August 28, 2014

Changes cause test scores to drop

A change in how the state tracks student performance has resulted in a major slide in the number of Wisconsin public school students who are considered proficient in math and reading. However, the state Department of Public Instruction says the real reason for the change is because of where those benchmarks are set.

Student proficiency levels in math and reading dropped by almost 30-percent after new standards were applied to 2011 test scores. DPI Director of Education Services John Johnson says it’s the result of a big change in how the state measures student performance, as they transition to proficiency levels that are based on how well students understand challenging work at their grade level, along with a “wide range” of other factors.

State testing results released in March showed 78-percent of students as proficient or better in math and 82-percent in reading. Under the new standards, numbers for third through eighth grade and tenth grade students dropped to about 48-percent for math and just under 36-percent for reading. Johnson says students are not actually doing worse though. The stricter standards just more accurately reflect where they currently are under the new accountability system.

The new system will work alongside a report card on schools that will be issued later this fall. The report is designed to give parents, communities, and school officials a better measure of how students are performing, along with identifying methods that are working in different districts across the state.

The DPI has put up a sample of the report card and is asking the public to provide feedback in the coming weeks.

Many of the changes in school accountability have been in the works for some time. However, the recent waiver from many provisions of No Child Left Behind is allowing the state to move forward with its overall effort to improve the quality of education and close achievement gaps in districts statewide.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:04)