Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam

The headline is that MMSD students generally scored lower than last year on the state standardized tests at the same time as state performance either held steady or showed slight improvement. The data on individual Madison schools are available here

2 thoughts on “Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam”

  1. It is too bad the WKCE coverage has presented a negative storyline, because there was much encouraging news in the results. If one digs into the data, the 10th grade results are actually something of a success story.
    Lee Sensenbrenner’s CapTimes article read in part:
    “The departure between the Madison Metropolitan School District’s scores and the Wisconsin averages was clearest for 10th-grade students, according to results made public today by the state Department of Public Instruction.
    The percentage of Madison sophomores who scored at proficient or advanced levels declined from last year in each of five test subjects (reading, language arts, math, science and social studies) while their peers across the state gained in four categories and held constant in one.”
    If you go to the DPI site like Joan suggested and disaggregate the data by “economically disadvantaged” you see a different picture. The percentage of economically disadvantaged sophomores who scored at the proficient or advanced level increased in ALL FIVE subject areas from last year. The percentage of non-economically disadvantaged sophomores who scored at the proficient or advanced level increased in all subject areas except Math, where the level held steady.
    So how can both groups perform better, but the headline number goes down? Economically disadvantaged students make up a larger share of this year’s sophomores (22.2% in 2004 vs. 16.8% in 2003). Madison high schools, like many nationally, have an achievement gap at the high school level, so when the mix of students changes the headline number can go down even if the performance of specific student groups goes up.
    Not all Madison schools have an achievement gap. At my daughter’s school, Mendota Elementary, this year’s 4th grade WKCE results show no significant achievement gap between economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students in all five subjects. This is a major accomplishment and one that should be celebrated. Marquette is another example of an elementary school that has closed the gap.
    This is not to say that MMSD does not face genuine challenges and has no room for improvement. Overall, the district still has achievement gaps in many areas that need closing. However, when you dig deeper in the WKCE results the picture is brighter than the headlines suggest.

  2. Thanks for the information Tim. I also saw the Cap Times article and wondered what the real story was, but hadn’t had time to check out DPI’s website to try and figure it out. I agree that it’s too bad the media never bothers to dig into the numbers to really try and understand what they mean. This kind of reporting (raw test scores without any explanation of the associated demographics) can be pretty misleading.

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