A new statewide assessment used to test the knowledge of Wisconsin students forced a lowering of the curve, a Madison school official said.
The results showed little change in the percentages of students scoring at proficient and advanced levels.
But that’s because this year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations- Criterion Referenced Tests proved harder for students than last year’s assessment, said Kurt Kiefer, director of research and evaluation for the Madison School District, prompting adjustments to the statewide cut-off scores for determining minimal, basic, proficient and advanced levels that were in line with last year’s percentages, Kiefer said.
“The intent was not to make a harder test,” Kiefer said, adding that the test was particularly more difficult at the eighth- and 10th-grade levels. “It had nothing to do with how smart the kids were.”
While scores can differ from district to district, Kiefer said, increases in students testing proficient and advanced are not as profound as districts might have hoped.
Kevin Carey recently wrote how states inflate their progress under NCLB:
But Wisconsin’s remarkable district success rate is mostly a function of the way it has used its flexibility under NCLB to manipulate the statistical underpinnings of the AYP formula.
We went from a district which was above the State average to one with scores at best at the State average. The State Test was changed from a nationally normed test to one written just for Wisconsin, and the different levels were set without a national norm. That is what caused the dramatic rise from February 2002 to November 2002. It was not that all of the Middle Schools were now using Connected Mathematics Project, which was the reason given at the meeting for these increases.
Alan Borsuk has more:
This year’s results also underscore a vexing question: Why does the percentage of students who are proficient or advanced drop from eighth to 10th grades? The decline was true almost across the board, including across ethnic groups, except in language arts. In reading statewide, the percentage of students who were advanced and proficient held close to steady from third through eighth grade and then dropped 10 points, from 84% to 74% for 10th grade. The decline was even steeper for black and Hispanic students – in each case, 17-point drops from eighth to 10th grade.
Overall, lower test scores at 10th grade are part of a broader picture of concern about how students are doing in high school that has put that level of education on the front burner nationwide, whether it is special programming from Oprah Winfrey or efforts by the National Governors Association, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or others.
But assistant state schools superintendent Margaret Planner said one factor in the 10th-grade drop simply might be that many students at that level do not take the tests very seriously. Their own standing is not affected by how they do, although the status of their school could be affected seriously. She referred to the tests as “low stakes” for students and “high stakes” for schools under the federal education law.