Search results

243 results found.

Wisconsin DPI’s Ongoing Assessment Process (those Who Brought Us The WKCE)

Molly Beck:

State education officials have tapped a former state lawmaker’s company to create a new exam for Wisconsin elementary and middle school students, replacing the problematic Badger Exam that students took for the first and last time this spring.

The state is negotiating a contract with Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corporation to build a test called the Wisconsin Forward Exam that will still be aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English and math, despite Gov. Scott Walker’s opposition to them.

Susan Engeleiter, chief executive officer and president of DRC, was the Republican Senate minority leader in the 1980s. She also ran an unsuccessful campaign against former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat, in 1988.

Much more on DPI’s multi-million dollar WKCE disaster.

Study praises Wisconsin for raising the bar on state exams; RIP WKCE Low Standards?

Erin Richards

Eight years ago, a study found Wisconsin had one of the lowest bars in the country for rating students proficient in reading and math on the state standardized test.

That means children here looked more academically accomplished than they probably really were — something the state aimed to remedy by raising the scores needed for students to attain rankings of advanced, proficient or basic on the annual state test.

That effort has been applauded by a new study noting that Wisconsin aggressively tightened its state test proficiency standards by 2013, ranking it second in the nation behind New York for the rigor of its expectations.

This spring, Wisconsin is administering a new state test tied to the Common Core State Standards — 17 other states are administering the same test — which will have a common bar for proficiency. Wisconsin raised the bar on its old state test largely to prepare everyone for the switch to the tougher new test.

That’s partly what led Harvard University researchers Paul E. Peterson and Matthew Ackerman to suggest that the Common Core standards are responsible for states raising the bar for proficiency on their individual state tests between 2011 and 2013.

Wisconsin adopted the standards in 2010, and joined one of two consortia of other states committed to administering tougher, common tests tied to the new grade-level expectations in English and math.

The study found Wisconsin’s new bar for proficiency to be as strong or stronger than the bar used by a respected national standardized exam.

More: States Raise Proficiency Standards:

Which states changed the most? For the first time since this survey of state standards has been undertaken, no fewer than nine states receive a grade of “A,” indicating they have set a proficiency bar that is roughly comparable to that set by NAEP. Joining Massachusetts and Tennessee, the only two states given that top grade in 2011, are Kentucky, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin. Five of these states (Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) have even set some standards that exceed those of NAEP. Six states (Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, and Michigan) should be commended for improving by more than two letter grades between 2011 and 2013. All of these states have adopted CCSS. Meanwhile, only New Hampshire’s standards have dropped by a full letter grade.

CCSS may be driving these changes. One indication that this may be the case is that the six states that are not implementing CCSS for reading or math all continue to set low proficiency standards. Their grades: Virginia, C+; Nebraska, C; Indiana, C-; Texas, C-; Alaska, D+; and Oklahoma, D.

Let’s hope that this move to more rigor continues.

Background: Wisconsin’s low bar WKCE expedition.

Commentary on Madison’s 2012 WKCE Results

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

This report includes data from the Fall 2012 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE). In this report, we focus on reading and math scores. Students in grades 4, 8, and 10 also take Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts tests, but these tests are not used for school accountability in the same manner as Reading and Math tests and are not aligned to the new rigorous standards, so they are not directly comparable.
This year, WKCE results reflect the state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards in that DPI has adjusted the cut scores for each performance level to reflect higher expectations for student proficiency. As a result, MMSD’s scores (and scores for every district in the state) look very different from prior years.
1. The new cut scores can be applied to last year’s scores to provide a more meaningful year-to-year comparison. Scores have remained roughly unchanged from last year when the same scale is used.
2. Achievement gaps between subgroups of students exist across grades and locations and show few signs of either increasing or decreasing.
3. Scores showed some changes from last year at the building level, but these changes were mostly small.
4. Schools with more students scoring “Advanced” in Fall 2011 faced smaller negative impacts from the new performance cut scores.
In addition, overall proficiency rates in MMSD are close to state averages. Asian and White students in MMSD significantly outperform the state averages for their racial groups in both Reading and Math. In addition, large achievement gaps exist statewide as well as within MMSD.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

2012-13 MMSD WKCE Results

Tap or click to view a larger version.

Higher bar for WKCE results paints different picture of student achievement
Matt DeFour
Wisconsin student test scores released Tuesday look very different than they did a year ago, though not because of any major shift in student performance.
Similar to recent years, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results show gains in math and reading over the past five years, a persistent and growing performance gap between black and white students, and Milwaukee and Racine public school students outperforming their peers in the private school voucher program.
But the biggest difference is the scores reflect a higher bar for what students in each grade level should know and be able to do.
Only 36.2 percent of students who took the reading test last October met the new proficiency bar. Fewer than half, 48.1 percent, of students were proficient in math. When 2011-12 results were released last spring, those figures were both closer to 80 percent.
The change doesn’t reflect a precipitous drop in student test scores. The average scores in reading and math are about the same as last year for each grade level.
Instead, the change reflects a more rigorous standard for proficiency similar to what is used for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is administered to a sample of students in each state every other year and is referred to as “the nation’s report card.”
The state agreed to raise the proficiency benchmark in math and reading last year in order to qualify for a waiver from requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The benchmark did not rise for the language arts, science and social studies tests.
“Adjusting to higher expectations will take time and effort,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said. “But these are necessary changes that will ultimately help our schools better prepare all students to be college and career ready and link with work being done throughout the state to implement new standards.”
Evers also called on the Legislature to include private voucher schools in the state’s new accountability system.
He highlighted that test scores for all Milwaukee and Racine students need to improve. Among Milwaukee voucher students, 10.8 percent in reading and 11.9 percent in math scored proficient or better. Among Milwaukee public school students, it was 14.2 percent in reading and 19.7 percent in math.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program, including to such districts as Madison.
Changes in Dane County
The state previously announced how the changing bar would affect scores statewide and parents have seen their own students’ results in recent weeks, but the new figures for the first time show the impact on entire schools and districts.
In Dane County school districts, the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the test dropped on average by 42 percentage points in reading and 25 percentage points in math.
Madison schools had one of the smallest drops compared to its neighboring districts.
Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham noted schools with a higher number of students scoring in the “advanced” category experienced less of a drop. Madison’s smaller drop could reflect a higher proportion of students scoring in the top tier.
At the same time, Madison didn’t narrow the gap between minority and white student test results. Only 9 percent of black sixth-graders and only 2 percent of sixth-grade English language learners scored proficient in reading.
“It reinforces the importance of our work in the years ahead,” Cheatham said. “We’re going to work on accelerating student outcomes.”
Middleton-Cross Plains School Board president Ellen Lindgren said she hasn’t heard many complaints from parents whose students suddenly dropped a tier on the test. Like Madison and other districts across the state, Middleton-Cross Plains sent home letters bracing parents for the change.
But Lindgren fears the changing standards come at the worst time for public schools, which have faced tougher scrutiny and reduced state support.
“I’m glad that the standards have been raised by the state, because they were low, but this interim year, hopefully people won’t panic too much,” Lindgren said. “The public has been sold on the idea that we’re failing in our education system, and I just don’t believe that’s true.”
Next fall will be the last year students in grades 3-8 and 10 take the paper-and-pencil WKCE math and reading tests. Wisconsin is part of a coalition of states planning to administer a new computer-based test in the 2014-15 school year.
The proposed state budget also provides for students in grades 9-11 to take the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT college and career readiness tests in future years.

Superintendent Cheatham is to be commended for her informed, intelligent and honest reaction to the MMSD’s results when compared to those of neighboring districts.
View a WKCE summary here (PDF).

“When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous”: An Update on Madison’s Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap

170K PDF via a kind Andrew Statz email:

1. Students who have spent more time in MMSD perform better on the WKCE than their peers who have spent less time in MMSD.
2. Students who have spent more time in MMSD are demographically different from recent arrivals, who are less likely to be white and more likely to be low-income.
3. When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous.
Based on these findings, MMSD may be better served by refining its core curriculum to meet students’ needs based on demographic characteristics rather than the recency of their arrival in MMSD. The recent arrivals report is attached. Our official statement about our findings follows.
The most notable anomaly is among 10th grade students. In both Reading and Math, 10th grade students who had spent one year in MMSD performed as well as students who had spent their entire careers in MMSD and substantially better than new students as well as students who had spent between 2 and 9 years in MMSD. This suggests that students who enter MMSD in 9th grade are altogether different from students who enter in other grades. The high performance level for students spending one year in MMSD prior to 10th grade may reflect students entering MMSD in 9th grade after attending private schools through 8th grade.
It is the district’s responsibility to meet students where they are in their learning and identify needed interventions, enrichment or other programs to advance that learning. That means we need to have curriculum and programs that work for all of the students we serve, regardless of demographic background or how long they have been in the district.
Unfortunately, we know that achievement gaps exist in schools across the country, and no single district has entirely eliminated them. Focusing only on how long a student has been in our district does not underscore the complexity of the issue and is not the most effective predictor of achievement.
Instead, strengthening classroom instruction and ensuring interventions and enrichment that advance learning for every student regardless of demographic characteristics will yield the best results.
However, we do know that mobility, including moving from another district or moves within MMSD, does have some impact on achievement. Exploring community solutions to enhance stability throughout a student’s education could both increase achievement and help close gaps.

Related: Madison’s Mayor on Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap; District Plans to Release Data “Within 3 Weeks”.
Larry Winkler kindly published a more detailed analysis, here.
I asked several observers for their perspective on the rhetoric, assertions and the Friday report. Here’s one:
“When the data were first presented, the argument put forth was that the performance of newly arrived students explained much of the performance gap that we see in our schools. However, when the District examined the effects of race and socioeconomic status in the analysis, they found that the performance of low income and minority students who had been in the MMSD for many years was not significantly different from the performance of low income and minority students who were new to the District.
It is disappointing that the District and the Mayor’s office ran so far and so fast with their initial, incomplete analysis.”
UPDATE: Larry Winkler kindly created a set of charts scaled by percentages.

Opt Out — Just Say No to the WKCE

TJ Mertz:

The WKCE testing and related assessments are scheduled for next week in the Madison Metropolitan School District schools (full schedule of MMSD assessments, here), but your child doesn’t have to be part of it. You can opt out. Families with students in grades 4,8, & 10 have a state statutory right to opt out of the WKCE; I have been told that it is district practice to allow families to opt out of any and all other, discretionary, tests. We opted out this year. In order to opt out, you must contact your school’s Principal (and do it ASAP, (contact info here).
The WKCE does your child no good. Just about everyone agrees that even in comparison to other standardized tests, it is not a good assessment. Because results are received so late in the year, it isn’t of much use to target student weaknesses or guide instruction. There are no benefits for students.

New WKCE Cut Scores

Wisconsin CESA, via a kind reader’s email:

The Department of Public Instruction has established performance standards (cut scores) for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) reading and mathematics content areas to more closely align with national and international expectations of what is required to be college and career ready. The higher cut
scores are comparable to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) cut scores. The performance level descriptors that accompany the college and career ready cut scores have been revised to reflect the higher expectations required with these higher performance benchmarks.

Can We Correlate WKCE Scores to Anything?


It’s time somebody looked (at least in the public eye) at some of the demographics and policy/practices and how they may or may not relate to achievement (in terms of WKCE scores).
First a very brief less in the art of correlation. We can take any two pieces of information and mathematically determine whether or not there is a pattern…a correlation. The mathematical tool is the correlation coefficient. It provides a number ranging from -1 (perfect inverse correlation, as X increases, Y decreases) to +1 (perfect correlation, as X increases/decreases, so does Y). Then, all we need to do is apply some statistics based on the size of our data set to determine whether or not the correlation is significant (statistically speaking). For this exercise we looked at the 95% level of confidence, which means that there would be 5% or less chance that the correlation observed resulted from chance alone.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

Sun Prairie’s WKCE Data


The Sun Prairie School District has “use data to drive decisions” as part of its credo.
So…here’s the data. This is how we stack up against other Dane Co. school districts.
As always, we highlight grades 4,8, and 10 because at these grades students are tested beyond reading an math. At these grades, all students are tested in Language Arts, Science and Social Studies in addition to Reading and Math.
You decide…are we doing as well as you think we should?
How about instead of some 200 page Monitoring Report that could cure the world’s worst case of insomnia, the school board hold a working session where they talk candidly about our district’s educational performance on the WKCE?

WKCE & Madison Students

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Finally, the troubling differences in levels of student learning that give rise to our achievement gap present an enormous challenge for our teachers. We as a District have long been committed to inclusive and heterogeneous elementary school classrooms. Consequently, given the gap, our teachers frequently lead classrooms with a number of high-achieving students and a number of struggling students. Imagine how much dedication and ingenuity it must take for our classroom teachers to provide a learning environment where all their students can thrive. It would be helpful to hear from teachers about how they think they can be most effective in teaching all students in classes with such a wide span of developed capabilities, given our resource limitations.
Even test results as generally uninformative as the WKCE make clear the extent of our achievement gap in Madison. From the perspective of the WKCE and based on statewide averages, our white students on the whole seem to be doing just fine while our African-American students on the whole are struggling. This shouldn’t come as news to anyone, but it does underscore what’s at stake when over the next several weeks the School Board starts to decide what components of the superintendent’s achievement gap plan we’re actually willing to raise taxes to support.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use

Wisconsin’s annual school test (WKCE) still gets lots of attention, but it seems less useful each year

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin (and just about every other state) is involved in developing new state tests. That work is one of the requirements of getting a waiver and, if a bill ever emerges form Congress, it will almost certainly continue to require every state to do testing.
But the new tests aren’t scheduled to be in place for three years – in the fall of 2014. So this fall and for at least the next two, Wisconsin’s school children and schools will go through the elaborate process of taking a test that still gets lots of attention but seems to be less useful each year it lives on.

The oft-criticized WKCE often provides grist for “successes”. Sometimes, rarely, the truth about its low standards is quietly mentioned.
I remember a conversation with a well educated Madison parent earlier this year. “My child is doing well, the WKCE reports him scoring in the 95th percentile in math”…… is worth a visit.

Madison School District Administrative Analysis of the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School; WKCE Rhetoric

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Critique of the District (MMSD)
Page # 23: MPA – No College Going Culture among Madison’s New Student Population
The data on student performance and course-taking patterns among students in MMSD paint a clear picture. There is not a prevalent college going culture among Black, Hispanic and some Asian student populations enrolled in MMSD. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. The majority of these students are failing to complete a rigorous curriculum that would adequately prepare them for college and 21st century jobs. Far too many are also failing to complete college requirements, such as the ACT, or failing to graduate from high school.
Page # 23: No College Going Culture among Madison’s New Student Population –
MMSD Response
MMSD has taken many steps towards ensuring college attendance eligibility and readiness for our students of color. Efforts include:
East High School became the first MMSD school to implement AVID in the 2007-2008 school year. Teens of Promise or TOPS became synonymous with AVID as the Boys and Girls Club committed to an active partnership to support our program. AVID/TOPS students are defined as:
“AVID targets students in the academic middle – B, C, and even D students – who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. These are students who are capable of completing rigorous curriculum but are falling short of their
potential. Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families. AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation.”
The MMSD has 491 students currently enrolled in AVID/TOPS. Of that total, 380 or 77% of students are minority students (27% African-American, 30% Latino, 10% Asian, 10% Multiracial). 67% of MMSD AVID/TOPS students qualify for free and reduced lunch. The 2010- 2011 school year marked an important step in the District’s implementation of AVID/TOPS. East High School celebrated its first cohort of AVID/TOPS graduates. East Highs AVID/TOPS class of 2011 had a 100% graduation rate and all of the students are enrolled in a 2-year or 4- year college. East High is also in the beginning stages of planning to become a national demonstration site based on the success of their program. This distinction, determined by the AVID regional site team, would allow high schools from around the country to visit East High School and learn how to plan and implement AVID programs in their schools.
MMSD has a partnership with the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) and they are conducting a controlled study of the effects of AVID/TOPS students when compared to a comparison groups of students. Early analysis of the study reveals positive gains in nearly every category studied.
AVID pilot studies are underway at two MMSD middle schools and support staff has been allocated in all eleven middle schools to begin building capacity towards a 2012-2013 AVID Middle School experience. The program design is still underway and will take form this summer when school based site teams participate in the AVID Summer Institute training.

I found this commentary on the oft criticized WKCE exams fascinating (one day, wkce results are useful, another day – this document – WKCE’s low benchmark is a problem)” (page 7):

Page # 28: MPA – Student Performance Measures:
85% of Madison Prep’s Scholars will score at proficient or advanced levels in reading, math, and science on criterion referenced achievement tests after three years of enrollment.
90% of Scholars will graduate on time.
100% of students will complete the SAT and ACT assessments before graduation with 75% achieving a composite score of 22 or higher on the ACT and 1100 on the SAT (composite verbal and math).
100% of students will complete a Destination Plan before graduation.
100% of graduates will qualify for admissions to a four-year college after graduation.
100% of graduates will enroll in postsecondary education after graduation.
Page # 28: Student Performance Measures – MMSD Response:
WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. Cut scores equated with advanced are needed due to the low benchmark of Wisconsin’s current state assessment system. What specific steps or actions will be provided for students that are far below proficiency and/or require specialized support services to meet the rigorous requirements of IB?
No Child Left Behind requires 100% proficiency by 2014. Madison Prep must be held to the same accountability standards as MMSD.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.
Madison School District links & notes on Madison Prep.
TJ Mertz comments, here.

Sun Prairie Schools’ WKCE Results Above State Averages

Scott Beedy, via a kind reader’s email:

The 2010 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results reveal strong academic achievement for students in the Sun Prairie Area School District, according to district officials.
This past November, Sun Prairie administered the WKCE to more than 3,400 students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10. Students in grades 3 through 8 were assessed in reading and math. Students in grades 4, 8 and 10 were also assessed in language arts, science, social studies and writing.
It is important to note that testing in the fall shows the impact of instruction from the previous school years and just two months at the designated grade level. For example, 6th grade scores reflect proportionately more about the 5th grade program than about the 6th grade program.
Combining all grade levels, 88 percent of Sun Prairie students are proficient or advanced in reading and 86 percent are proficient or advanced in math, according to district officials. The numbers are both an increase from last year.

Much more on the recent WKCE results, here.

Milwaukee Voucher School WKCE Headlines: “Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn’t perform better in state tests”, “Test results show choice schools perform worse than public schools”, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS”; Spend 50% Less Per Student

Erin Richards and Amy Hetzner

Latest tests show voucher scores about same or worse in math and reading.
Students in Milwaukee’s school choice program performed worse than or about the same as students in Milwaukee Public Schools in math and reading on the latest statewide test, according to results released Tuesday that provided the first apples-to-apples achievement comparison between public and individual voucher schools.
The scores released by the state Department of Public Instruction cast a shadow on the overall quality of the 21-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which was intended to improve results for poor city children in failing public schools by allowing them to attend higher-performing private schools with publicly funded vouchers. The scores also raise concerns about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back the mandate that voucher schools participate in the current state test.
Voucher-school advocates counter that legislation that required administration of the state test should have been applied only once the new version of the test that’s in the works was rolled out. They also say that the latest test scores are an incomplete measure of voucher-school performance because they don’t show the progress those schools are making with a difficult population of students over time.
Statewide, results from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam show that scores didn’t vary much from last year. The percentage of students who scored proficient or better was higher in reading, science and social studies but lower in mathematics and language arts from the year before.

Susan Troller:

Great. Now Milwaukee has TWO failing taxpayer-financed school systems when it comes to educating low income kids (and that’s 89 per cent of the total population of Milwaukee Public Schools).
Statewide test results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction include for the first time performance data from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which involves about 110 schools serving around 10,000 students. There’s a total population of around 80,000 students in Milwaukee’s school district.
The numbers for the voucher schools don’t look good. But the numbers for the conventional public schools in Milwaukee are very poor, as well.
In a bit of good news, around the rest of the state student test scores in every demographic group have improved over the last six years, and the achievment gap is narrowing.
But the picture in Milwaukee remains bleak.

Matthew DeFour:

The test results show the percentage of students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program who scored proficient or advanced was 34.4 percent for math and 55.2 percent for reading.
Among Milwaukee Public Schools students, it was 47.8 percent in math and 59 percent in reading. Among Milwaukee Public Schools students coming from families making 185 percent of the federal poverty level — a slightly better comparison because voucher students come from families making no more than 175 percent — it was 43.9 percent in math and 55.3 percent in reading.
Statewide, the figures were 77.2 percent in math and 83 percent in reading. Among all low-income students in the state, it was 63.2 percent in math and 71.7 percent in reading.
Democrats said the results are evidence that the voucher program is not working. Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, the top Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee, said voucher students, parents and taxpayers are being “bamboozled.”
“The fact that we’ve spent well over $1 billion on a failed experiment leads me to believe we have no business spending $22 million to expand it with these kinds of results,” Pope-Roberts said. “It’s irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and a disservice to Milwaukee students.”
Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who is developing a proposal to expand the voucher program to other cities, took a more optimistic view of the results.
“Obviously opponents see the glass half-empty,” Vos said. “I see the glass half-full. Children in the school choice program do the same as the children in public school but at half the cost.”

Only DeFour’s article noted that voucher schools spend roughly half the amount per student compared to traditional public schools. Per student spending was discussed extensively during last evening’s planning grant approval (The vote was 6-1 with Marj Passman voting No while Maya Cole, James Howard, Ed Hughes, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss and Arlene Silveira voted yes) for the Urban League’s proposed Charter IB School: The Madison Preparatory Academy.
The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Wisconsin DPI WKCE data.
Yin and Yang: Jay Bullock and Christian D’Andrea.
Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Governance: Madison School Board Members Proposed 2010-2011 Budget Amendments: Cole, Hughes, Mathiak, Moss & Silveira. Reading Recovery, Teaching & Learning, “Value Added Assessment” based on WKCE on the Chopping Block

Well worth reading, particularly Maya Cole’s suggestions on Reading Recovery (60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use) spending, Administrative compensation comparison, a proposal to eliminate the District’s public information position, Ed Hughes suggestion to eliminate the District’s lobbyist (Madison is the only District in the state with a lobbyist), trade salary increases for jobs, Lucy Mathiak’s recommendations vis a vis Teaching & Learning, the elimination of the “expulsion navigator position”, reduction of Administrative travel to fund Instructional Resource Teachers, Arlene Silveira’s recommendation to reduce supply spending in an effort to fund elementary school coaches and a $200,000 reduction in consultant spending. Details via the following links:
Maya Cole: 36K PDF
Ed Hughes: 127K PDF
Lucy Mathiak: 114K PDF
Beth Moss: 10K PDF
Arlene Silveira: 114K PDF
The Madison School District Administration responded in the following pdf documents:

Much more on the proposed 2010-2011 Madison School District Budget here.

A Remarkable Headline: “WKCE results very similar to last year; non-low income students continue to do well”

Ken Syke, Madison School District Public Information:

Three conclusions from this year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination results for Madison School District students:

  1. The performance of Madison School District students was relatively unchanged from last year in reading and math across the seven tested grade levels.
  2. MMSD’s non-low income students continue to outperform their Wisconsin peers in reading and math.
  3. Small gains were made in 10 of 14 scores on the achievement gap but the differences remain too significant.

1. In reading, across the seven grades tested, four grade levels had an increase in the percentage of students scoring at the Proficient or higher performance categories compared with the previous year while three grades showed a decline in the percentage. In math, four grades increased Proficient or higher performance, one grade declined and two grades remained the same. (See Table 1 below.)

The WKCE has been criticized for its lack of rigor. It may be replaced in the not too distant future.

Wisconsin Likely to Adopt “Common Core” K-12 Standards, Drop Oft-Criticized WKCE

Gayle Worland:

Wisconsin students can count on one hand the number of times they’ll still have to take the math section — or any section — of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the annual weeklong test whose results for 2009-10 were scheduled to be released Wednesday.
That’s because the WKCE is expected to give way in a few years to tests based on new national academic standards proposed last month that could become final this spring.
The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and all 50 U.S. states except Alaska and Texas in the fall signed on to the development of the Common Core State Standards for math and English, which spell out what the nation’s public schoolchildren should be taught from kindergarten through high school.
When the final standards are unveiled, probably in late May, Wisconsin likely will adopt them, said Sue Grady, executive assistant to the state school superintendent.

Wisconsin Assessment Recommendations (To Replace the WKCE)

Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance, via a kind reader’s email [View the 146K PDF]

On August 27, 2009, State Superintendent Tony Evers stated that the State of Wisconsin would eliminate the current WKCE to move to a Balanced System of Assessment. In his statement, the State Superintendent said the following:

New assessments at the elementary and middle school level will likely be computer- based with multiple opportunities to benchmark student progress during the school year. This type of assessment tool allows for immediate and detailed information about student understanding and facilitates the teachers’ ability to re-teach or accelerate classroom instruction. At the high school level, the WKCE will be replaced by assessments that provide more information on college and workforce readiness.

By March 2010, the US Department of Education intends to announce a $350 million grant competition that would support one or more applications from a consortia of states working to develop high quality state assessments. The WI DPI is currently in conversation with other states regarding forming consortia to apply for this federal funding.
In September, 2009, the School Administrators Alliance formed a Project Team to make recommendations regarding the future of state assessment in Wisconsin. The Project Team has met and outlined recommendations what school and district administrators believe can transform Wisconsin’s state assessment system into a powerful tool to support student learning.
Criteria Underlying the Recommendations:

  • Wisconsin’s new assessment system must be one that has the following characteristics:
  • Benchmarked to skills and knowledge for college and career readiness • Measures student achievement and growth of all students
  • Relevant to students, parents, teachers and external stakeholders
  • Provides timely feedback that adds value to the learning process • Efficient to administer
  • Aligned with and supportive of each school district’s teaching and learning
  • Advances the State’s vision of a balanced assessment system

Wisconsin’s Assessment test: The WKCE has been oft criticized for its lack of rigor.
The WKCE serves as the foundation for the Madison School District’s “Value Added Assessment” initiative, via the UW-Madison School of Education.

For now, the test everyone hates (WKCE) is sticking around

Alan Borsuk:

All across Wisconsin, schools received boxes and boxes of stuff they didn’t want last week.
Unfortunately, they were about the most important deliveries they’ll get this year: Hundreds of thousands of test booklets for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the state’s annual standardized test.
The testing window, one of the biggest events in every school year, is about to open. More than 400,000 students in third through eighth grade, as well as in 10th grade, will be tested in either two or five subjects in coming weeks, with a handful of schools starting this week and the large majority doing the testing in November.
It’s the test everyone loves to hate. It takes up large amounts of time and disrupts schedules for days on end. There are widespread complaints about what is actually tested. The test yields almost nothing that is useful to teachers in shaping the way they educate students. It’s often a public relations problem and sometimes a nightmare if a school’s scores are low or sometimes even just not better than the prior year.
Furthermore, the test is dying a slow death, and everyone knows it.
Just to be contrary, let’s say something good about the WKCE. For all its flaws, it’s the only broad scale accountability tool we’ve got in this state. It succeeds in putting a lot of heat on schools across the state, and many of them need it.
And the test scores are actually a pretty good reflection of student achievement in a school – which is to say, I’ve never heard of a school with low scores that could make a convincing case that the kids were actually doing well and the scores were off base.
But the state testing system is moving toward an overhaul, and for good reasons.

The Overhaul of Wisconsin’s Assessment System (WKCE) Begins

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction [52K PDF]:

Wisconsin will transform its statewide testing program to a new system that combines state, district, and classroom assessments and is more responsive to students, teachers, and parents needs while also offering public accountability for education.
“We will be phasing out the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE),” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “We must begin now to make needed changes to our state’s assessment system.” He also explained that the WKCE will still be an important part of the educational landscape for two to three years during test development. “At minimum, students will be taking the WKCEs this fall and again during the 2010-11 school year. Results from these tests will be used for federal accountability purposes,” he said.
“A common sense approach to assessment combines a variety of assessments to give a fuller picture of educational progress for our students and schools,” Evers explained. “Using a balanced approach to assessment, recommended by the Next Generation Assessment Task Force, will be the guiding principle for our work.”
The Next Generation Assessment Task Force, convened in fall 2008, was made up of 42 individuals representing a wide range of backgrounds in education and business. Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, and Joan Wade, administrator for Cooperative Educational Service Agency 6 in Oshkosh, were co-chairs. The task force reviewed the history of assessment in Wisconsin; explored the value, limitations, and costs of a range of assessment approaches; and heard presentations on assessment systems from a number of other states.
It recommended that Wisconsin move to a balanced assessment system that would go beyond annual, large-scale testing like the WKCE.

Jason Stein:

The state’s top schools official said Thursday that he will blow up the system used to test state students, rousing cheers from local education leaders.
The statewide test used to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law will be replaced with a broader, more timely approach to judging how well Wisconsin students are performing.
“I’m extremely pleased with this announcement,” said Madison schools Superintendent Dan Nerad. “This is signaling Wisconsin is going to have a healthier assessment tool.”

Amy Hetzner:

Task force member Deb Lindsey, director of research and assessment for Milwaukee Public Schools, said she was especially impressed by Oregon’s computerized testing system. The program gives students several opportunities to take state assessments, with their highest scores used for statewide accountability purposes and other scores used for teachers and schools to measure their performance during the school year, she said.
“I like that students in schools have multiple opportunities to take the test, that there is emphasis on progress rather than a single test score,” she said. “I like that the tests are administered online.”
Computerized tests give schools and states an opportunity to develop more meaningful tests because they can assess a wider range of skills by modifying questions based on student answers, Lindsey said. Such tests are more likely to pick up on differences between students who are far above or below grade level than pencil-and-paper tests, which generate good information only for students who are around grade level, she said.
For testing at the high school level, task force member and Oconomowoc High School Principal Joseph Moylan also has a preference.
“I’m hoping it’s the ACT and I’m hoping it’s (given in) the 11th grade,” he said. “That’s what I believe would be the best thing for Wisconsin.”
By administering the ACT college admissions test to all students, as is done in Michigan, Moylan said the state would have a good gauge of students’ college readiness as well as a test that’s important to students. High school officials have lamented that the low-stakes nature of the 10th-grade WKCE distorts results.



The entry The Madison School District on WKCE Data is not accepting comments, so this entry will make a quick note.
The last pages of the MMSD document is a copy of the agenda for a workshop entitled “WKCE DATA ANALYSIS WORKSHOP” for principals and IRT Professional Development, held on May 1 at Olson Elementary School. In this half day workshop, a couple of hours is spent introducing the software package from Turnleaf which allows detailed analysis of student data — according to their site.
This is promising, I would hope. Maybe we will finally be seeing some real analysis of student data and begin to answer the “whys” of the WKCE results. See WKCE Scores Document Decline in the Percentage of Madison’s Advanced Students

The Madison School District on WKCE Data

Madison School District 1.5MB PDF:

The 2008-09 school year marked the fourth consecutive year in which testing in grades 3 through 8 and 10 was conducted in fulfillment of the federal No Child left Behind law. The Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) is a criterion-referenced test (CRT) where a student’s performance is compared to a specific set of learning standard outcomes. The WKCE-CRT includes testing in all seven grade levels reading and math and in grades 4, 8 and 10 additional testing in language arts, science and social studies. Just under 12,400 MMSD students participated in this year’s WKCE-CRT.

Under NClB, schools are required to test 95% of their full academic year (FAY) students in reading and math. Madison’s test participation rates exceeded 95% in all grade levels. Grades 3 through 8 achieved 99% test participation or higher while the District’s 10th graders reached 98% in test participation.

In general, performance was relatively unchanged in the two academic areas tested across the seven grade levels. In reading, across the seven grades tested four grade levels had an increase in the percentage of students scoring at the proficient or higher performance categories compared with the previous year while three grades showed a decline in the percentage. In math, three grades increased proficient or higher performance, three grades declined, and one remained the same.

The changing demographics of the district affect the overall aggregate achievement data. As the district has experienced a greater proportion of students from subgroups which are at a disadvantage in testing, e.g., non-native English speakers, or English language learners (Ells), the overall district averages have correspondingly declined. Other subgroups which traditionally perform well on student achievement tests, i.e., non-low income students and white students, continue to perform very high relative to statewide peer groups. Therefore, it is important disaggregate the data to interpret and understand the district results.

Jeff Henriques recently took a look at math performance in the Madison School District.

Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum

WKCE Scores Document Decline in the Percentage of Madison’s Advanced Students

For many years now, parents and community members, including members of Madison United for Academic Excellence, have expressed concerns about the decline in rigor and the lack of adequate challenge in our district’s curriculum. The release this week of WKCE scores for the November 2008 testing led me to wonder about the performance of our district’s strongest students. While most analyses of WKCE scores focus on the percentages of students scoring at the Advanced and Proficient levels, these numbers do not tell us about changes in the percent of students at each particular level of performance. We can have large increases in the percent of students scoring at the Proficient and Advanced levels because we have improved the performance of students who were previously at the Basic level on the WKCE, but yet fail to have any effect on the performance of our district’s strongest students. This is the argument that we are improving the performance of our low ability students, but failing to increase the performance of our already successful students. An examination of the numbers of students who are performing at just the Advanced level on the WKCE provides us with some insight into the academic progress of our more successful 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

Graduation Year 3rd Grade 4th Grade 5th Grade 6th Grade 7th Grade 8th Grade 10th Grade


The Death of WKCE? Task Force to Develop “Comprehensive Assessment System for Wisconsin”

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction [150K PDF], via a kind reader’s email:

Wisconsin needs a comprehensive assessment system that provides educators and parents with timely and relevant information that helps them make instructional decisions to improve student achievement,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster in announcing members of a statewide Next Generation Assessment Task Force.
Representatives from business, commerce, and education will make recommendations to the state superintendent on the components of an assessment system that are essential to increase student achievement. Task force members will review the history of assessment in Wisconsin and learn about the value, limitations, and costs of a range of assessment approaches. They will hear presentations on a number of other states’ assessment systems. Those systems may include ACT as part of a comprehensive assessment system, diagnostic or benchmark assessments given throughout the year, or other assessment instruments and test administration methods. The group’s first meeting will be held October 8 in Madison.

A few notes:


Dane County, WI Schools Consider MAP Assessement Tests After Frustration with State WKCE Exams
Waunakee Urges that the State Dump the WKCE

Andy Hall takes a look at a useful topic:

From Wisconsin Heights on the west to Marshall on the east, 10 Dane County school districts and the private Eagle School in Fitchburg are among more than 170 Wisconsin public and private school systems purchasing tests from Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit group based in the state of Oregon.
The aim of those tests, known as Measures of Academic Progress, and others purchased from other vendors, is to give educators, students and parents more information about students ‘ strengths and weaknesses. Officials at these districts say the cost, about $12 per student per year for MAP tests, is a good investment.
The tests ‘ popularity also reflects widespread frustration over the state ‘s $10 million testing program, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
Critics say that WKCE, which is used to hold schools accountable under the federal No Child Left Behind law, fails to provide adequate data to help improve the teaching methods and curriculum used in the classrooms.
They complain that because the tests are administered just once a year, and it takes nearly six months to receive the results, the information arrives in May — too late to be of use to teachers during the school year.
The testing controversy is “a healthy debate, ” said Tony Evers, deputy state superintendent of public instruction, whose agency contends that there ‘s room for both WKCE and MAP.
“It ‘s a test that we feel is much more relevant to assisting students and helping them with their skills development, ” said Mike Hensgen, director of curriculum and instruction for the Waunakee School District, who acknowledges he ‘s a radical in his dislike of WKCE.
“To me, the WKCE is not rigorous enough. When a kid sees he ‘s proficient, ‘ he thinks he ‘s fine. ”
Hensgen contends that the WKCE, which is based on the state ‘s academic content for each grade level, does a poor job of depicting what elite students, and students performing at the bottom level, really know.
The Waunakee School Board, in a letter being distributed this month, is urging state legislators and education officials to find ways to dump WKCE in favor of MAP and tests from ACT and other vendors.

The Madison School District and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research are using the WKCE as a benchmark for “Value Added Assessment”.

“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”

Peter Sobol on the 2007 Wisconsin DPI State test results (WKCE):

The results for the WKCE test administered in November 2007 were finally released on May 30th. That is more than six months after the test was given. Worse, the data files containing the detailed results that can be used for proper statistical analysis of the results are STILL not available for download. Assessments are information that degrades over time. The fact that it takes six months to get the data out (whatever its other shortcomings) cheats the taxpayers of the full value of their investment.
At the very least the WI DPI should be embarrassed by the fact it takes this long to release the test results. Personally I find it outrageous. I had an email exchange with DPI officials concerning this long delay and the loss of value, this is an excerpt from part of that response (italics mine):

… The WKCE is a large-scale assessment designed to provide a snapshot of how well a district or school is doing at helping all students reach proficiency on state standards, with a focus on school and district-level accountability. A large-scale, summative assessment such as the WKCE is not designed to provide diagnostic information about individual students. Those assessments are best done at the local level, where immediate results can be obtained. Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum.

Does anyone else find the fact that the state issues WKCE results to individual students surprising given the above statement?

The Madison School District, together with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research is using local WKCE results for “Value Added Assessment“.
Much more on the WKCE here.
Minnesota recently administered their first online science test.

Analyzing Madison High School’s WKCE Scores

“Madtown Chris”:

For those folks so enamored of the various suburban “great schools” you should make sure you look at the facts. Specifically, I’m pretty amazed at the relatively poor performance of Waunakee HS. It’s down in the 66th percentile statewide. That’s not terrible but it’s not a super-dooper school either. Contrast it with West HS which is in the 99th percentile statewide and, in fact, the 4th best high school in Wisconsin (according to my analysis, etc, etc)
Anyway for the most part, the high schools do pretty well. I would say anything above 80th percentile statewide is pretty good. Who knew that Wisconsin Heights HS was so good? I don’t even know where it is! It got on this list because the district was in the area. It probably helps that they only have something like 95 students in 10th grade.

Analysis of Local Schools & Districts Based on 2007 WKCE Data

Madtown Chris, via email:

The 2007 state testing data is out and I thought I’d take another look. Again I’m looking here at Dane County area schools only compared with each other and state-wide as well. The data you will see only includes non-poor students — you can read more about why below.
Some Madison Elementary Schools are Tops
As you can see, Madison schools are simultaneously excellent and terrible. The top 8 are MMSD schools as are 6 of the bottom 10. Wow!
Not only does MMSD have top elementary schools in the area but the top 8 are above the 95% percentile statewide. That means those 8 schools are better (with respect to my measurements) than 95% of the other elementary schools in Wisconsin.
Furthermore, MMSD schools Lowell, Randall, and Van Hise are the #1, #2, and #3 elementary schools STATEWIDE. Yes you heard right. According to my ranking those are the 3 best elementary schools in the state for non-poor students.
Of the top 25 schools statewide, 7 are MMSD schools. No other area schools make the top 25.
You might consider moving to one of those attendance areas because these schools and the students in them are really, really good.

Much more on the WKCE here [RSS].

More on WKCE scores – Missing Students

Chan Stroman posted a valuable and in-depth examination of the District’s WKCE scores, and is it in the spirit of that posting that I would like to share my own little examination of our most recent test results. Rather than focusing on the scores of our students, this is an investigation of the numbers of MMSD students who took the WKCE exams. My intention is to simply present the data and let the reader draw their own conclusions.
This journey began with a question: How did students at West High School do on the WKCE exams now that the school has completed their three year Small Learning Communities grant. A relatively straightforward question that can be addressed by a visit to the DPI web site. However, in the process of looking at West High School’s test data from the Fall of 2006, it was surprising to see that only 39 African American students had been tested. Certainly there had to be more than 39 African American 10th graders at West this year, and if we want WKCE scores to provide an accurate assessment of the
“success” of a school, it is important that there isn’t any bias in which groups of students provide the assessment data.
The District makes available a number of breakdowns of student enrollment data by grade, by school, by ethnicity, by income status, and combinations thereof. However, there is not a breakdown that provides enrollment numbers by school by grade by ethnicity. Thus, if we want to know the number of African American 10th graders at a particular school we have to make an educated guess. We can do that by taking the percentage of African American students enrolled in the school and multiplying that by the number of students in the 10th grade. This gives us a rough estimate of the number of students enrolled. We can then compare that to the number of students who took the WKCE test to estimate the percentage of missing students.
West High School had 517 10th graders enrolled this past year, and 14% of the student body was African American. This suggests that there should be approximately 73 African American 10th graders at West which means that 34 students or 46.6% were not tested. This is very different from the overall proportion of West 10th graders not tested: 14.5% (DPI data show that 442 of the 517 students in the 10th grade were tested this past year). However, this is only one year’s data at one of our high schools. We need to put this data in context if we are to draw any conclusions. So here is the data for the four high schools for the past five years.

High School Year MMSD Enrollment Proportion African American Enrolled Predicted AA 10th Graders African American Tested Total 10th Grade Tested % AA Missing % Total Missing Discrepancy (AA% – Total %)
West 2002/03
East 2002/03
La Follette 2002/03
Memorial 2002/03

What about other ways to look at the number of high school students who took the WKCE’s?


2006 MMSD WKCE Scores: A Closer Look

Test scores from the November 2006 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) and companion Wisconsin Alternate Assessment (WAA) were released by the state Department of Public Instruction this week. The MMSD press release on Madison students’ scores (“Despite changes and cuts, Madison students test well”) reports the following “notable achievements”:

  1. that reading scores have remained steady and math scores have gone up;
  2. that non-low income MMSD students score better than their non-low income peers statewide;
  3. that a higher percentage of MMSD African-American students perform at the highest proficiency level than do other African-American students across the state as a whole; and
  4. that a consistently higher percentage of MMSD students perform at the highest proficiency level than do students across the state as a whole.

Let’s take a closer look at the PR and the data:


MMSD: “Madison Students Top Peers in WKCE Tests”

Madison Metropolitan School District:

Madison students tested on the 2005-06 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) surpassed their state peers in the “advanced” category — the highest category — at all grade levels and in both reading and math, district officials said today. More than 12,000 of the district’s 24,490 students took the tests.
This level of achievement is significant because the number of students tested doubled, due to first time testing in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7 (in addition to 4, 8 and 10 grades). For example, 38% of the district’s 10th graders taking the math test scored in the advanced category, compared with 25% statewide. Madison third graders taking the math test topped their state peers in the advanced category by 44% to 32%.
Madison students across the seven tested grades average five percentage points higher in the advanced score range than their statewide peers in the reading tests, and are over eight percentage points higher in the math test.
“Madison’s high-fliers really fly high,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater. “While we continue to work hard to narrow the minority student achievement gap, it’s important to note that high achieving students prosper and excel in our community’s schools.”

Much more on the WKCE test, and recent changes to it here.

Wisconsin’s “Broad interpretation of how NCLB progress can be “met” through the WKCE”

A reader involved in these issues forwarded this article by Kevin Carey: Hot Air: How States Inflate Their Educational Progress Under NCLB [Full Report: 180K PDF]

Critics on both the Left and the Right have charged that the No Child Left Behind Act tramples states’ rights by imposing a federally mandated, one-size-fits-all accountability system on the nation’s diverse states and schools.
In truth, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) gives states wide discretion to define what students must learn, how that knowledge should be tested, and what test scores constitute “proficiency”—the key elements of any educational accountability system. States also set standards for high school graduation rates, teacher qualifications, school safety and many other aspects of school performance. As a result, states are largely free to define the terms of their own educational success.
The Pangloss Index ranks Wisconsin as the most optimistic state in the nation. Wisconsin scores well on some educational measures, like the SAT, but lags behind in others, such as achievement gaps for minority students. But according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the state is a modern-day educational utopia where a large majority of students meet academic standards, high school graduation rates are high, every school is safe and nearly all teachers are highly qualified. School districts around the nation are struggling to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the primary standard of school and district success under NCLB. Yet 99.8 percent of Wisconsin districts—425 out of 426—made AYP in 2004–05.
How is that possible? As Table 2 shows, some states have identified the large majority of districts as not making AYP. The answer lies with the way Wisconsin has chosen to define the AYP standard.
NCLB requires states to base AYP designations on the percentage of students who score at the “proficient” level on state tests in reading and math. That percentage is compared to a target percentage, which must be met by both the student body as a whole and by “subgroups” of students, such as students from specific racial and ethnic populations. Districts that fail to make AYP for multiple consecutive years become subject to increasingly serious consequences and interventions.
Wisconsin has a relatively homogenous racial makeup and many small school districts, resulting in fewer subgroups in each district that could potentially miss the proficiency targets. 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.

Bold added. Also via eduwonk.
Kevin Carey comments on a Indiana newspaper’s editorial coverage of this issue:

Then comes the final pox-on-both-their-houses flourish, “what does any of it, really….” Maybe there are people out there who really don’t think that reporting accurate public information about the success of the school system has anything to do with the success of the school system. I just didn’t expect to find newspapers among their number.

WKCE Test Problems

Amy Hetzner:

Missing and duplicate pages in test books, answers that were already filled in and other errors with the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations have been reported by school districts from Cudahy to Wausau as the state’s testing period nears its end.
In all, 21 school districts have reported errors in 27 tests handed out to students since Oct. 24, the start of Wisconsin’s five-week testing period for every third- through eighth-grader and high school sophomore enrolled in public school.
A spokeswoman for CTB/McGraw-Hill, which was paid $6.6 million in 2004 to oversee Wisconsin’s testing program, blamed “printer-related problems” that affected test books given to a small number of students in fourth, eighth and 10th grades.
“The main thing to know is that the integrity of the student scores will be ensured,” said Kelley Carpenter, director of public relations for CTB/McGraw-Hill.

“to audit the effectiveness of teaching and instruction of our kids in classrooms across the district.” (!)

Molly Beck, Rory Linnane And Kelly Meyerhofer

The review proposed by Evers would be funded through federal dollars allocated for MPS but yet used or funding leftover from previously awarded contracts, according to the governor.

The audits would produce “a comprehensive review and evaluation of the district’s systems, processes, and procedures to identify areas for improvement,” and “a comprehensive review and analysis of instructional practices, methodologies, and policies, which may include, for example, reviews of school and classroom learning environments, professional development policies and practices, curriculum implementation, and leadership, among other areas.”

“Parents and families, taxpayers, and the greater community rightfully have questions, and each and everyone of those questions deserves honest and transparent answers,” Evers said. “For any meaningful conversation about possible solutions to happen, the first step is to fully identify the extent of the problems. The audits I’m proposing today must be done to drive those future conversations.”


DPI Superintendent Underly: “I support Eliminating the Foundations of Reading (FORT)” Teacher Test

Wisconsin’s low bar WKCE expedition. (DPI)

Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-

The New England Primer.


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?

Condemning the “Wisconsin DPI’s Ridiculous Attempt to Disguise Lackluster Student Achievement”


The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) strongly condemns the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for changing the terminology regarding student performance as well as once again considering changing the cut points for proficiency on the state’s Forward Exam. This represents a blatant effort to conceal lackluster academic performance for Wisconsin students. WILL believes these changes will cloud parent’s ability to best understand their child’s academic performance and allow schools to avoid accountability for their failures.  

The Quotes: WILL Research Director Will Flanders urges, “Instead of focusing on declining academic achievement in Wisconsin, the Department of Public Instruction is working to hide the problem. Unfortunately, changing standards for political correctness and to avoid accountability will hurt students today, tomorrow, and long into the future. DPI should prioritize addressing more pressing issues, such as implementing reading reforms which will raise student outcomes and helping to resolve the mess in Milwaukee Public Schools.”  

The Changes from DPI:  DPI announced they would be changing the terminology of student performance categories to as follows:  

  • “Below Basic” will now change to “Developing.”
  • “Basic” will now change to “Approaching.”
  • “Proficient” will now change to “Meeting.”
  • “Advanced” will remain the same.  

These labels are not designed to spare the feelings of the students who are not performing as expected, as DPI has alluded. Rather, they intend to prevent families from recognizing the ineptitude of the schools that fail to help students reach the standards required for the workforce or college. 


DPI Superintendent Underly: “I support Eliminating the Foundations of Reading (FORT)” Teacher Test

Wisconsin’s low bar WKCE expedition. (DPI)

Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-

The New England Primer.

Notes on UW-Madison School of Education Literacy skills

Quinton Klabon:

Dean Haddix will oversee science of reading rollout at UW-Madison. Her literacy research focused elsewhere, but the group of which she was president wrote a nuanced defense of balanced literacy and called out UW’s Mark Seidenberg. How does she feel?


DPI Superintendent Underly: “I support Eliminating the Foundations of Reading (FORT)” Teacher Test

Wisconsin’s low bar WKCE expedition. (DPI)

Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-

The New England Primer.

Wisconsin taxpayer funded “DPI pretends our NAEP scores aren’t gross”

Quinton Klabon:

Good news! DPI fixed Milwaukee Public Schools!

No, I don’t mean MPS’ finance crisis.

The Forward Exam categories were OFFENSIVE.
YUCKY: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Advanced
HAPPY: Developing, Approaching, Meeting, Advanced

So, 68% of Black students are Developing. ✨

Will Flanders

Changing terms for student performance on the Forward Exam will only serve to cloud parent’s ability to know how their child is doing in school. It’s great if a child in the lowest category is developing skills, but those skills may never actually develop in a failing school.

The use of politically correct terms for students that aren’t meeting expectations can be seen as little more than an attempt to mask failure. DPI should spend less time worrying about what to call levels of proficiency and more time fixing schools that aren’t meeting them.

Libby Sobic

Why is the @WisconsinDPI doing this? Changing the cut scores (again) only makes it harder to see trends over time on student proficiency. AND don’t forget all of this

Lucas Vebber:

DPI is organizing a meeting next week “to establish cut scores for the Wisconsin Forward Exam in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.”

Attendees are required to “sign a Security and Non-Disclosure Agreement” — is this meeting open to the public? How is this funded

DPI Superintendent Underly: “I support Eliminating the Foundations of Reading (FORT)” Teacher Test

Wisconsin’s low bar WKCE expedition. (DPI)

Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-

The New England Primer.

Wisconsin DPI and learning to read….

Will Flanders:

The person put in charge of implementing the Science of Reading in Wisconsin apparently wrote positively about Lucy Calkins.


Quinton Klabon:

GENUINE QUESTION: She was the 2017 president of the Wisconsin State Reading Association, which lobbied against Act 20 in 2023!

Many know her, so can someone explain?

DPI Superintendent Underly: “I support Eliminating the Foundations of Reading (FORT)” Teacher Test

Wisconsin’s low bar WKCE expedition. (DPI)

Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-


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?

Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-

Emily Hanford notes the “surge in legislative activity” amidst our long term, disastrous reading results [link].

via NAEP 4th grade results 1992-2022.

Longtime SIS readers may recall a few of these articles, bookmarking our times, so to speak:

2004: [Link]

“In 2003, 80% of Wisconsin fourth graders scored proficient or advanced on the WCKE in reading. However, in the same year only 33% of Wisconsin fourth graders reached the proficient or advanced level in reading on the NAEP.”

2005: [Link]

“According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading.”

2008: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”

2010: When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

2010: WEAC $1.57M !! for four state senators.

2011: A Capitol Conversation:

1. How teachers are taught. In Wisconsin as in much of the US, prospective teachers are not exposed to modern research on how children develop, learn, and think. Instead, they are immersed in the views of educational theorists such as Lev Vygotsky (d. 1934) and John Dewey (d. 1952). Talented, highly motivated prospective teachers are socialized into beliefs about children that are not informed by the past 50 years of basic research in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience.

Wisconsin adopted MTEL for elementary reading teachers only. Our version is known as the Foundations of Reading Test…

2013: Alan Borsuk:

The Massachusetts test is about to become the Wisconsin test, a step that advocates see as important to increasing the quality of reading instruction statewide and, in the long term, raising the overall reading abilities of Wisconsin students. As for those who aren’t advocates (including some who are professors in schools of education), they are going along, sometimes with a more dubious attitude to what this will prove.

2017: Foundations of Reading Test Results

May 2013 – August 2014 (Test didn’t start until January 2014, and it was the lower cut score): 2150 pass out of 2766 first time takers = 78% passage rate .xls file

September 2014 – August 2015 (higher cut score took effect 9/14): 2173/3278 = 66%

September 2015 – August 2016: 1966/2999 = 66%

September 2016 – YTD 2017: 1680/2479 = 68%

2017 [3 minute transcript]:

2018: Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken the Foundations of Reading Test for elementary teachers.

Also, 2018: “We set a high bar for achievement,” DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said.

Still 2018: Alan Borsuk:

But consider a couple other things that happened in Massachusetts: Despite opposition, state officials stuck to the requirement. Teacher training programs adjusted curriculum and the percentage of students passing the test rose.

More 2018: “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”

2019: My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results.

2019, continued – Alan Borsuk:

The latest report on reading was really bad. here are some possible solutions. Mississippi got a lot of attention when the NAEP scores were released. It was the only state where fourth grade reading scores improved. Mississippi is implementing a strong requirement that teachers be well-trained in reading instruction. Massachusetts did that in the 1990s and it paid off in the following decade.

2020: Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

2021: Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Jill Underly:

All right. Um, as far as the Foundations of Reading (FORT) test is concerned, I would support eliminating it. And I’ll tell you why. I believe it’s an unnecessary hoop. Um, it makes it difficult and much harder for people to become teachers, particularly when we are already struggling. Right. With recruiting and retaining teachers.

2021: Wisconsin Governor Evers vetoes AB446 and SB454 (Friday afternoon):

The bill would mandate school boards and independent charter schools to assess the early literacy skill of pupils in four-year-old kindergarten to second grade using repeated screening assessments throughout the year and to create a personal reading plan for each pupil in five-year-old kindergarten to second grade who is identified as at-risk. It would also mandate the Department of Public Instruction establish and maintain lists of approved fundamental skills screening assessments, universal screening assessments, and diagnostic assessments on its Internet site based on alignment with model academic standards in reading and language arts, and a mandatory minimum sensitivity rate and specificity rate.

2023: Wisconsin Legislative hearing on our long term, disastrous reading results: “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.”

2023: Further attempts to kill our only teacher content knowledge requirement: elementary reading “!”. Corrinne Hess:

“Only 54 percent of first-time Teacher test takers passed for the 2020-21 school year. That’s down from 66 percent in 2014-15”

2024: Ongoing Wisconsin Literacy Legislation Litigation…. Governor Evers’ partial veto – (mind the Governor’s mulligans)

Wisconsin DPI School rating commentary

Elizabeth Beyer:

The new priority area, target group outcomes, replaced closing achievement gaps. The new priority area, DPI said, sheds additional light on students in schools with low test scores. The measure was designed to help focus support on the learners who need it most, while also improving outcomes for all students, according to DPI.

“I think in the long run this is going to be a positive for students in Wisconsin because I think it is going to guide school improvement efforts more constructively than the old measure,” Schell, who sat on the advisory committee that DPI convened to develop this year’s updated report cards, said of the change.

Scores are based on a 100-point scale and weighted for certain situations, such as a larger focus on academic growth in schools with high poverty rates. Scoring within a certain point range determines what star rating a school receives.

Madison data

For the 2020-21 school year, Madison received an overall score of 70.2 points on a 100-point scale — just over the 70 points needed to attain a four-star rating. The score was down from the 72.3 points the district received in 2018-19.

Up to three years of data are used in assessment-based measures of report cards, according to DPI. Because assessments were not administered in the 2019-20 school year, the 2020-21 report card uses results from the 2020-21, 2018-19 and 2017-18 school years with more weight given to more recent years.

This year’s star rating is as follows:

  • A score of 83 to 100 is a rating of five stars or significantly exceeds expectations.
  • A score of 70 to 82.9 is a rating of four stars or exceeds expectations.
  • A score of 58 to 69.9 is a rating of three stars or meets expectations.
  • A score of 48 to 57.9 is a rating of two stars or meets few expectations.
  • A score of 0 to 47.9 is a rating of one star or fails to meet expectations.

Spokesperson Tim LeMonds said the district received the data from DPI Tuesday and had not had an opportunity to thoroughly review the information as of Tuesday afternoon.

Of the 44 Madison schools evaluated under the report card system, six were categorized as having significantly exceeded expectations in 2020-21, receiving a five-star rating. That number was down from nine in the 2019-20 school year.

The Department of Public Instruction has changed tests a number of times over the years.

Scott Girard:

Officials urged caution in interpreting the results given the continuing pandemic. Effects included a sharp increase in the number of students who opted out of state testing, including 50.3% of eligible students on the math and English language arts (ELA) tests in MMSD.

Because no state tests were given in 2019-20, the report cards use 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2020-21.

Judge finds Wisconsin DPI improperly released test scores to media

Todd Richmond:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction violated state law when it withheld voucher students’ standardized test scores for a day last fall, a judge ruled Friday.

School Choice Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law firm, sued the department in Jefferson County court in November. The lawsuit revolved around the 2018-19 standardized test scores that the department released that September.

The scores showed only 39% of all students were proficient or advanced in English and that 40% were proficient or advanced in math. Only 20.7% of voucher students were proficient or advanced in English and just 17.8% were proficient or advanced in math.

Students in voucher programs can use state dollars to subsidize tuition at private schools. Republicans have touted the programs as an alternative for students stuck in failing public schools. Democrats argue the programs are a drain on state revenues that could go to help public schools.

Wisconsin has generally lacked a rigorous approach to statewide assessments: see the oft criticized WKCE.

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.

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

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

Judge Rules Wisconsin DPI Violated State Law in Release of 2019 School Choice Data

Wisconsin institute for law and liberty:

The News: Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Bennett Brantmeier issued a summary judgement ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) violated state law when the state agency released partial data on Wisconsin’s school choice programs to a select media list ahead of a September 2019 public release. The Court’s decision includes a permanent injunction to prevent DPI from violating state law that says data on Wisconsin’s school choice programs must be released “all at the same time, uniformly, and completely.”

WILL sued DPI in Jefferson County in November 2019 on behalf of School Choice Wisconsin (SCW), Empower Wisconsin journalist Matt Kittle, and WILL Research Director Will Flanders.

The Court’s Decision: Judge Brantmeier ruled that DPI’s actions violated state law by providing press with early access and by releasing incomplete data on Wisconsin’s school choice programs. Judge Brantmeier declined to restrict the state Superintendent’s ability to comment on the data it releases but emphasized that DPI remains bound to release full data sets on equal terms to all Wisconsinites.

Why It Matters: Wisconsin’s state agencies must understand that following state law is not optional. This is another victory for a more accountable state government.

Wisconsin has generally lacked a rigorous approach to statewide assessments: see the oft criticized WKCE.

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.

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

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

Needs Improvement: How Wisconsin’s Report Card Can Mislead Parents

Will Flanders:

This year, no Forward Exam was administered to Wisconsin students due to the coronavirus and school shutdowns. For policymakers, this presents a challenge as it makes it more difficult to understand where problems lie, and where the focus should be for improvement. However, this also presents an opportunity to make modifications to some of the deficient components of the report card that can mislead parents and policymakers on school quality.

This first section of this policy brief is designed to explain how the current report card works. The second section builds on this knowledge to highlight issues with the current report card, and suggest ways to improve it. The key takeaways of this brief include:

Report Card Scores are Based on Several Components of Student Performance. Forward Exam scores, growth, and gap closure all play important roles.

The Composition of the Report Card Score Varies Based on Student Demographics. In schools with fewer low-income students, overall performance is given more weight. In schools with more low-income students, growth is given more weight.

Wisconsin has generally lacked a rigorous approach to statewide assessments: see the oft criticized WKCE.

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.

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

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

Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques [PDF]:

Dear Simpson Street Free Press:

Thank you for leading the way in looking more closely at recent reports of an increase in MMSD minority student graduation rates and related issues:

Inspired by your excellent work, we decided to dig deeper.
We call the result of our efforts Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between MMSD Graduation Rates and Student Achievement.

We hope Simpson Street Free Press readers will take the time to read our brief report and reflect on its findings.

Laurie Frost, Ph.D. Jeff Henriques, Ph.D.
August 20, 2018

Much has been made about the recent (Class of 2017) increase in MMSD high school graduation rates, especially for Black students. graduation-rate-for-black-students-soars/article_daf1dc5a-d8c8-5bcc-bf2b-6687ccfbdaf6.html

The graph below displays MMSD graduation data (as reported by the DPI) for the past eight years for White, Black, and Hispanic students. As you can see, in 2016-17, Hispanic students showed a 3.3% increase in graduation rate over the previous year and Black students showed an astounding 14.1% increase. Compared to their peers in the Class of 2013 (the year prior to the implementation of the MMSD’s Strategic Framework), the Hispanic and Black students in the Class of 2017 showed an 8.2% and 19.8% increase in graduation rates, respectively.

We will leave it to others to determine what accounts for the increase in minority student graduation rates – whether it is due, for example, to procedural changes in the way high school graduates are tallied; other (possibly questionable) data reporting practices; interventions that have produced bona fide improvements in student achievement; or a lower bar for success(including graduation) due to grade inflation, non-rigorous alternative educational options, and/or watered-down credit recovery programs (practices that have been the focus of investigative reports in other parts of the country).

For us, the important question is: Has the increase in minority student graduation rates been accompanied by an increase in minority student learning and achievement? Put another way, as we graduate an increasing number of our minority students, are we graduating more minority students who are college ready? who can read and do math at grade level?

We believe the best way to determine college readiness is with the ACT, which all MMSD juniors have been required to take since 2013-14*. Though far from perfect, the ACT is a widely used standardized test with well-established and well-documented reliability and validity. It yields objective performance data in the core academic areas, data that allow for meaningful comparisons across time, geography, and demographics. Grades (and GPA), in contrast, are somewhat subjective and “squishy”. They are locally determined and, in practice, easily influenced – whether consciously or unconsciously – by the adults’ desire for success, both their own and their students’, especially during times of strong administrative and societal pressure for that success.

The ACT defines college readiness benchmark scores as the level of achievement (in terms of ACT test performance) required for a student to have at least a 75% chance of earning a C or better in an introductory college course in the same content area. Since 2013, the ACT-based college readiness benchmark score for both Reading and Math has been 22. (Before 2013, the benchmark score was 21 for Reading and 22 for Math.)

Here are the ACT-based college readiness data in Reading and Math for the MMSD Classes of 2008 through 2017.

As you can see, in the Class of 2017, 12.7% of the Black students met the college readiness benchmark in Reading (vs. 12.8% the year before and 10.4% in 2014, the first year of universal test participation in the MMSD) and 8.1% met it in Math (vs. 15.3% the year before and 8.1% in 2014). Those are the same Black students who showed the dramatic single-year increase in graduation rate of 14.1%. Clearly the increase in graduation rate for the Black students in the Class of 2017 was not accompanied by an increase in their college readiness. The same is true for their Hispanic classmates. The disconnect between minority student graduation rates and minority student achievement is, at best, puzzling (and at worst, alarming).

Question: How are we to understand increasing minority student graduation rates in the absence of an increase in minority student achievement (defined as college readiness)?

Question: More generally, how are we to understand such high minority student graduation rates in combination with such low minority student achievement?

These are questions we should all want to know the answers to.

In keeping with recent trends in education research, we wanted to know more about how the MMSD Class of 2017 fared over time, how their cohort learning profile evolved over their years as MMSD students. To that end, we looked at the percentage of students in the Class/cohort who were deemed proficient or advanced in Reading and Math from third grade on.

We undertook this effort with full awareness that a) the District uses different tests to assess grade level proficiency at different grade levels and, b) there is some variability in the students tested at each grade level (due to student movement in and out of the District, who shows up on test day each year, etc.). We moved forward with the analyses despite these obstacles because a) we believed that since all the tests are used to determine the same thing – grade level proficiency – there was enough meaningful equivalence across them to warrant the effort, and b) the changing membership of a cohort over time is a natural limitation of longitudinal data.

Perfection should not be the enemy of the good, as they say, nor should arguments about an absence of perfect data be used as an excuse to not look. We need to do the best we can with the data we have, keeping the problems in mind, but also in perspective.

Here is what we found.

This is what we accomplished with the minority students in the MMSD Class of 2017 over the course of nine years: little to nothing. No limitation in the data set can explain away these painful results.

And yet 77% of the Hispanic students and 72.6% of the Black students in the Class of 2017 earned MMSD high school diplomas. Clearly most of them did so without having grade level skills in reading and math.

We looked at the Classes of 2016 and 2018 and obtained essentially the same results.

Unfortunately, a high school diploma without high school level reading and math skills is of limited value when it comes to finding success and making a good life post-high school. Thus, despite our best efforts and multiple Doyle Building and community-based initiatives over the years, we continue to fail at preparing our minority students for life beyond the MMSD.

This is the proverbial forest. We need to look at it, long and hard. We need to take a break from looking at individual trees – or worse, single aspects of individual trees. It is critical that we take in the full landscape. No more hiding or explaining away the heartbreakingly tragic results. As a community and as a school district, we need to be honest with ourselves about how dismally we have failed and continue to fail our minority students.

Laurie A. Frost, Ph.D. Jeffrey B. Henriques, Ph.D.
August 20, 2018

A Note About the Data and Data Sources

Grades 3 – 8 proficiency data are based on WKCE test scores.

Grades 9 and 10 proficiency data are based on ACT Aspire test scores.

Grade 11 proficiency data and college readiness scores are based on ACT test scores. Source for all data (except the 2013-14 ACT Aspire data):

Source for the 2013-14 ACT Aspire data: 7%20ACT%20%26%20Aspire%20Scores%20Report%202014-15.pdf

* The MMSD implemented universal ACT test participation for high school juniors in 2013-14. Since then, the percentage of students taking the test has increased in all demographic groups. In the Class of 2017, 87.9% of White students, 64.1% of Black students, and 80.3% of Hispanic students took the ACT (vs. 67.0%, 27.1% and 47.8% for the Class of 2013, the year before universal participation was implemented).

Before universal participation was implemented, the group of students who took the ACT likely included a disproportionately high number of college-bound students (vis-a-vis the entire junior class). As a result, the percentage of students identified as college ready by the test in the years before 2013-14 was likely inflated. Had all students been taking the exam in the earlier years, it is likely that the percentage of students identified as college ready would have been lower, comparable to the percentage observed in more recent years.

Related: The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer funded school districts. Details, here.

Wisconsin Lawmaker: Lack of rigorous goals contributed to state’s achievement gap (decades go by)

Molly Beck:

The huge gap in average academic achievement among racial groups in Wisconsin is likely a result of state education officials not setting rigorous goals to address the problem years ago, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Wednesday.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said Wednesday that state lawmakers and education officials did not take seriously the charge of the 2001 federal law known as No Child Left Behind.

That law, which was replaced in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act, required schools to show that students improved their learning year after year, including among racial, gender and ability groups. Those that didn’t meet federal standards for improvement after four or more years were subject to be placed into “corrective action,” which could have resulted in replacing teachers, converting a school into a charter school or closing it altogether.

Olsen said because the law required all students to be proficient in English and math by 2014, the state Department of Public Instruction set goals that were below what Wisconsin students were achieving already, instead of goals that would require students to show dramatic improvement.

Olsen made the comments during a legislative briefing by DPI officials on the state’s plan to implement a new federal education accountability law. He praised DPI’s new plan because it sets goals to cut the gap in average achievement between black and white students in half in six years — which would require black students to improve in proficiency in English and math by around 4 percent annually.

“These are goals that are completely different than NCLB, because those, in my estimation, were just a scam,” said Olsen.

The WKCE was an unfortunate waste of time and money. Wisconsin continues to lag many states and nations.

Wisconsin K-12 Academic Standards And The Department Of Public Instruction Superintendent Campaign

Molly Beck:

He said the revision is necessary because the current state report card system should be more “honest and transparent” about how well schools are educating students. The current system rates schools higher than student test scores indicate, he said.

“Fundamentally, the ratings are very likely to go down because that represents how our kids are actually doing,” Humphries said of his proposal. “You’ve got to have the honest conversation … it’s not a warm and fuzzy kind of a thing to be telling people, but they need to know the truth.”

Wisconsin’s WKCE standards were long criticized for their weakness.

The incumbent Superintendent is Tony Evers.

More on political dynamics, here.

Senator Olson’s wife (Joan Wade) works for the DPI.

Wisconsin Student Performance on the Forward Exam

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

It has become common knowledge that Wisconsin students do not perform well in 4th grade reading, and that efforts to improve performance over the past two decades have been largely ineffective. On the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the only means we have to compare Wisconsin apples-to-apples to other jurisdictions, only 37% of our 4th graders performed at a proficient level or better in 2015, and our statewide score was statistically the same as it was in 1992. Because performance in other jurisdictions has improved over that time, our national ranking has dropped from 3rd in 1994 to 31st in 2013 and 25th in 2015. More details here.

Last week, DPI released scores on the first administration of the state Forward exam from the spring of 2016. The data is recorded in searchable form at On this exam, with its Wisconsin-developed content and proficiency criteria, approximately 43.7% of 4th graders reached the proficient level in English Language Arts. That is less than half of our state’s 4th graders performing proficiently. Forward exam results cannot be accurately compared to either the 2015 Badger exam, or the earlier WKCE.

There is a tendency to believe that the problem is confined to a few low-performing districts that bring down the state average. While there is definitely a performance gap between high-poverty and affluent districts, even higher-performing districts leave 30 to 40% of their students below the proficiency cut-off. For example, In the Greater Milwaukee area, MPS has 15.5% of its 4th graders scoring proficient, while the levels are 51% in Shorewood, 62.4% in Whitefish Bay, 64.9% in Elmbrook, 65.1% in Wauwatosa, and 70.8% in Mequon. In the Madison area, MMSD has 34.5% of its students at a proficient level, while Verona has 43.8% and Middleton/Cross Plains has 60.3%. There is plenty of room for improvement in all areas of the state.

We can also sort scores to pull out performance levels for different non-geographical sub-groups of students. Statewide, we see the usual gaps between different racial groups. 51% of white students are at the proficient level, as opposed to 39.7% of Asians, 23% of Hispanics, 22.3% of Native Americans, and 12.6% of blacks. 56.2% of non-economically disadvantaged students are proficient, versus 23.8% of economically disadvantaged students. Proficiency rates are 47.8 for students with no disabilities and 14.2% for those with disabilities (not including students with severe cognitive disabilities, who take a different assessment). Girls post 47.7% proficient, while boys are at 39.9%.

To find comparative scores for subgroups of students in your district, go to, and under “WSAS” in the top drop-down menu bar, select “Forward” and “Forward Single Year.” Then enter the district or school, the type of student, the test type, test subject, and grade tested. You can also use the dashboard to compare different schools and districts.

See the official DPI new release, as well as commentary in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal.

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Wisconsin’s Performance on the 2015 NAEP

Tap for a larger version.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

Are you interested in how Wisconsin 4th graders’ reading performance stacks up against other 4th graders nationwide? The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), administered every two years, is the one way we can get answers. See the attached document for the results from the 2015 NAEP, including our current and historical national ranking and how subgroups of Wisconsin students compare to each other as well as to their peers in higher performing states.

The first step in improving outcomes is always to be knowledgeable and honest about our current performance.

Much more, here (PDF Commentary).

Wisconsin’s long serving WKCE exam was often criticized for its low standards.

The New Wisconsin Forward Exam

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

The Badger Exam lasted just one year, to be replaced this spring with the Wisconsin Forward Exam. Wisconsin contracted with Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) to develop the new test with input from Wisconsin teachers.

In addition to rolling out the new assessment, DPI must complete the important process of setting proficiency standards. We hope they will continue to set proficiency cut scores based on the NAEP standards. For many years, Wisconsin yielded to the temptation to set its standards low, making it appear that we had higher percentages of proficient students than was actually the case. As reported by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the required level for proficiency in 4th grade reading in Wisconsin was actually below the level that NAEP set for the basic performance category.

“In this report, which involved mapping state proficiency standards in reading and mathematics onto the appropriate NAEP scale (2004-05), Wisconsin was among the states at the lower levels.

At grade 4 in reading, Wisconsin proficiency levels rated well below the NAEP Basic cut score and considerably below the NAEP Proficient cut score. Wisconsin ranked 22cd out of 32 states, far behind the leading states of Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Wyoming. “

DPI has also been asked by the U.S. Department of Education with finding a way to increase the number of students taking the statewide assessment. Wisconsin was one of 12 states that had a lower-than-required participation rate last year. A letter from the Department of Education spelled out the requirements as well as listing possible strategies to achieve compliance from districts.

Wisconsin’s long serving WKCE exam was often criticized for its low standards.

Badger Exam results; Madison Substantially Lags State Results….

Tap for a larger version.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

LETRS Training
For the fourth year, the Milwaukee Summer Reading Project will offer free training in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) in Milwaukee. Ten Saturday classes run from March into June. There are approximately ten open spots, with registration being first come-first served. If you are interested, please reply to this email to receive detailed information.

The Badger Exam
For 2014-15, the Badger Exam was Wisconsin’s annual statewide test in English Language Arts, taking the place of the WKCE. Badger was the name used in Wisconsin for the assessment developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), one of two Common Core-aligned assessments utilized by multiple states.

As was the case in other states that used this SBAC assessment, a much higher percentage of fourth grade students reached the proficient level than on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). See In Wisconsin, 50.4% of fourth graders were proficient on the Badger, while only 37% were proficient on the NAEP. This discrepancy could be attributed to differing exam content as well as different standards for setting proficiency cut scores. (Wisconsin was not included in the above-linked article because DPI delayed release of Badger results from the spring, 2015 exam until January 13, 2016.)

As is true in the NAEP data, the Badger scores reflect deep and persistent gaps between different groups of students. Proficiency percentages were only 20.2 for African-American fourth graders, 24.3 for students with disabilities, and 37.1 for low income students. DPI’s press release contains details.

At this point, Wisconsin’s DPI has not posted district and school Badger results on its website, which limits public access to this important information. An article in the Wisconsin State Journal provides information on districts in Dane County. In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Alan Borsuk reports that Milwaukee proficiency percentages were so low that former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called it a “national disgrace.”

The Badger exam is now history in Wisconsin. Legislation required development of the new Forward exam for this year. Since we will not longer be able to compare scores with other states who are taking the SBAC exam, it is critical that Wisconsin be honest about setting its proficiency cut scores at a level that corresponds to the NAEP standards.

2015 data via a .xlsx, .numbers file or PDF. Milwaukee School District Slides (PDF).

Wisconsin’s long serving WKCE exam was oft criticized for very low standards.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more the $17,000 per student annually.

Tap for a larger version.

analysis of math, reading scores ‘very disconcerting’

Greg Toppo:

Decades of bleak results from kids’ standardized tests now seem almost routine, but a new study made public Tuesday scratches beneath the surface to pin down just how many students in major U.S. metropolitan areas can actually read or do math proficiently. The results: Startlingly few.

If all of Detroit’s fourth-graders took the well-respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, just 120 African-American fourth-graders across the entire city, by researchers’ estimates, would score “proficient” or above in math.
“This is not a misprint,” the authors warn.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading scores.

Wisconsin’s long serving WKCE exam was often criticized for its low standards.

Wisconsin grades as proficient in standardized testing chaos

Alan Borsuk:

The standardized tests a few hundred thousand Wisconsin third- through eighth-graders will take this spring will be the third version of such tests used in three years, each with a different definition of proficiency.

Months overdue, results the Department of Public Instruction released Wednesday did not include data for individual schools or districts or for private schools taking part in the voucher program, a big step backward from past practice.

The state testing picture has been chaotic of late. There seems to be some hope it will settle into a more consistent, maybe even helpful testing routine, starting this spring. But the ups and downs of the last couple of years justify skepticism.

And they justify (at least I think so) some mockery. So here’s my own multiple choice test about Wisconsin testing.

More here.

Wisconsin’s long serving WKCE was often criticized for its low standards.

Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Governance Model

Chris Rickert:

The case heard by the state Supreme Court on Tuesday pits Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration against Evers and public education backers who object to the 2011 Act 21. That law gave the governor power to approve or reject the administrative rules state agencies create to implement statutes.

A court blocked the law from applying to Evers’ Department of Public Instruction in 2012, ruling that it unconstitutionally elevated the governor’s authority over the state superintendent’s. An appeals court agreed in February. Lawmakers continue to review rules as they did before the law was signed, but they have not had the power to reject them without passing a law to that effect.

As you might imagine, administrative rule-making doesn’t usually come with the high political drama that lawmaking does.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction brought us decades of low academic standards via the oft-criticized WKCE.

Friends don’t let friends misuse NAEP data

Morgan Polikoff:

At some point the next few weeks, the results from the 2015 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will be released. I can all but guarantee you that the results will be misused and abused in ways that scream misNAEPery. My warning in advance is twofold. First, do not misuse these results yourself. Second, do not share or promote the misuse of these results by others who happen to agree with your policy predilections. This warning applies of course to academics, but also to policy advocates and, perhaps most importantly of all, to education journalists.

much more of the NAEP scores here.

Wisconsin DPI “Rule Making” vs. Legislation in the Courts..

Molly Beck:

The conservative legal group Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty in a court filing this week asked the state Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court decision that upheld Evers’ rule-making authority related to education.

The brief was filed on behalf of the state’s largest business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, School Choice Wisconsin, former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and former Democratic Assembly member Jason Fields.

Department of Public Instruction spokesman John Johnson said every rule DPI makes faces legislative review and approval no matter what happens in this case.

“There’s really no impact on the legislature’s ability to do education reforms,” he said. Johnson also noted that the Legislature could act to remove a state law that allows school districts to adopt their own academic standards.

The Wisconsin DPI spent many millions on the oft criticized WKCE

Wisconsin Schools’ Superintendent Rhetoric

Molly Beck:

“I know our entire party is not happy with a public school system that can’t even get 37 percent of the students proficient in reading.”

According to DPI data, 36.6 percent of the state’s students were considered proficient in reading in the 2013-14 school year, the latest data set available.

DPI spokesman John Johnson said Evers was not available Monday for an interview. Johnson called the proposal “divisive.”

“It’s just unfortunate that there’s a single legislator that wants to re-politicize a battle around public education,” Johnson said. “It’s just a divisive distraction. It seems odd to put politics in front of kids.”

When asked if Johnson believes proposals made by Evers that have been unsuccessful, such as the funding formula change, might have a better shot at being implemented if the state schools chief were appointed, Johnson said no.

Much more on the Wisconsin DPI, home of the oft criticized WKCE.

Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 test Regime…

Molly Beck:

According to the Department of Administration, bids were sought for a Web-based exam testing third- through eighth-graders in English and fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders in math and science. A separate bidding process was set up for a new exam to test students in social studies. Daniel Wilson of the DOA said the process remains open.

Wisconsin students, who must be tested annually for the state to get federal funding, will have taken three different tests in as many years.

The state budget also requires the state to provide schools with a menu of tests they can give their students, but only if the federal government gives the OK. Bradley Carl, a researcher at UW-Madison’s Value-Added Research Center, said it’s pretty unlikely that’s going to happen.

“It’s a huge ‘if’ because I have not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that … it’s a sure thing that there will be federal blessing” for test options, Carl said.

The budget directs VARC to draft a list of three to five alternative tests that could be compared to the state-adopted test, but the center doesn’t get any funding to do so until the federal waiver is approved. Carl said there are likely only three to five tests that would fit the state’s criteria, and speculated that if a test company knew it was already tapped to provide an alternative test, there would be little incentive for it to offer a competitive price.

The Wisconsin DPI long promoted the discredited WKCE.

Political churning puts education on a murky path

Alan Borsuk:

If you want to know how kids are doing in school or how a school is doing overall, what do you need?

I’d suggest two things: A clear and steady idea of what you’re trying to accomplish and a clear and steady way of telling whether you’re accomplishing that.

A third thing would seem valuable also: Having a clear and steady plan for what to do if kids or schools are falling short.

All three of these steps are undergoing a lot of change at the federal and state levels. “Clear and steady” is the not the phrase I’d apply to a lot of things.

Worse than the low bar wkce?

“Hard to make comparisons across years” 

Alex Scharaschkin:

The exams are finished and GCSE and A-level students are heading off for summer. But there are 12 weeks – and a lot of work – from “pens down” to results day

Did you hear that noise? It’s the sound of thousands of students collectively breathing a sigh of relief. If April is the cruellest month, then July is the most anticipated. The end of GCSE and A-level exams marks a rite of passage, a time for reflection, celebration – and, for some, panic. After candidates have put down their pens, examiners – usually teachers by day – remain holed up in studies, marking.

Related: WKCE.

Wisconsin schools chief urges Scott Walker to veto education measures

Erin Richards:

Education issues have been some of the most controversial elements of the 2015-’17 state budget. The proposal calls for allowing much more public money to flow to private, mostly religious schools while keeping public school funding mostly flat. Public schools would see a modest increase in funding in the second year of the budget, but it’s under the rate of inflation.

Walker indicated in a radio address Thursday that the budget would lower property taxes and provide more money for K-12 education.

Some of the measures Evers is recommending Walker veto include:

■The Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program. That’s the Milwaukee “takeover” plan, which would allow Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to appoint a person to oversee up to five failing Milwaukee public schools each year. The schools would answer to that individual, instead of the Milwaukee School Board, and would likely result in more independent, nonunion charter school management companies running the schools.

Advocates say it’s time for undertaking a dramatically different strategy to address performance at the underachieving schools. Critics argue for local control, saying the measure would take power away from the elected Milwaukee School Board to address and resolve issues.

“Every other district in the state enjoys that privilege — this proposal would rob the MPS community of that right,” Evers wrote, adding that authority to close or reorganize schools would be placed in the hands of a single individual who would not have to answer to the MPS community.

Rather ironic. The DPI presided over decades of mediocrity via the WKCE…

Latest glitch delays Common Core exam in Wisconsin

Erin Richards:

The new standardized state achievement exam has been in the works for years, and is expected to be a much better gauge of student performance than the old pencil-and-paper, fill-in-the-bubble Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam.

The Badger Exam will be taken online and should be tougher, because it will align with the more rigorous Common Core academic standards.

It was also designed to feature test questions that would automatically adapt to individual students’ skill levels, but that feature was dropped because it wasn’t ready.

Because of concerns about testing time, DPI also eliminated a set of performance tasks that were to accompany the English portion of the exam.

State officials blamed the problems on Educational Testing Service, the company it contracted to administer the exam. It has not yet paid anything to the company, DPI Spokesman John Johnson said in an interview Thursday.

To test or not to test, public education’s epic drama

Alan Borsuk:

Not long ago, some people on the left and some on the right hated tests, but they weren’t much of a force. Now, everyone hates tests — there are too many, they waste time, they don’t prove anything, they stress everyone out, they’re of low quality, they distort education, they’re being used for the wrong purposes and so on.

Which brings us to the present. Let us touch on two scenes.

One is in Wisconsin, where a new test for grade school kids, the product of one of the two consortia, will launch in March. The test has problems, by far the biggest being that Gov. Scott Walker wants to kibosh it after this year. Many school people have gone to great lengths to prepare for this test and are wondering why bother to give it if it’s going to be killed. (Good question, I must say.)

The other and actually more important scene is in Washington, where there is new interest in revamping No Child Left Behind. There are a lot of obstacles, the largest of which is intense differences over testing. How much testing, if any, should be federally required? What kinds of tests and what should be done with the results? How do you hold states accountable without (or even with) test results?

The atmosphere is filled with anger and frustration as the mountain grows of test scores that have little prospect of yielding constructive impact.

However and unfortunately, Wisconsin’s DPI has spent many, many millions on the useless WKCE.

One of N.J.’s Top Superintendents Explains What’s Wrong with the Opt-Out Movement

Laura Waters:

Remember, we’re arguing about standards that have been in place for five years and assessments that haven’t even been given yet. Can we wait two weeks before passing judgement?

Also in the comments section, Anne Clark, who never takes fools lightly, has her own responses to anti-testers. She notes that there was plenty of opportunity for public comment during the adoption of Common Core and PARCC, that instructional time devoted to PARCC tests is de minimus compared to traditional testing schedules, and that the movement towards uniform standards and assessments has always been bipartisan. She’s also not afraid to call out Save Our Schools-NJ, one of the primary instigators of N.J.’s hysteria:

Yet, we have no useful method to track academic progress despite the DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure.

Court rules against measure letting Scott Walker halt school administrative rules

Patrick Marley:

Parents of students and members of teachers unions sued Walker over the law as it applied to rules put together by the Department of Public Instruction, which is headed by Evers. Walker is a Republican and Evers is aligned with Democrats, though his post is officially nonpartisan.

The state constitution says that “the supervision of public instruction shall be vested in a state superintendent and such other officers as the Legislature shall direct.” In a 1996 case that the appeals court repeatedly cited, the state Supreme Court held that lawmakers and the governor cannot give “equal or superior authority” over public education to any other official.

The Supreme Court’s ruling found that the state constitution prevented then-Gov. Tommy Thompson from transferring powers from the Department of Public Instruction to a new Department of Education overseen by the governor’s administration.

“In sum, the Legislature has the authority to give, to not give, or to take away (the school superintendent’s) supervisory powers, including rule-making power. What the Legislature may not do is give the (superintendent) a supervisory power relating to education and then fail to maintain the (superintendent’s) supremacy with respect to that power,” Appeals Judge Gary Sherman wrote for the court in Thursday’s decision.

Yet, we have no useful method to track academic progress despite the DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure.

K-16 Governance: An Oxymoron? Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Jim Schutze:

When Hall was early on the board, the university revealed to regents there were problems with a large private endowment used to provide off-the-books six-figure “forgivable loans” to certain faculty members, out of sight of the university’s formal compensation system.

Hall wanted to know how big the forgivable loans were and who decided who got them. He wanted to know whose money it was. He was concerned there had to be legal issues with payments to public employees that were not visible to the public.

University of Texas President William Powers painted the law school slush fund as a problem only because it had caused “discord” within the faculty. He vowed to have a certain in-house lawyer get it straightened up. Hall, who thought the matter was more serious and called for a more arms-length investigation and analysis, thought Powers’ approach was too defensive. In particular, Hall didn’t want it left to the investigator Powers had assigned.

“I had issues with that,” Hall says. “I felt that was a bad, bad deal. The man’s a lawyer. He lives in Austin. The people in the foundation are his mentors, some of the best lawyers in the state. They’re wealthy. He’s not going to be in the [university] system forever. He’s going to be looking for a job one day.”
But Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and other members of the board of regents did not share Hall’s concerns. “I was overruled,” Hall says. “That’s when I first felt like, one, there’s a problem at UT, and, two, the system has set up a scheme that gives the opportunity for a less than robust investigation.”

Since then, the university’s own in-house investigation, which cleared the law school of any real wrongdoing, has been discredited and deep-sixed. The in-house lawyer who did it is no longer on the payroll. The matter has been turned over to the Texas attorney general for a fresh investigation.

The head of the law school has resigned. The president of the university has resigned. Cigarroa has resigned.

Next, Hall questioned claims the university was making about how much money it raised every year. He thought the university was puffing its numbers by counting gifts of software for much more than the software really was worth, making it look as if Powers was doing a better job of fundraising than he really was.

When Hall traveled to Washington, D.C., to consult with the national body that sets rules for this sort of thing, he was accused of ratting out the university — a charge that became part of the basis for subsequent impeachment proceedings. But Hall was right. The university had to mark down its endowment by $215 million.

The really big trouble began in 2013 when Hall said he discovered a back-door black market trade in law school admissions, by which people in positions to do favors for the university, especially key legislators, were able to get their own notably unqualified kids and the notably unqualified kids of friends into UT Law School.

Local education issues that merit attention include:

A. The Wisconsin DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”… It is astonishing that we, after decades of DPI spending, have nothing useful to evaluate academic progress. A comparison with other states, including Minnesota and Massachusetts would be rather useful.

B. Susan Troller’s 2010 article: Madison school board member may seek an audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent. A look at local K-12 spending (and disclosure) practices may be useful in light of the planned April, 2015 referendum.

C. Madison’s long term disastrous reading results, despite spending double the national average per student.

D. Teacher preparation standards.

Wisconsin students will take scaled back Common Core-aligned tests this spring

Molly Beck

Wisconsin students are set to take a new kind of standardized test next month — one that is online, interactive and expected to be more rigorous than the annual pencil-and-paper exam given to students for years.

But a technical glitch in the creation of the new test for students in third through eighth grades will mean school districts will get a scaled-back version instead, according to records obtained from the state Department of Public Instruction.

As a result, DPI officials say the agency won’t pay the full $11.1 million cost and it will negotiate a new price with the test vendor and creators. About $1.2 million has been paid so far.

The test is linked to the controversial Common Core State Standards and tests students in math and English language arts.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin has long tolerated the sub standard WKCE assessment.

No profit left behind

Stephanie Simon:

A POLITICO investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas. The review also found Pearson’s contracts set forth specific performance targets — but don’t penalize the company when it fails to meet those standards. And in the higher ed realm, the contracts give Pearson extensive access to personal student data, with few constraints on how it is used.

POLITICO examined hundreds of pages of contracts, business plans and email exchanges, as well as tax filings, lobbying reports and marketing materials, in the first comprehensive look at Pearson’s business practices in the United States.

The investigation found that public officials often commit to buying from Pearson because it’s familiar, even when there’s little proof its products and services are effective.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for instance, declined to seek competitive bids for a new student data system on the grounds that it would be “in the best interest of the public” to simply hire Pearson, which had done similar work for the state in the past. The data system was such a disaster, the department had to pay Pearson millions extra to fix it.

The issues are not only on the supply side. Wisconsin’s decade plus use of the weak and largely useless WKCE is worth a deeper dive.

Buy side issues merit equal attention.

Ms. Simon deserves applause for digging deep. It is so rare in our ever more expensive K-12 world.

Problem’s Swirl Around Wisconsin’s next student test….

Erin Richards:

Costs to administer the new test have gone millions of dollars over budget. And administrators learned last week that a key technological feature of the new test — its ability to adapt to students’ individual ability levels by offering harder or easier questions as they take the exam — won’t be ready this spring.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction officials are downplaying the concerns.

“(It’s) a good test. It’s reliable,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers, while acknowledging the exam has turned out to be pricier than anticipated.

District superintendents are more critical. The timeline the Legislature approved for switching to a new exam tied to the Common Core standards this academic year has districts bearing the brunt of political and technological hangups with the test.

“If we administer this for one year only, which is likely, why are we shifting?” said Patricia Greco, superintendent of the Menomonee Falls School District. “We’re putting staff and students through a lot of change for a shift to a test that probably won’t produce the results we expected.”

The chinks in the armor of the new exam are coming to light at the same time that Walker has shifted his position on Common Core — again. Walker has had a complicated relationship with the standards, ranging from tacit early approval to an explicit call for their repeal last summer.

Now he’s eased away from throwing out the standards to booting the examination tied to them.

Wisconsin’s WKCE has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Yet, we continue.

How many good schools are there really?

Sam Coughlan:

How many good and outstanding schools are there in England? Record levels, never been so many before. That’s the official verdict of the education watchdog Ofsted.

“The proportion of schools judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection reached 81%.

“This is the highest proportion of good or outstanding schools there has ever been.”
But what does this 81% figure really mean? Do parents really have more than a four in five chance of getting a good or outstanding school for their children? And how has it risen so rapidly? Or is this the inspection equivalent of grade inflation?

“Outstanding” and “good” are the top two inspection grades – with “requires improvement” and “inadequate” the bottom two.

Wisconsin’s example: The WKCE disaster.

Despite angst over standardized testing, Wisconsin may be on right path

Alan Borsuk:

This may be the most politically incorrect thing I’ve ever said in this space: There are positive things to say about what’s going on in standardized testing in Wisconsin.

Everybody hates testing. Kids, teachers, politicians of all stripes. Even the biggest testing advocates in the country say there is too much testing. Testing is useless. It interferes with real education. There is a lot of reason to take the criticism seriously.

But I say: Maybe there’s hope, and maybe Wisconsin is on a new and good path.

First, an anecdote: About 15 years ago, I attended the annual gathering of testing chiefs from states across the country. I remember a panel discussion in which four experts described what was wrong with the way testing was being done.

The fifth person on the panel was the education adviser to the then-governor of Indiana. His message: That’s nice, but my boss and legislature want test scores.

Guess whose viewpoint prevailed. And things got only bigger, more pervasive and more controversial. In 2002, the No Child Left Behind federal education law went on the books, with its requirement that pretty much every public schoolchild in America be tested in reading and math every year from third through eighth grade and at one grade in high school.

Wisconsin’s WKCE has long been criticized for its lack of rigor and poor timing. Yet, it continued for years…

“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Commentary on 0.0015% of Wisconsin K-12 spending over the past 10 years

Molly Beck:

Over the past 10 years, Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that were subsequently barred from the state’s voucher system for failing to meet requirements related to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing, a State Journal review has found.

More than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the state’s voucher system since 2004 — all in Milwaukee — had stayed open for five years or less, according to the data provided by the state Department of Public Instruction. Eleven schools, paid a total of $4.1 million, were terminated from the voucher program after just one year.

Northside High School, for example, received $1.7 million in state vouchers for low-income students attending the private school before being terminated from the program in its first year in 2006 for failing to provide an adequate curriculum.

The data highlight the challenges the state faces in requiring accountability from private schools in the voucher program, which expanded from just Milwaukee and Racine to a statewide program last school year. The issue has emerged as a key area of disagreement between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, a Madison School Board member, in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

Last school year, there were 108 schools and about 25,000 students participating in the Milwaukee voucher program, and 146 voucher schools total. The state has budgeted about $210 million for all voucher schools for the current school year, compared to around $4.4 billion in general aid for public schools.

Wisconsin spent $11,774 per student in 2011 [ballotpedia] or $10,256,390,270. So, let’s assume that Wisconsin spent on average $9Billion annually since 2004. That’s $90,000,000,000 over the past decade. The state paid $139,000,000 to “failed” voucher schools during that time, or 0.0015% of total K-12 spending…

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to further analyze the effectiveness of said 90,000,000,000… not to mention the present public school “accountability” models. After all, the oft criticized WKCE was used to evaluate schools for some time.d Astonishing.

Wisconsin’s K-12 “Report Cards” Released

Matthew DeFour

The average score for all districts statewide was 72.1, up from 71.5 last year. That translates to a rating near the top of the “meets expectations” scale.

Madison also improved its overall score, from 68.5 to to 69.8. Its score remained among the bottom third of districts statewide, but moved up, from 11th to eighth, among 15 school districts located in cities. It also moved up one spot among Dane County districts from lowest score to second-lowest, ahead of Belleville.

Waunakee scored highest in Dane County and had the 12th-highest score in the state.

Milwaukee Public Schools once again was the only district that received a “fails to meet expectations” rating.

No schools in Madison received the lowest rating, but eight received the second-lowest . That’s an improvement from 11 last year. Four Madison schools received the highest rating: Franklin, Shorewood Hills and Van Hise elementary schools and Hamilton Middle School. Van Hise had the highest score in Dane County and 13th-highest in the state.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said she was pleased with the results, including that the district’s growth score was above the state average. Growth scores tend to correlate less with student poverty levels than the overall scores.

Related: the oft criticized WKCE.

Wisconsin’s DPI Lags again: Minnesota Publicly Links High School Graduation to College Achievement Data

Mila Koumpilova

Six years ago, 225 students graduated from St. Paul’s Como Park High School. More than 70 percent went to college. Almost 40 percent got a degree.

That’s the sort of information Minnesota educators and parents have long wished they had. Now, it is readily available for the first time on a newly launched website that shows where a high school’s graduates went to college, how long they stayed on campus and how many graduated.

For state officials like Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, the information promises to highlight hidden success stories and inform policy decisions at a time of intense focus on college and career readiness. High schools can use it to assess how well they are preparing students and to spur partnerships with campuses popular with their graduates.

“This is a huge step forward in understanding how our students do when they leave us,” said Joe Munnich, the St. Paul district’s assistant director of research, evaluation and assessment. “It opens up amazing possibilities.”

Of Minnesota’s 2008 high school graduates, 69 percent went to a two- or four-year college, and 45 percent have since gotten a diploma. Eventually, the web site will also include information on how college graduates are faring on the job market.

The new data and web site are a joint effort by Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education, the Departments of Education and the Department of Employment and Economic Development. The project is funded with the same federal grant that has supported the state’s “Getting Prepared” reports, which show what portion of a high school’s graduates had to take remedial courses in college.

Until now, high schools knew which of their students graduated in a given year. Higher education institutions knew which students arrived on their campuses and which stuck around until graduation. The state project linked up that data for each student.

This data has been discussed from time to time in Madison & Wisconsin. Yet, our Wisconsin DPI – parent of the oft criticized WKCE – seems to be living in the status quo.

It appears that the Wisconsin DPI spent $48,531,028.75 during 2013 according to the Wisconsin “Open Book” site.

Here’s an example from Minnesota’s “SLEDS” System:

Dive in at the SLEDS site.

Wisconsin Sen. Olsen unbowed by pressure from Common Core opponents


Olsen said he sees the Common Core standards as an improvement over Wisconsin’s old standards and points to support from the conservative Fordham Foundation and business leaders like Bill Gates, who argue the standards are needed to remain competitive in a global economy. He wants to avoid a situation similar to Indiana, which dropped Common Core only to end up adopting something similar anyway.

While he thinks that some groups are using the issue to “gin up” membership and hopes it will fade away after the 2014 elections, he also says the issue’s staying power will likely depend on how Gov. Scott Walker handles it.

“The governor put the money in the budget for the [Smarter Balanced] test, and I was asking him and his staff all along, ‘Is he going to stand strong on his position supporting this?'” Olsen said. “And all of a sudden, one day, he turned 180 degrees. ‘Well, we can do better.’ Well, I’ve been waiting to find out what ‘better’ is. I’ve been waiting to find out what ‘more rigorous’ is. I’ve been waiting to find out what’s the problem is. It’s easy to say this stuff, but there’s nothing behind it. And when you say things like this, people believe it.”

Links: Luther Olsen.

Common Core.


Why 14 Wisconsin high schools take international standardized test

Alan Borsuk:

Patricia Deklotz, superintendent of the Kettle Moraine School District, said her district, west of Milwaukee, is generally high performing. But, Deklotz asked, if they talk a lot about getting students ready for the global economy, are they really doing it? PISA is a way to find out.

“It raises the bar from comparing ourselves to schools in Wisconsin,” she said. “This is something that can benchmark us against the world.” Deklotz said she wants the school staff to be able to use the results to analyze how improve their overall practices.

One appeal for taking part in the PISA experiment: The 14 Wisconsin schools didn’t have to pay out of their own pockets.

The Kern Family Foundation, based in Waukesha County, is one of the leading supporters of efforts aimed at improving the global competitiveness of American schoolchildren. Kern convened the invitation-only conference in Milwaukee. And as part of its support of the effort, it is picking up the tab — $8,000 per school — for the 14 schools.

“The Kern Family Foundation’s role is to support and convene organizations focused on improving the rising generation’s skills in math, science, engineering and technology to prepare them to compete in the global marketplace,” Ryan Olson, education team leader at the foundation, said in a statement.

A second somewhat-local connection to the PISA initiative: Shorewood native Jonathan Schnur has been involved in several big ideas in education. Some credit him with sparking the Race to the Top multibillion-dollar competitive education grant program of the Obama Administration. Schnur now leads an organization called America Achieves, which is spearheading the PISA effort.

Until now, Schnur said in an interview, there hasn’t been a way for schools to compare themselves to the rest of the world. Participating in PISA is a way to benefit from what’s being done in the best schools in the world.

Each participating school will get a 150-page report slicing and dicing its PISA results. That includes analysis of not only skills but also what students said in answering questions about how their schools work. Do kids listen to teachers? Do classes get down to business promptly at the start of a period? Do students have good relationships with teachers?

Schleicher told the Milwaukee meeting that PISA asked students why they think some kids don’t do well in math. American students were likely to point to lack of talent as the answer. In higher-scoring countries, students were more likely to say the student hadn’t worked hard enough. “That tells you a lot about the underlying education,” he said.

Related Much more on PISA and Wisconsin’s oft criticized WKCE, here

Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools

Erin Richards & Kevin Crowe:

Reading and math proficiency for students attending private, mostly religious schools in Milwaukee with the help of taxpayer-funded vouchers ticked up in 2013 from 2012, according to the latest state standardized test score results.

On average, students in Milwaukee’s private-school voucher program still performed lower than students in the city’s traditional public school system.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released fall test score data for the taxpayer-funded private voucher schools on Tuesday, one day after allowing media to review the fall 2013 state test score results for public schools.

In all, reading and math achievement on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination for both the public and private voucher schools, especially in Milwaukee, continued to be low. That’s due in part to the state raising the bar for what’s considered a proficient score on the state test.

The WKCE will be replaced next year by a new, computer-based assessment in reading and math that is aligned to national standards and will allow for better comparisons of achievement between states.

Another issue that has cropped up is an increasing number of voucher-school families opting their children out of taking the state exams altogether — a legal option, but one seemingly at odds with the statewide push toward more transparency for schools.

Gov. Scott Walker signed two bills into law Tuesday that will bring more accountability to the private schools receiving taxpayer money.

Meanwhile, the latest state test results showed:

About 16% of Milwaukee voucher students who took the state test met or exceeded the bar for proficiency in math, and about 12% did the same in reading.

Much more on the oft criticized WKCE, here.

Benchmarking UK students vs Chinese: Light Years From Wisconsin

Richard Adams:

England’s GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against their Chinese counterparts from 2017, in a response from exam regulators to ministers’ calls to toughen up a marking system they say has been discredited by years of grade inflation.

At the urging of the education secretary, Michael Gove, Ofqual has unveiled a plan to link GCSE grades to levels achieved by pupils in China, Singapore and other countries deemed to be high-performing.

Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, conceded that the watchdog was responding to a written request from Gove that exams should be more demanding because international tables suggest the UK has fallen behind even as results appear to have improved.

But the idea of an international educational currency prompted concern from teaching unions, who said some countries excluded certain types of children to boost their scores in international tests.

Light years away from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s lost decades with the oft-criticized WKCE.

Civics & the Ed Schools; Ripe for Vast Improvement

I have a special interest in Civics education. My high school civics/government teacher drilled the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers into our small brains. This Vietnam Vet worked very hard to make sure that we understood how the US political system worked, or not.

While reading the ongoing pervasive spying news, including the battle between the CIA and its Senate “oversight” committee, I read with interest the recent University of Wisconsin-Madison “Associated Students of Madison” spring, 2014 election results. One piece of data somewhat surprised me: the UW-Madison School of Education lacked any declared candidates.

Conversely, Julie Underwood, Dean of the UW-Madison School of Education has been quite active in the political scene, while dealing with criticism of ed school standards and practices.

Do schools of education provide civics training, or do they assume that students learn about our government and their role as citizens in high school? A friend well steeped in the education world and with children recently remarked that “you can no longer count on the public schools to teach our kids the things they need to know”. I’ve been pondering this statement in light of the recent ASM election.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham recently jumped into the state academic standards rhetorical battle with a statement that included:

“Politicizing the creation of learning standards, while simultaneously abandoning the broadly-supported Common Core State Standards, will not serve the students of Wisconsin well. Rather, such moves will only serve to cause confusion and uncertainty,” Cheatham said.

Students would be better served if legislators focused on a fairly-funded public school system “that maintains a relentless focus on implementing consistent, rigorous standards,” Cheatham said.

Yet, education is inherently political, encompassing substantial spending with, to be charitable, challenging results.

Education spending, policies and curricular choices have long been “politicized”. The Wisconsin DPI’s decade plus implementation of the criticized WKCE reveals the challenge of improving standards for our students. How many million$ have been wasted?

It appears that Ms. Underwood and Ms. Cheatham’s landscape is ripe for vast improvement.

2013 Madison Summer School Report

Scott Zimmerman:

The district provided a comprehensive extended learning summer school program, K-Ready through 12th grade, at ten sites and served 5,097 students. At each of the K-8 sites, there was direction by a principal, professional Leopold, Chavez, Black Hawk and Toki, and oral language development was offered at Blackhawk and Toki. The 4th grade promotion classes were held at each elementary school, and 8th grade promotion classes were held at the two middle school sites.
Students in grades K-2 who received a 1 or 2 on their report card in literacy, and students in grades 3-5 who received a 1 or 2 in math or literacy, were invited to attend SLA. The 6-7 grade students who received a GPA of 2.0 or lower, or a 1 or 2 on WKCE, were invited to attend SLA. As in 2012, students with report cards indicating behavioral concerns were invited to attend summer school. Additionally, the summer school criterion for grades 5K-7th included consideration for students receiving a 3 or 4 asterisk grade on their report card (an asterisk grade indicates the student receives modified curriculum). In total, the academic program served 2,910 students, ranging from those entering five-year-old kindergarten through 8th grade.
High school courses were offered for credit recovery, first-time credit, and electives including English/language arts, math, science, social studies, health, physical education, keyboarding, computer literacy, art, study skills, algebra prep, ACT/SAT prep, and work experience. The high school program served a total of 1,536 students, with 74 students having completed their graduation requirements at the end of the summer.
All academic summer school teachers received approximately 20 hours of professional development prior to the start of the six-week program. Kindergarten-Ready teachers as well as primary literacy and math teachers also had access to job embedded professional development. In 2013, there were 476 certified staff employed in SLA.

Jennifer Cheatham:

Key Enhancements for Summer School 2014
A) Provide teachers with a pay increase without increasing overall cost of summer school.
Teacher salary increase of 3% ($53,887).
B) Smaller Learning Environments: Create smaller learning environments, with fewer students per summer school site compared to previous years, to achieve the following: increase student access to high quality learning, increase the number of students who can walk to school, and reduce number of people in the building when temperatures are high. ($50,482)
C) Innovations: Pilot at Wright Middle School and Lindbergh Elementary School where students receive instruction in a familiar environment, from a familiar teacher. These school sites were selected based on identification as intense focus schools along with having high poverty rates when compared to the rest of the district. Pilot character building curriculum at Sandburg Elementary School. ($37,529)
D) Student Engagement: Increase student engagement with high quality curriculum and instruction along with incentives such as Friday pep rallies and afternoon MSCR fieldtrips. ($25,000)
E) High School Professional Development: First-time-offered, to increase quality of instruction and student engagement in learning. ($12,083)
F) Student Selection: Utilize an enhanced student selection process that better aligns with school’s multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) so that student services intervention teams (SSIT) have time to problem solve, and recommend students for SLA. Recommendations are based on student grades and standardized assessment scores, such as a MAP score below the 25th percentile at grades 3-5, or a score of minimal on the WKCE in language arts, math, science, and social studies at grades 3-5. (no cost)
Estimated total cost: $185,709.00
Summer School Program Reductions
The following changes would allow enhancements to summer school and implementation of innovative pilots:
A) Professional development (PD): reduce PD days for teachers grades K-8 by one day. This change will save money and provide teachers with an extra day off of work before the start of summer school (save $49,344.60).
B) Materials reduction: the purchase of Mondo materials in 2013 allows for the reduction of general literacy curricular materials in 2014 (save $5,000).
C) Madison Virtual Campus (MVC): MVC is not a reimbursable summer school program as students are not in classroom seats. This program could be offered separate from summer school in the future (save $18,000).
D) Librarians: reduce 3 positions, assigning librarians to support two sites. Students will continue to have access to the expertise of the librarian and can utilize library resources including electronic equipment (save $12,903.84).
E) Reading Interventionists: reduce 8 positions, as summer school is a student intervention, it allows students additional learning time in literacy and math. With new Mondo materials and student data profiles, students can be grouped for the most effective instruction when appropriate (save $48,492).
F) PBS Coach: reduce 8 positions, combining the coach and interventionist positions to create one position (coach/interventionist) that supports teachers in setting up classes and school wide systems, along with providing individual student interventions. With smaller learning sites, there would be less need for two separate positions (save $24,408).
G) Literacy and Math Coach Positions: reduce from 16 to 5 positions, combining the role and purpose of the literacy and math coach. Each position supports two schools for both math and literacy. Teachers can meet weekly with literacy/math coach to plan and collaborate around curriculum and student needs (save $27,601.60).
Estimated Total Savings: $185,750.04
Strategic Framework:
The role of the Summer Learning Academy (SLA) is critical to preparing students for college career and community readiness. Research tells us that over 50% of the achievement gap between lower and higher income students is directly related to unequal learning opportunities over the summer (Alexander et al., 2007). Research based practices and interventions are utilized in SLA to increase opportunities for learning and to raise student achievement across the District (Odden & Archibald, 2008). The SLA is a valuable time for students to receive additional support in learning core concepts in literacy and math to move them toward MMSD benchmarks (Augustine, 2013). SLA aligns with the following Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Strategic Framework goals:
A) Every student is on-track to graduate as measured by student growth and achievement at key milestones. Milestones of reading by grade 3, proficiency in reading and math in grade 5, high school readiness in grade 8, college readiness in grade 11, and high school graduation and completion rate.
B) Every student has access to challenging and well-rounded education as measured by programmatic access and participation data. Access to fine arts and world languages, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, and advanced coursework.

Wisconsin’s Common Core education standards face public, GOP scrutiny

Jon Swedien:

Tom Larson is one of the legislators responsible for reviewing the set of academic standards for public schools in Wisconsin, yet the rural Colfax assemblyman admitted last week that he was still trying to catch up with the arguments swirling around the “Common Core.”
In 2010, state schools Superintendent Tony Evers voluntarily agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards, which cover math and English and promote literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects for students from kindergarten through high school. According to the Common Core website, the standards also define a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st century.
On paper, that all sounds good, but, in the real world, the Common Core standards have sparked a firestorm of controversy in the Badger State and elsewhere.
Speaking Monday before a group of local education officials in Eau Claire, Larson said he had been selected as one of nine representatives to sit on the Assembly Select Committee on Common Core Standards.

Related: the oft criticized WKCE.

This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim

Pat Schneider:

isconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.
“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”
Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.
Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.

Related: Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE assessment and

Alabama fumbling ball on education

Josh Moon:

The video that was posted online appeared to be a tour of the spa area at some swanky new hotel.
There were cascading waterfalls into hot and cold pools. There was an arcade section. A smoothie bar. Flat-screen TVs adorned every open space. There were lockers the members at Augusta National would find acceptable.
This was luxury, no doubt. But it was not at a hotel.
Instead, this shaky video tour was of the inside of a college football team’s training and lounge area. Specifically, it is the training, weight room and lounge area within the Mal Moore Athletic Complex on the campus of the University of Alabama.
Pricetag: $9 million. (And that’s just for the upgrades. The original facility, which opened in 2005, cost about $50 million.)
We have lost our minds.
And I say that not simply because a college football team’s training area now has a waterfall and a smoothie bar, which would, I think, be reason enough for me to make that statement, but also because these $9 million in upgrades to facilities that were pretty darn good to start with occurred at a school that just raised tuition on the average student for the sixth consecutive year.
This year, it went up 3 percent. Last year, it jumped 7 percent.

Related: Alabama participated in the 2011 TIMSS global exam along with Minnesota and Massachusetts. Wisconsin has never benchmarked our students via the global exams. We have been stuck with the oft-criticized WKCE.

Wisconsin DPI & Data Politics

Jason Stein:

In the most recent release of schools data by DPI, the agency gave the information to the media ahead of time — a practice known as an embargo that gives journalists time to properly digest the data with an agreement not to publish until a certain deadline.
But DPI highlighted all the voucher students’ scores against all the Milwaukee Public Schools’ students scores, instead of separating out the scores of low-income MPS students and comparing only those to the voucher students. That data was not included in the initial release. As a result, it was not included in the stories that the media initially wrote about the results, but was addressed in follow-up stories.
The DPI said the income limit was moot because of a GOP-led law change that allowed more mixed-income children to use vouchers, meaning it was fair to compare all the students in voucher schools to all the children in public schools. Voucher advocates said DPI had an agenda and made their students’ scores appear lower than they would have been against those of only the low-income MPS students.
Other data that can be requested from DPI about voucher schools include: school policies, accreditation status, hours of instruction, the number of applications they have accepted and not accepted, their waiting list numbers, application numbers and payment amounts.

“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Increases, Voucher Changes

Jason Stein

Lawmakers also want to expand school voucher programs beyond the borders of Milwaukee and eastern Racine County. The programs allow parents who meet income thresholds to send their children to religious schools and other private schools at taxpayer expense.
Under the motion approved 12-4 along party lines by Republicans on the budget panel:

  • Public schools would receive $150 more per student in general aid this fall and another $150 increase the following year. The plan would cost $289 million over two years, with $231.5 million funded with state taxes and the rest with an additional $52 million in higher local property taxes and an increase in expected revenues from the state lottery.
    School districts would have the authority to spend this new money. Walker wanted to give schools $129 million in state aid but require all of it to go toward property tax relief, rather than be used for new expenses.
    Under the budget committee’s proposal, total property taxes would increase by less than 1% per year, with school levies going up somewhat more than that.

  • A new voucher program would become available to all students outside Milwaukee and Racine. It would be limited to 500 students the first year and 1,000 students every year thereafter. Walker wanted no limits on the number of students in the program after the second year.
    If there are more students seeking slots in the program than allowed, the proposal would allocate the available slots by lottery. The slots would go to the 25 schools with the most applications, with each school getting at least 10 seats.

  • The new program would be available to students in any school district. Walker wanted to make it available in districts with 4,000 or more students that were identified as struggling on school report cards issued by the state.
  • No more than 1% of the students of any given school district could participate in the new program.
  • Over 12 years, the negative financial impacts for the Milwaukee Public Schools from the voucher program here would be phased out.
  • The new program would be available to students of families making 185% of the federal poverty level or less — well below the income thresholds for Milwaukee and Racine. Those programs are available to families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level, with a higher threshold for married couples.
  • Voucher schools in all parts of the state would receive $7,210 per K-8 student and $7,856 per high school student — up from $6,442 currently. Walker wanted to provide $7,050 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and the same larger increase to high school students.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers (PDF):

Today, Republican leaders are finalizing a deal to likely expand Wisconsin’s private school voucher program statewide. While this dramatic proposal has significant implications for citizens and taxpayers across Wisconsin, it has been developed behind closed doors with no public input, no public hearings, and no public fiscal analysis. If this proposal becomes law, taxpayers across Wisconsin will be financing a new entitlement for private school children whose tuition is currently paid for by their parents. To address the lack of information about the potential fiscal effects of this program, the attached table estimates potential long-term costs of statewide subsidization of private school tuition on a district-by-district basis. Cost to subsidize current private school students only: up to $560 million annually
While some lawmakers claim the purpose of the program is to provide educational choices to those who cannot afford it, the current school choice programs in Milwaukee and Racine provide vouchers to families who are already choosing to send their children to private schools. As many as 50% of the children participating in the Racine choice program were already in private schools when they began receiving a state-funded subsidy in
2011-12. If the voucher program is expanded statewide, it can be assumed that current private school families would also be eligible for this new entitlement.


Fascinating: UW education dean warns school boards that ALEC seeks to wipe them out

Pat Schneider:

ALEC is still at it, Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, cautions in “School Boards Beware,” (PDF) a commentary in the May issue of Wisconsin School News.
The model legislation disseminated by the pro-free market American Legislative Exchange Council’s national network of corporate members and conservative legislators seeks to privatize education and erode the local control, Underwood says.
“The ALEC goal to eliminate school districts and school boards is a bit shocking — but the idea is to make every school, public and private, independent through vouchers for all students. By providing all funding to parents rather than school districts, there is no need for local coordination, control or oversight,” she writes in the magazine of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Underwood, who says that Wisconsin public schools already face unprecedented change, last year co-authored a piece about ALEC’s grander plans, a “legislative contagion (that) seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011.”
In her recent piece, Underwood argues that a push to privatize education for the “free market” threatens the purpose of public education: to educate every child to “become an active citizen, capable of participating in our democratic process.”


  • The state this year will start rating each school on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student test scores and other measurables. The idea, in part, is to give parents a way to evaluate how a school is performing while motivating those within it to improve.
  • Several schools across the state — including Madison’s Shorewood Elementary, Black Hawk Middle and Memorial High schools — are part of Wisconsin’s new teacher and principal evaluation system, which for the first time will grade a teacher’s success, in part, on student test scores. This system is to be implemented across Wisconsin in>And instead of Wisconsin setting its own student benchmarks, the state is moving toward using Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 other states. State schools are starting new curricula this year in language arts and math so students will be prepared by the 2014-15 school year to take a new state exam tied to this common core and replacing the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.

Although Underwood says she generally backs most of these changes, she’s no fan of the decision announced last month that makes it easier for a person to become a public school teacher — even as those who are studying to become teachers must now meet stiffer credentialing requirements. Instead of having to complete education training at a place like UW-Madison en route to being licensed, those with experience in private schools or with other teaching backgrounds now can take steps to become eligible for a public teaching license.

“I think that’s really unfortunate,” says Underwood, who first worked at UW-Madison from 1986-95 before coming back to town as education dean in 2005.


Do Americans Know How Well Their State’s Schools Perform?

Martin West:

Among the most common rationales offered for the Common Core State Standards project is to eliminate differences in the definition of student proficiency in core academic subjects across states. As is well known, the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (NCLB) required states to test students annually in grades 3-8 (and once in high school), to report the share of students in each school performing at a proficient level in math and reading, and to intervene in schools not on track to achieve universal student proficiency by 2014. Yet it permitted states to define proficiency as they saw fit, producing wide variation in the expectations for student performance from one state to the next. While a few states, including several that had set performance standards prior to NCLB’s enactment, have maintained relatively demanding definitions of proficiency, most have been more lenient.
The differences in expectations for students across states are striking. In 2011, for example, Alabama reported that 77 percent of its 8th grade students were proficient in math, while the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests administered that same year indicated that just 20 percent of Alabama’s 8th graders were proficient against NAEP standards. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, roughly the same share of 8th graders achieved proficiency on the state test (52 percent) as did so on the NAEP (51 percent). In other words, Alabama deemed 25 percent more of its students proficient than did Massachusetts despite the fact that its students performed at markedly lower levels when evaluated against a common standard. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has gone so far as to accuse states like Alabama of “lying to children and parents” by setting low expectations for student performance.

Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE is similar to Alabama’s proficiency approach, rather than Massachusetts. Yet, Alabama has seen fit to compare their students to the world, something Wisconsin has resisted.


Debunking Five Common Myths About School Choice

Christian D’Andrea:

Recently, Step Up for Public Schools (SUPS) released a pamphlet titled “The Truth about Vouchers and Privately Run Charters.” Unfortunately, a better title for their flier would have been “Half-Truths.” SUPS raises several tired talking points about school choice in Wisconsin that have been repeatedly debated, disproven, and regurgitated over more than two decades of voucher discussion.
Today, we’ll break down their “Fast Facts” on how the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Parental Private School Choice Program (Racine) have affected education in the Badger State. While there are also some interesting statements about non-instrumentality charter schools (the same schools that regularly outscore both regular public schools and instrumentality charter schools in Milwaukee, we’ll save that for another day. Let’s look at what the SUPS has to say about Wisconsin’s voucher programs.
1. Students in the taxpayer-funded private school voucher program do not perform better than their peers in neighborhood public schools.
A: In more than 20 years of operation, there has only been one apples to apples comparison of student growth between similarly matched students from MPS and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). That study – the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) – showed very few statistically significant differences between the two groups of pupils. What they did find was that voucher students were 4-7 percent more likely to graduate, attend a four-year college, and stay in that college than their peers. While factors like parental involvement may have played a role, the study strongly suggests that these schools were a significant force behind the improved attainment of the students that chose vouchers.
One thing is clear – there’s no evidence that these voucher schools are hurting students, despite having only 50 percent or less of the funding that their traditional public school peers have had in Milwaukee. As the state’s data collection and standards improve and we learn more about student growth and the impact that individual teachers have, we’ll develop a better understanding of where MPS and MPCP schools stand in terms to serving students on a year-to-year basis.

Voucher Commentary from Madison’s new School Board President

2013-2014 Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

The proponents of the proposed expansion of Wisconsin’s private-school voucher program have run out of substantive arguments. Governor Walker’s “This is about children” illustrates how vacuous their efforts at persuasion have become.
When Governor Walker’s budget was first announced, his initial talking points in support of his voucher expansion plan featured the claim that schools in the nine targeted school districts were failing and vouchers were necessary to provide a lifeline to students who needed help to pursue other schooling options. Neither the governor nor his supporters are pushing that argument any more. It seems that they got the point that it is not a smart move politically for the governor to go around trashing the public schools in some of the larger urban areas of the state.
While proponents have claimed that students in voucher schools do better academically, the wind has gone out of the sails of that argument as well. DPI has reported that students in voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine performed worse on the WKCE than students in the public schools in those communities. Voucher school advocates can point to data that supposedly support their view, opponents can counter with contrary figures, and at best the evidence on improved student performance is a wash. There is no reason to think that students in the nine districts targeted for voucher expansion would do any better in the private schools in their area than they would in their neighborhood public schools. No one has offered an argument to the contrary.
Voucher proponents sometimes try to construct a cost-savings argument around the fact that the per-pupil amounts that voucher students would receive are less than the average per-pupil expenditures by their school districts. But this argument goes nowhere because no one is proposing that the public schools shut down as voucher schools expand. Consequently, there’s really not much of a response to the observation credited to former Governor Tommy Thompson that “We can’t afford two systems of education.”
Additionally, voucher schools have not discovered a magic bullet that allows them to educate students across the spectrum of needs more economically. Here’s a telling excerpt from an op ed by the Choice Schools Association advocating for much higher voucher payments and posted on line by the right-wing MacIver Institute:

Vouchers are hardly an existential threat to the Madison School District. Rather, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores are the essential issue, one that merits endless attention and improvement.
2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.

Commentary on Madison and Surrounding School Districts; Middleton’s lower Property Taxes

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here in Madison, our attention is primarily focused on our troubling achievement gaps, and those gaps are achingly apparent in the new WKCE scores. Under new superintendent Jen Cheatham’s leadership, we’ll continue to pursue the most promising steps to accelerate the learning of our African-American, Latino and Hmong students who have fallen behind.
At the same time, we also need to continue to meet the needs of our students who are doing well. I am going to focus on the latter groups of students in this post.
In particular, I want to take a look at how our Madison students stack up against those attending schools in other Dane County school districts under the new WKCE scoring scale. The demographics of our Madison schools are quite a bit different from those of our surrounding school districts. This can skew comparisons. To control for this a bit, I am going to compare the performance of Dane County students who do not fall into the “economically disadvantaged” category. I’ll refer to these students as “non-low income.”

I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton.

Commentary and Misinformation on Wisconsin Test Scores: Voucher, Public and Higher Academic Standards

St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson, via a kind reader’s email:

Dear supporters of St. Marcus School,

I need your help in setting the story straight. Perhaps you read the bold headline in the local section of the Journal Sentinel yesterday — “Wisconsin voucher students lag in latest state test.” That claim is not accurate. You need to understand that this is misinformation about the Choice program. I want you to know the truth — and be our voices in sharing this with others.
The state released the 2012 WKCE test scores this week, conveniently comparing the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) to all of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and showing that MPS “beat” MPCP in every subject area.
Unfortunately, this is a gross misrepresentation of reality and is not an “apples to apples” comparison. The information that was released FAILED to do the appropriate comparison of MPS low-income students to MPCP, whose students are almost ENTIRELY from low-income families. When doing an accurate comparison of MPCP to MPS’s low-income population, choice schools beat MPS in all subjects except math. (Remember MPS has many students who are not in poverty and are high-achieving. By nature, almost allMPCP students are low-income.)
Beyond the program averages, our St. Marcus students are doing tremendously well, outpacing both the MPS and MPCP numbers by wide margins:

This may seem unimportant, since people are often negative about the choice program. However, it is actually very important at this time to set the record straight. Legislators are reading this misinformation, our supporters are reading this misinformation and so is the general public. At a time when there is much debate about the amount of the choice voucher funding and the expansion of the program, it is essential that we set the record straight. We need to get correct information to our supporters and legislators immediately!
At St. Marcus, it has been demonstrated that it is possible to educate the urban poor, even very poor children, in a highly effective manner. To protect the well-being of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and to enable St. Marcus to continue to grow and deliver excellent education to more students please take ACTION:
Forward this e-mail to your friends and certainly any legislators you know.
Contact your legislator directly and encourage them to support an increase in the voucher amount for MPCP schools. (Unbelievably, the current voucher amount of $6,451 is lower than the voucher amount back in 2006!)
Thanks for acting in support of your friends at St. Marcus and the awesome students achieving great things in schools like ours.
If you have any other questions or concerns, you can contact me.
Henry Tyson, Superintendent

Listen to a 2012 interview with Henry Tyson, here.
The Wisconsin State Journal:

The lower scores do not reflect falling performance. Students just need to know more to rank as high as they used to.
Most states are doing the same thing and will benchmark their exams to international standards.
Just as importantly, the computerized assessments of the near future will adjust to the ability of students. That will give parents and educators much better, more detailed and timely information about what students know and what they still need to learn.
Some critics will disparage any and all testing, pretending it will be the only measure Wisconsin will use for success. Others have lamented the increasing role of the federal government in the process.

Phil Hands cartoon.

State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action

The Madison Urban League, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

April 23, 2013
Media contact: Kaleem Caire
Click Here for Urban League’s 2013-14 Agenda
State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action
Madison, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released students’ results on the annual statewide achievement test, Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE). The results confirm concerns raised by the Urban League of Greater Madison, that disadvantaged students and students of color are severely underperforming in many of Wisconsin’s public schools, particularly in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
All Wisconsin public school students completed the test in November 2012. This revised test raised the standards of performance for all students, thereby providing a more accurate picture of students who are on track to graduate from high school academically ready to succeed in college or a career. Test results show that all students, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status or disability, are struggling to achieve to high standards in Madison-area public schools.
This afternoon, the Urban League of Greater Madison joined Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, and leaders of other community organizations, at a press conference where Cheatham shared MMSD’s results. Cheatham presented data showing that an astounding 92% of African American and 85% of Latino students are reading below their grade level, and 90% of African American and 77% of Latino children are failing in mathematics. The data further showed that a large percentage of white students have fallen behind as well, with 42% are reading below grade level and 33% failing in math.
In reflecting on the scores, Darrell Bazzell, the Chair of Urban League’s Board of Directors said, “These numbers are a stark message that Madison’s public schools are at a tipping point and that our community must embrace change. The implications for our region are profound. For the sake of our community and our children, Madison can, and must, do better for all students and families.”
Bazzell further stated that, “Every citizen in our community must say that ‘we will no longer harbor these gaps; that we accept responsibility for addressing these challenges; and that we will commit to doing all that we can to ensure all of our children succeed. We must also acknowledge where we are not succeeding and commit to change in smart, innovative and effective ways that lead to real progress for our kids’.”
In response to these troubling statistics, Urban League President and CEO, Kaleem Caire, shared that, “When 90% of Black children cannot read at their grade level, we are significantly reducing the possibility of success for an entire generation. This issue negatively affects not only this generation of children, but also the vitality of our entire region. If not addressed quickly, it will affect the quality of the lives of all citizens who call Madison home.” To address these challenges, Caire said “The Urban League is working to build a pipeline of high quality cradle to career educational and employment services that positively impact the entire family, move all children towards high performance, and prepare youth and adults for career success.” He further highlighted, “We have already begun working with the Madison Schools, other area school districts, employers and community partners to ensure that we attack the persistence of underachievement and other contributing factors, such as poverty, at its core. ”
The Urban League’s 2013-14 Strategic Plan creates opportunities that will help the community overcome these challenges. Caire enthusiastically shared that, “We are a community of great people, great teachers and great families who are passionate about helping others transform their lives. But our passion now must become our reality.”
About the Urban League of Greater Madison
The Urban League of Greater Madison’s mission is to ensure that African Americans and other community members are educated, employed and empowered to live well, advance professionally and contribute to the common good in the 21st Century. We are committed to transforming Greater Madison into the Best [place] in the Midwest for everyone to live, learn, and work. We are working to make this vision a reality through a comprehensive strategic empowerment agenda that includes programs & services, advocacy, and partnerships & coalition building.
Urban League of Greater Madison | 2222 S. Park Street | Suite 200 | Madison | WI | 53713

Related: The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school
Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.
The recently released WKCE results.

Florida Teachers’ Union Sues State on Data-Based Teacher Evaluations

Laura Waters:

Motoko Rich in the New York Times describes the federal lawsuit, initiated by seven Florida teachers with support from local NEA affiliates, which contends that the Florida DOE’s system of grading teachers based on student outcomes “violates teachers’ rights of due process and equal protection.”

Much more on “value added assessment, here“. Madison’s value added assessment scheme relies on the oft-criticized WKCE.

NJ DOE Releases New School Performance Reports; Wisconsin? Stays Quo…

Laura Waters:

At long last the New Jersey Department of Education has released its “NJ School Performance Reports,” which replace the old School Report Cards. Details on school performance is greatly expanded now includes, according to the Christie Administration’s press release, “brand new data on college and career readiness and provide comparison to “peer schools” in order to provide a more complete picture of school performance for educators and the general public.”
Here’s coverage from the Star-Ledger, The Record, the Courier-Post, Asbury Park Press, Press of Atlantic City, NJ Spotlight, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The state also released the annual Taxpayers’ Guide to Education. Annual per pupil spending in NJ (if you use the state’s algorithm; others say it inflates costs) is $18,045, up 4.2% since last year.
Of course, there’s enormous range within that average. Fairview Boro (Bergen), for example, spends $13,317 per pupil. Asbury Park City spends $30,502. The plush magnet schools in Bergen County spend $35,900.

The Wisconsin DPI…..
April, 2013: Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
March, 2013: Evers on report cards: this last year was a pilot year. It’s just not ready for prime time.
June, 2008: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes

Chris Rickert:

Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
Under Walker’s plan, districts with at least 4,000 students and two or more schools getting a D or an F under a new rating system would be eligible for vouchers. Evers — no fan of vouchers anyway — says the report cards were not intended for such use and need more refinement over several years.
But what was the purpose of spending more than a year working with a diverse group of education and business groups and state elected officials to create the report cards — which replaced the widely panned No Child Left Behind system — if not to use them to make consequential decisions about education?
On Thursday, Department of Public Instruction director of Education Information Services John Johnson called the report cards a “work in progress” that aren’t an appropriate tool for making a “major policy decision.”
Among their current limitations are that they are based on tests that are expected to change two years from now, they can’t show growth in high school student achievement, some schools weren’t rated, and there’s too little data to reliably identify trends in school performance.
Adam Gamoran, director of the UW-Madison-based Wisconsin Center for Education Research and a skeptic on voucher programs, agrees that the tool isn’t perfect and may well change, but “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them now” to rate schools.
It’s also not as if DPI itself didn’t expect to use the report cards. Its budget request — which Walker didn’t include in his budget — included about $10.3 million over the next two years to replicate best practices from schools deemed high-performing by the report cards, as well as to help schools deemed low-performing by the report cards get better.

John Nichols appears to support the present DPI approach. Status Quo K-12 vs a Little “Reform” Rhetoric at a Wisconsin Budget Hearing.
Related: The Wisconsin DPI in 2008:
“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.
A citizen, parent, voter and taxpayer might ask what the DPI has been
with state and federal taxpayer dollars since 2008?
Meanwhile, Alabama (!), Minnesota, Florida and Massachusetts are
continuing to aim high and compare their students to the world.
And, Vietnam is teaching computer science concepts in primary school.

Wisconsin education chief: Governor’s new report cards not ‘ready for prime time’

Matthew DeFour:

The state’s top education official warned the Legislature’s budget committee Thursday that Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to tie funding and voucher expansion to new state report cards could undermine bipartisan reform efforts already underway.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said the new report cards “aren’t ready for prime time” and will look “a lot different eight years from now.”
Evers agreed with Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, a member of the Joint Finance Committee and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, that the report cards should be used “as a flashlight and not a hammer.”

“If we use them as a hammer it’s going to make all the other transformative efforts we’re doing more difficult
,” Evers said, referring to new curriculum, testing and teacher evaluation systems that were developed by a bipartisan coalition of teachers, administrators, school boards and political leaders in recent years.
“Teachers will back off,” he said.

2008: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”. Parents, students and taxpayers might wonder what precisely the DPI has been doing since 2008? The WKCE has been long criticized for its lack of rigor.
Related: Matthew DeFour’s tweets from Mr. Evers recent budget appearance.

Madison Mayor Soglin Commentary on our Local School Climate; Reading unmentioned

Jack Craver:

The city, he says, needs to help by providing kids with access to out-of-school programs in the evenings and during the summer. It needs to do more to fight hunger and address violence-induced trauma in children. And it needs to help parents get engaged in their kids’ education.
“We as a community, for all of the bragging about being so progressive, are way behind the rest of the nation in these areas,” he says.
The mayor’s stated plans for addressing those issues, however, are in their infancy.
Soglin says he is researching ways to get low-cost Internet access to the many households throughout the city that currently lack computers or broadband connections.
A serious effort to provide low-cost or even free Internet access to city residents is hampered by a 2003 state law that sought to discourage cities from setting up their own broadband networks. The bill, which was pushed by the telecommunications industry, forbids municipalities from funding a broadband system with taxpayer dollars; only subscriber fees can be used.
Ald. Scott Resnick, who runs a software company and plans to be involved in Soglin’s efforts, says the city will likely look to broker a deal with existing Internet providers, such as Charter or AT&T, and perhaps seek funding from private donors.

Related: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” – Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.
Job one locally is to make sure all students can read.
Madison, 2004 Madison schools distort reading data by UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg:

Rainwater’s explanation also emphasized the fact that 80 percent of Madison children score at or above grade level. But the funds were targeted for students who do not score at these levels. Current practices are clearly not working for these children, and the Reading First funds would have supported activities designed to help them.
Madison’s reading curriculum undoubtedly works well in many settings. For whatever reasons, many chil dren at the five targeted schools had fallen seriously behind. It is not an indictment of the district to acknowledge that these children might have benefited from additional resources and intervention strategies.
In her column, Belmore also emphasized the 80 percent of the children who are doing well, but she provided additional statistics indicating that test scores are improving at the five target schools. Thus she argued that the best thing is to stick with the current program rather than use the Reading First money.
Belmore has provided a lesson in the selective use of statistics. It’s true that third grade reading scores improved at the schools between 1998 and 2004. However, at Hawthorne, scores have been flat (not improving) since 2000; at Glendale, flat since 2001; at Midvale/ Lincoln, flat since 2002; and at Orchard Ridge they have improved since 2002 – bringing them back to slightly higher than where they were in 2001.
In short, these schools are not making steady upward progress, at least as measured by this test.

Madison, 2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before by Ruth Robarts:

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.
“All students” meant all students. We promised to stop thinking in terms of average student achievement in reading. Instead, we would separately analyze the reading ability of students by subgroups. The subgroups included white, African American, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and other Asian students.
“Able to read at or beyond grade level” meant scoring at the “proficient” or “advanced” level on the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRC) administered during the third grade. “Proficient” scores were equated with being able to read at grade level. “Advanced” scores were equated with being able to read beyond grade level. The other possible scores on this statewide test (basic and minimal) were equated with reading below grade level.

Madison, 2009: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Madison, 2012: Madison’s “Achievement Gap Plan”:

The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.

“PSA”: Your Student’s Test Scores May be Lower than in Years Past

NBC 15:

If you’ve got a kid in third through eighth grade–or tenth–they took the WKCE exam this fall. “The Wisconsin content and knowledge exam and it’s been the statewide test for Wisconsin for quite a few years now,” said Dr. Jane Belmore, the superintendent of Madison schools.
Your student could score at one of these assessment levels: minimal, basic, proficient or advanced.”This year our WKCE test has been alligned with a nationally-normed test,” said Dr. Belmore.
Your student’s scores should be showing up soon and it’s possible he or she won’t be scoing as highly as in the past. “The results of this reallignment is that we’re holding ourselves and our students to a higher bar,” she said. “So students may be performing at the same level or even better than they were and yet still not get the kind of report that parents might be expecting.”
Dr. Belmore said it doesn’t necessarily mean your child is doing less well, everyone’s just being held to a higher standard. “If our students are being proficient and we’re expecting to see proficient we might see basic,” she said.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.