## April 29, 2009

### WKCE Scores Document Decline in the Percentage of Madison's Advanced 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

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

Percent of Not Economically Disadvantaged Students Scoring at the Advanced Level on the WKCE Math Test Between 2002 and 2008

2005
47
2006
41.6
2007
49
42.2
2008
33.8
51.5
2009
42
45.2
2010
47.7
45.1
2011
50
45.3
45
38.4
2012
43.4
50.7
53
45.7
2013
50.3
54.8
54.1
54.7
48.2
2014
49.6
56.7
60.9
53.5
2015
60
57.8
60.7
54.2
2016
55.6
56.3
62
2017
57.4
61.4
2018
55.6

While it could be argued that the declining percentage of low income students scoring in the advanced range on the WKCE are simply the result of a relatively stable number of Advanced ability students in this group becoming a smaller and smaller percentage as the overall numbers of economically disadvantaged students increases, an examination of actual numbers reveal an absolute decline in the number of low income students scoring at the Advanced level on the Math portion of the WKCE.

Numbers of Economically Disadvantaged Students Scoring Advanced on the Math WKCE Between 2002 and 2008

2005
42
2006
29
2007
57
32
2008
26
51
2009
43
40
2010
52
48
2011
64
73
64
52
2012
45
64
59
49
2013
74
87
89
71
69
2014
75
85
71
87
2015
126
96
113
87
2016
112
123
131
2017
86
121
2018
102

In the interest of thoroughness, I am providing enrollment numbers for the Not Economically Disadvantaged students in the MMSD over this period of time. Readers will see that the absolute numbers of Not Disadvantaged students have declined over the past seven years; this simply confirms what we already know (the increase in numbers from 8th to 10th grade reflect the influx of 9th grade students who have attended private schools for their K-8 education, e.g., Blessed Sacrament and Queen of Peace in the West attendance area).

Numbers of Not Economically Disadvantaged Students Enrolled Across Different Grade Levels in the Madison Schools and Taking the WKCE between 2002 and 2008

2005
1486
2006
1628
2007
1197
1451
2008
1259
1292
2009
1145
1218
2010
992
1188
2011
1026
1019
1054
1106
2012
1039
847
913
916
2013
1064
954
949
976
952
2014
936
974
939
883
2015
953
973
960
890
2016
894
881
847
2017
950
884
2018
913

Because the percent of students in this group scoring at the Advanced level has declined as well, there are two possible explanations for what has been happening. One explanation is that the district has had a relatively larger decline in enrollments of high ability students amongst this group of Not Disadvantaged students, what is often referred to as "Bright Flight". A more probably explanation is that the math curriculum, particularly in our middle schools and in 9th grade, does not adequately challenge our students and foster their intellectual growth regardless of their socio-economic background, and of course, it is possible that both of these factors are contributing to what we see here.

I should note that I have only examined the math data, and I don't know if the WKCE data for the other subject areas is as dismal. This would seem like an analysis that the District should be doing on a regular basis, but I encourage anyone who is interested to explore the performance of our students in reading or language arts. I also do not know the extent to which the Madison data merely reflects a similar decline in performance across the state. The members of the UW Math faculty that I have talked with in the past have expressed their concerns about the overall level of preparation from Wisconsin students, and our district's data may simply be a confirmation of the failure of currently popular constructionist approaches to adequately teach mathematical concepts. The statewide data is certainly worth exploring as well, and again I invited interested parties to visit the Department of Public Instruction WINNS website and download their own copy of the data.

I will say again that I find these data to be incredibly demoralizing, but perhaps we can take hope that our new superintendent and our School Board will use these data as a rallying point as they finalize a strategic plan and consider the recommendations of the Math Task Force. We have to find ways to raise the performance of all our district's students, and right now it appears we aren't meeting anyone's academic needs. Posted by Jeff Henriques at April 29, 2009 12:53 PM