City News

Madison schools see declining test scores, persistence of racial disparity in results

Less than half of students statewide are proficient in English language arts and mathematics.

Less than half of students statewide are proficient in English language arts and mathematics.

Image By: Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Public Instruction released results of the Wisconsin Student Assessment System exams on Thursday, showing less than half of students statewide are proficient in English language arts and mathematics.

The WSAS exam was given during the 2018-’19 school year and consists of 4 exams: one given in grades three through eight, one for grades nine and 10, one for grade 11 and one for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities throughout all grades.

Altogether, 588,992 students in grades three through 11 took assessments in the winter and spring. Participation was 98.0 percent for public school students and 90.6 percent for choice students.

Of those students, 39 percent had scores that were proficient or advanced in English language arts while 40 percent of students were proficient or advanced in math. It’s only a slight dip from last year’s results.

Those numbers, according to the Department of Public Instruction, are failing scores. Madison students have trailed the average statewide testing proficiency for the past several years though.

The department also stated that, when disaggregated by racial and ethnic groups, as well as disability and economic status, the data shows achievement gaps for both public and private school students who participated in the exam.

And the disparities continue to persist in the test scores.

On the Forward Exam — given to students in grades three through eight — black and Hispanic students were much less likely to score advanced or proficient than their white peers. The exam has been administered since 2016 and evaluates how they are mastering the Wisconsin state standards. 

There is positive growth in some areas of the testing though, according to Elizabeth Tomev, director of education information services at DPI.

“Of course, we believe our students desire nothing less than our full support,” she said to the Wisconsin State Journal. “They’re entering the classroom with more challenges than ever before. For the system to work, we need to keep funding it, and we have to make adjustments so we’re not losing students along the way.”

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found Wisconsin has some of the highest performance level expectations in the nation. 

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