and teacher evaluation systems that were developed by a bipartisan coalition of teachers, administrators, school boards and political leaders in recent years.
“Teachers will back off,” he said.

2008: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”. Parents, students and taxpayers might wonder what precisely the DPI has been doing since 2008? The WKCE has been long criticized for its lack of rigor.
Related: Matthew DeFour’s tweets from Mr. Evers recent budget appearance.

Madison Mayor Soglin Commentary on our Local School Climate; Reading unmentioned

Jack Craver:

The city, he says, needs to help by providing kids with access to out-of-school programs in the evenings and during the summer. It needs to do more to fight hunger and address violence-induced trauma in children. And it needs to help parents get engaged in their kids’ education.
“We as a community, for all of the bragging about being so progressive, are way behind the rest of the nation in these areas,” he says.
The mayor’s stated plans for addressing those issues, however, are in their infancy.
Soglin says he is researching ways to get low-cost Internet access to the many households throughout the city that currently lack computers or broadband connections.
A serious effort to provide low-cost or even free Internet access to city residents is hampered by a 2003 state law that sought to discourage cities from setting up their own broadband networks. The bill, which was pushed by the telecommunications industry, forbids municipalities from funding a broadband system with taxpayer dollars; only subscriber fees can be used.
Ald. Scott Resnick, who runs a software company and plans to be involved in Soglin’s efforts, says the city will likely look to broker a deal with existing Internet providers, such as Charter or AT&T, and perhaps seek funding from private donors.

Related: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” – Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.
Job one locally is to make sure all students can read.
Madison, 2004 Madison schools distort reading data by UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg:

Rainwater’s explanation also emphasized the fact that 80 percent of Madison children score at or above grade level. But the funds were targeted for students who do not score at these levels. Current practices are clearly not working for these children, and the Reading First funds would have supported activities designed to help them.
Madison’s reading curriculum undoubtedly works well in many settings. For whatever reasons, many chil dren at the five targeted schools had fallen seriously behind. It is not an indictment of the district to acknowledge that these children might have benefited from additional resources and intervention strategies.
In her column, Belmore also emphasized the 80 percent of the children who are doing well, but she provided additional statistics indicating that test scores are improving at the five target schools. Thus she argued that the best thing is to stick with the current program rather than use the Reading First money.
Belmore has provided a lesson in the selective use of statistics. It’s true that third grade reading scores improved at the schools between 1998 and 2004. However, at Hawthorne, scores have been flat (not improving) since 2000; at Glendale, flat since 2001; at Midvale/ Lincoln, flat since 2002; and at Orchard Ridge they have improved since 2002 – bringing them back to slightly higher than where they were in 2001.
In short, these schools are not making steady upward progress, at least as measured by this test.

Madison, 2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before by Ruth Robarts:

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.
“All students” meant all students. We promised to stop thinking in terms of average student achievement in reading. Instead, we would separately analyze the reading ability of students by subgroups. The subgroups included white, African American, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and other Asian students.
“Able to read at or beyond grade level” meant scoring at the “proficient” or “advanced” level on the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRC) administered during the third grade. “Proficient” scores were equated with being able to read at grade level. “Advanced” scores were equated with being able to read beyond grade level. The other possible scores on this statewide test (basic and minimal) were equated with reading below grade level.

Madison, 2009: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Madison, 2012: Madison’s “Achievement Gap Plan”:

The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.

“PSA”: Your Student’s Test Scores May be Lower than in Years Past

NBC 15:

If you’ve got a kid in third through eighth grade–or tenth–they took the WKCE exam this fall. “The Wisconsin content and knowledge exam and it’s been the statewide test for Wisconsin for quite a few years now,” said Dr. Jane Belmore, the superintendent of Madison schools.
Your student could score at one of these assessment levels: minimal, basic, proficient or advanced.”This year our WKCE test has been alligned with a nationally-normed test,” said Dr. Belmore.
Your student’s scores should be showing up soon and it’s possible he or she won’t be scoing as highly as in the past. “The results of this reallignment is that we’re holding ourselves and our students to a higher bar,” she said. “So students may be performing at the same level or even better than they were and yet still not get the kind of report that parents might be expecting.”
Dr. Belmore said it doesn’t necessarily mean your child is doing less well, everyone’s just being held to a higher standard. “If our students are being proficient and we’re expecting to see proficient we might see basic,” she said.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

Call me crazy, but I think a record of involvement in our schools is a prerequisite for a School Board member. Sitting at the Board table isn’t the place to be learning the names of our schools or our principals.
Wayne Strong, TJ Mertz and James Howard rise far above their opponents for those of us who value School Board members with a history of engagement in local educational issues and a demonstrated record of commitment to our Madison schools and the students we serve.

Notes and links on Ed Hughes and the 2013 Madison School Board election.
I’ve become a broken record vis a vis Madison’s disastrous reading results. The District has been largely operating on auto-pilot for decades. It is as if a 1940’s/1950’s model is sufficient. Spending increases annually (at lower rates in recent years – roughly $15k/student), yet Madison’s disastrous reading results continue, apace.
Four links for your consideration.
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This program continues, despite the results.
3rd Grade Madison School District Reading Proficiency Data (“Achievement Gap Plan”)

The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.

Madison Schools Distort Reading Data (2004) by Mark Seidenberg.
How many School Board elections, meetings, votes have taken place since 2005 (a number of candidates were elected unopposed)? How many Superintendents have been hired, retired or moved? Yet, the core structure remains. This, in my view is why we have seen the move to a more diffused governance model in many communities with charters, vouchers and online options.
Change is surely coming. Ideally, Madison should drive this rather than State or Federal requirements. I suspect it will be the latter, in the end, that opens up our monolithic, we know best approach to public education.

Wisconsin Governor: Scott Walker proposes expanding voucher school program, raising taxpayer support

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker is proposing increasing by at least 9% the taxpayer funding provided to private and religious voucher schools – an increase many times larger in percentage terms than the increase in state tax money he’s seeking for public schools.
The increase in funding for existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine, the first since 2009, comes as the Republican governor seeks to expand the program to nine new districts, including Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Madison. Walker is also proposing allowing special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
Even after the proposed increase to voucher funding and the substantial cuts Walker and lawmakers approved for public schools in 2011, the aid provided to voucher schools would still be substantially less on a per-pupil basis than the overall state and local taxes provided to public schools.
But to provide that bigger increase to voucher schools, the Republican governor will need to persuade lawmakers to break a link in state law that currently binds the percentage increase in aid to voucher schools to the percentage increase in state general aid given to public schools.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Wisconsin Governor Walker’s education reforms include voucher expansion and more

Matthew DeFour

Walker’s reform proposals include:

  • Expanding private school vouchers to school districts with at least 4,000 students and at least two schools receiving school report card grades of “fails to meet expectations” or “meets few expectations.” The expansion, which would include Madison schools, would be capped at 500 students statewide next year and 1,000 students the following year.
  • Creating a statewide charter school oversight board, which would approve local nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to create and oversee independent charter schools. Only students from districts that qualify for vouchers could attend the charter schools. Authorizers would have to provide annual performance reports about the schools.
  • Expanding the Youth Options program, which allows public school students to access courses offered by other public schools, virtual schools, the UW System, technical colleges and other organizations approved by the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Granting special education students a private school voucher.
  • Eliminating grade and residency restrictions for home-schooled students who take some courses in a public school district. School districts would receive additional state funding for home-schooled students who access public school courses or attend virtual schools.

Additionally, Walker’s spokesman confirmed plans to make no additional funding available for public schools in the budget he plans to propose Wednesday.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Measures of Academic Progress Conflict in Seattle May Affect Wisconsin

Alan Borsuk:

MAP is very different from the WKCE. It is given by computer, it is given three times a year (in most schools), and results are known immediately. I’ve sat in on teacher meetings where MAP results were being used well to diagnose students’ progress and prod good discussion of what teachers could do to seek better results.
Some school districts (West Allis-West Milwaukee is one) are using MAP results as part of evaluating teachers. Milwaukee Public Schools, which began using MAP several years ago, isn’t doing that, but it is using overall MAP results as an important component of judging whether a school is meeting its goals.
MAP is an “adaptive” test – that is, the computer program modifies each test based on how a child answers each question. Get a question right and the next question is harder. Get a question wrong and the next one is easier. This allows the results to pinpoint more exactly how a child is doing and aims to have every student challenged – the best don’t breeze through, the worst don’t give up when they’re entirely lost.
MAP tests are generally given three times a year, which is one of the things supporters like and critics hate. On the one hand, you get data frequently and can make mid-course corrections. On the other hand, it means more times in the year when school life is disrupted.
A MAP spokeswoman said in December there were 287 “partners” in Wisconsin, ranging from MPS down to individual private schools. Many suburban districts use MAP, as do many Catholic and other private schools and charter schools.
At a lot of schools in southeastern Wisconsin, there is enthusiasm for using MAP and it is seen as a good way to judge how kids are doing and to determine what to focus on in helping them.

Madison recently began using “Measures of Academic Progress”.

And, so it continues



Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Leadership comes in different shapes and sizes. After spending time with 41-year-old Jen Cheatham and attending the community forum on Thursday, I kept thinking back to the winter day 23 years ago when 43-year-old Barry Alvarez was introduced to the Madison community and made his memorable statement about how fans interested in season tickets better get them now because they’d soon be hard to get.
Like Cheatham, Alvarez was an outsider, a rising star in a major program who was ready to take the reins of his own program and run with it. That certainly did not guarantee success, but he proved to have that rare and ineluctable something that inspired his players to raise their game, that drove them to succeed as a team because they couldn’t bear to let their coach or teammates down.
As with Barry, so with Jen. For those of us who have been able to spend time with Jen Cheatham and talk to her about her vision for our Madison schools, it is clear that whatever leadership is, she has it. What we heard time and again from those she’s worked with is that Jen is able to inspire principals and teachers to do their best possible work for the students they serve. But also like Alvarez, she’s doesn’t shy away from tough decisions when they’re necessary.

Related: Madison’s third grade reading results:

“The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.”

Madison School Board Needs to Address Search Fiasco:

That being the case, Cheatham would come to this position in a difficult circumstance. As Kaleem Caire, the president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, told the State Journal: “The perception of people in this community when we have one pick, they will always question the value of this woman. That’s not fair to her and not fair to our kids.”
The School Board has presided over a fiasco that board member Ed Hughes admits — in a major understatement — “has not gone as smoothly as we’d like.”
Now the board needs to get its act together.
If would be good if the board were to seek the return of the more than $30,000 in taxpayer money that was allocated for what can only charitably be referred to as a “search.” However, we don’t want the board to squander more tax money on extended legal wrangling.
The board should make it clear that it will not have further dealings with this search firm, as the firm’s vetting of applicants does not meet the basic standards that a responsible board should expect.
Perhaps most importantly, the board should engage in a serious rethink of its approach to searches for top administrators. The Madison Metropolitan School District is a great urban school district. It has challenges, especially with regard to achievement gaps and the overuse of standardized testing, that must be addressed.

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman – August, 2009

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”

Achievement gap exists for both longtime, new Madison students

Matthew DeFour:

The data showed the same result overall, but found new students are disproportionately low-income or minorities. Comparing students in similar racial and income groups, the district found time spent in the district did not explain the difference in test results.
The new district analysis challenges Mayor Paul Soglin’s focus in recent months on students moving to Madison from larger cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago. Soglin has called for alternative programs specifically geared toward new students to help improve low-income and minority student achievement.
“The practical fact is that mobility and newness are things we take into consideration, but when we plan how we’re going to address learning needs, they’re not the most important factors,” Superintendent Jane Belmore said.

I’m glad Mr. DeFour continues to look into this important issue.
Related links:
“When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous”. An Update on Madison’s Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

Soglin right not to soft-pedal problems

Carl Silverman:

I agree with Mayor Paul Soglin. Tackling our “urban problems” is preferable to soft-pedaling them and relying instead on improved public relations.
Given the wide achievement gap and the portion of black and Latino kids in our schools, it’s hard to believe Superintendent Jane Belmore’s claim that most of our school kids are doing very well. If, as Soglin believes, much of the gap is related to the many kids who transfer from other districts and are behind grade level upon entry, maybe the district should place them in grades appropriate for their achievement levels rather than basing placement solely on age. Similar reasoning might lead to abandoning present widespread use of social promotion, and promoting only those kids who have achieved grade level skills by the end of the year.

Related: “When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous”: An Update on Madison’s Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap.

An Update on Madison’s Use of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Assessment





Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore

Unlike other assessments, MAP measures both student performance and growth through administering the test in both fall and spring. No matter where a student starts, MAP allows us to measure how effective that student’s school environment was in moving that student forward academically.
This fall’s administration serves as a baseline for that fall to spring growth measure. It also serves as an indicator for teachers. As we continue professional development around MAP, we will work to equip schools to use this data at the classroom and individual student level. In other words, at its fullest use, a teacher could look at MAP data and make adjustments for the classroom or individual students based on where that year’s class is in the fall, according to these results.
Meeting growth targets on the fall administration indicates that a student met or exceeded typical growth from Fall 2011 to Fall 2012. Typical growth is based on a student’s grade and prior score; students whose scores are lower relative to their grade level are expected to grow more than students whose scores are higher relative to their grade level.
In Reading, more than 50% of students in every grade met their growth targets from Fall 2011 to Fall 2012. In Mathematics, between 41% and 63% of students at each grade level met their growth targets. The highest growth in Mathematics occurred from fourth to fifth grade (63%) and the lowest growth occurred from fifth to sixth grade (41%).
It is important to note that across student groups, the percent of students making expected growth is relatively consistent. Each student’s growth target is based on his or her performance on previous administrations of MAP. The fact that percent of students making expected growth is consistent across student subgroups indicates that if that trend continues, gaps would close over time. In some cases, a higher percentage of minority students reached their growth targets relative to white students. For example, at the middle school level, 49% of white students met growth targets, but 50% of African American students and 53% of Hispanic students met their growth targets. In addition, English Language Learners, special education students, and students receiving free and reduced lunch grew at similar rates to their peers.
MAP also provides status benchmarks that reflect the new, more rigorous NAEP standards. Meeting status benchmarks indicates that a student would be expected to score “Proficient” or “Advanced” on the next administration of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE).
That means that even though overall scores haven’t changed dramatically from last year, the percent of students identified as proficient or advanced will look different with these benchmarks. That is not unique for MMSD – schools around the state and nation are seeing this as they also work toward the common core.
While these scores are different than what we have been used to, it is important to remember that higher standards are a good thing for our students, our districts and our community. It means holding ourselves to the standards of an increasingly challenging, fast-paced world and economy. States all around the country, including Wisconsin, are adopting these standards and aligning their work to them.
As we align our work to the common core standards, student achievement will be measured using new, national standards. These are very high standards that will truly prepare our students to be competitive in a fast-paced global economy.
At each grade level, between 32% and 37% of students met status benchmarks in Reading and between 36% and 44% met status benchmarks in Mathematics. Scores were highest for white students, followed by Asian students, students identified as two or more races, Hispanic students, and African-American students. These patterns are consistent across grades and subjects.
Attachment #1 shows the percentage of students meeting status benchmarks and growth targets by grade, subgroup, and grade and subgroup. School- and student-level reports are produced by NWEA and used for internal planning purposes.

Related: 2011-2012 Madison School District MAP Reports (PDF Documents):

I requested MAP results from suburban Madison Districts and have received Waunakee’s Student Assessment Results (4MB PDF) thus far.

Scott Walker Tilts K-12 Education Toward the Needs of Business

Rebecca Kemble:

Under Scott Walker’s reign in Wisconsin, multinational corporations are given undue influence over public policy. Nowhere is this more evident than in public education. Some of the largest corporations in the world – GE, Caterpillar, Koch Industries – have privileged seats at Walker’s policy table, but they don’t necessarily show up themselves. Instead, they activate a whole network of local actors to do their bidding.
In his seminal work, Propaganda (1928), the “Father of Public Relations” Edward Louis Bernays wrote:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

Putting ideology aside, how have Wisconsin’s K-12 policies over the past few decades improved student learning, at all? www.wisconsin2.org

Wisconsin Education Rule-Making Battle: Should We Care? Yes; DPI Election Politics

Why should parents, citizens, taxpayers and students pay attention to this type of “rulemaking” case?
WKCE (Wisconsin’s oft-criticized soft academic standards – soon to be replaced) and MTEL-90 (Wisconsin adopts Massachusetts’ teacher content knowledge requirements).
I found Ed Treleven’s article interesting, particularly the special interests funding the rule making legal challenge. I am a big fan of our three part government system: judicial, legislative and executive. That said, the Wisconsin DPI has not exactly distinguished itself over the past decade. The WKCE “tyranny of low expectations” is exhibit one for this writer.
Ed Treleven

Even before the change in the law, rules ultimately have to be approved by the Legislature.
Democrats had labeled the law a power grab by Walker when it was proposed after Walker was elected and before he took office. He signed it into law in May 2011.
The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Madison Teachers Inc., the Wisconsin Education Association Council and others. Defendants were Walker, DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch and schools superintendent Tony Evers. Smith’s decision, however, notes that Evers also asked the court to block the law. Evers issued a statement Tuesday saying he was pleased with Smith’s ruling.
Lester Pines, who represented the teachers groups in court, said the law as applied to DPI ran counter to a unanimous state Supreme Court decision in 1996 that said the Legislature cannot give equal or superior authority to any “other officer.”

Finally, it appears that current DPI Superintendent Tony Evers is ready to roll for the spring, 2013 election. I have noticed a number of DPI related inquiries on this site. Perhaps this will be a competitive race!
UPDATE: Gilman Halsted:

The Madison teachers union was one was one of seven plaintiffs that challenged this provision of ACT 21. Union President John Matthews says he’s pleased with the ruling.
“It’s simply because of the way the Constitution defines the role of the state superintendent,” he said. “The governor has equal authority not superior authority to the state superintendent and we think because of the enterprise if you will of public education that should not be a political issue. And Judge Smith saw it our way.”
But a spokesman for the governor’s office says he’s confident that Judge Smith’s ruling will be overturned on appeal and that the governor will retain his rule making veto power. Opponents of this new executive power see it as a power grab. And although this ruling appears to limit the governor’s power over rules that affect education it leaves his authority intact for administrative rules from any other state agency. State Superintendent Tony Evers released a statement hailing the ruling and pointing out that he had proposed language that would have carved out his exemption from the governor’s rule vetoes before the law was passed.