Past attempts to improve student assessment in Wisconsin provide reasons to view current efforts with caution. The promise of additional funds, the political cover of broad committees, and the satisfaction of setting less-than ambitious goals have too often led to student assessment policies that provide little meaningful information to parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers. A state assessment system should provide meaningful information to all of these groups.
Data on student progress can make the work of teachers, students, parents, administrators and policymakers more effective. It can ensure that during the course of the school year, students make progress toward their own growth targets and those who do not are flagged and interventions are done to get those students back on track. It should not come as a surprise that to have meaningful, timely data, one must administer meaningful, timely tests, and Wisconsin is falling short in this department in a number of ways.
School-level value-added analyses of student test scores are already being calculated for all schools with third- to eighth-graders statewide by a respected institution right here in Wisconsin. This information should be used by schools and districts to raise school and teacher productivity. We should continue to explore the use of value-added at the classroom level, a necessary step to implementing the new teacher-evaluation system proposed by the DPI that is statutorily required for implementation in 2014-’15.