Why Can’t MPS Improve Student Reading Scores?

Bruce Thompson:

Beginning sometime after 2000, there was growing concern that many students had difficulty with reading. When comparing reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) among states, Massachusetts stood out. Suddenly, that state’s reading and math scores jumped.

Massachusetts’ scores (shown in yellow in the graph below) started the late 1990s looking similar to Wisconsin’s, but then enjoyed a substantial jump. By contrast, Wisconsin scores (shown in gray) were largely flat or decreasing and were eventually joined by the average national scores.

What accounted for the jump in Massachusetts’ scores? That state decided to replace whole language (currently called “balanced literacy”) with a program that was based on research into the science of learning to read. Children learning to read were taught to sound out the parts of unknown words (called phonemes) and then combine these parts to sound out the whole word.

To enforce this change, the state designed a test for aspiring teachers to assess their knowledge of the research on the process of learning to read.

As the next graph shows, Milwaukee Public Schools made little or no progress during the last two decades. Scores were also flat during this period, indicating that many of its students were struggling with reading. They also trailed the average scores for big cities in the nation.


Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?