The State of K12 Education in Wisconsin 2021: Disappointing New K12 Education Tests and Skills Results – “An Absolute Disaster”


DPI just released the most recent proficiency scores for Wisconsin students, shocking how proficiency rates have gone down, and more concerning is that we’re going the wrong way

Despite historic levels of state taxpayer support for K12 education over the past three budgets and a massive $ 2.4 billion Covid-19 federal aid to prevent learning loss, Wisconsin students see a sharp decline in skill rates

Less than a third of students are proficient or functioning at school level in math or English

Through Abbi Debelack and Brett Healy

The latest data on tests and proficiency rates for Wisconsin children was released by the Department of Education on Wednesday and it’s not pretty.

Each year, Wisconsin students of different grades take a series of standardized tests to assess their skills in a range of different subjects. Test scores are a useful tool for tracking a student’s academic progress and assessing the overall effectiveness of Wisconsin’s K12 education system. The advanced exam is given to students in grades 3 through 8 and 10. The ACT Aspire test is administered in grades 9 and 10. The ACT writing test is given in grade 11 and dynamic learning cards are given to students with cognitive impairments. This year, the tests were administered to the students in the spring. The tests were not administered in 2020 due to COVID-19.

This year English Language Arts (ELA) fluency is 27.5%, down 5.4 points or 16.41% reduction from 2019. Mathematics fluency is 27%, down 7 points compared to 2019 or a reduction of 20.59%. These numbers look at the percentage proficiency rates of TOTAL Wisconsin students, not just those tested, as Superintendent Underly reported in her press release.

We must stress that this is not a particularly difficult or rigorous scoring metric. A student who is scored as proficient on the advanced exam means the child is performing at the school level. Let it sink in. Surprisingly, less than a third of students in Wisconsin are proficient in math or English.

What is even more alarming than the fact that less than a third of our students are not proficient in math or English is the percentage of our students who score BELOW the proficiency line, at levels ” basic ”or“ less than basic ”.

According to the DPI website, a student who achieves a base score on the advanced exam “demonstrates academic knowledge and skills tested on the statewide standardized test.” A student who scores lower than the base on the advanced exam “shows little academic knowledge and skills tested in the statewide standardized test.”

In 2021, 53% of students who took the advanced exam achieved a basic or lower designation in ELA and / or math. Fifty-three percent!

In Wisconsin, we have over 50% of our students between Grades 3 and 10 who FAIL this important benchmark.

Think about it a bit. Where is the outrage?

Students no doubt faced challenges last year, but one of the goals of the $ 2.6 billion federal aid for Wisconsin schools was for K12 education to continue in earnest and for the educational institution has the resources and tools to do everything possible to prevent learning loss.

Looks like we’ve failed a lot of our kids once again.

The educational institution will certainly make all kinds of excuses to play down this disaster, but it cannot be blamed on a lack of taxpayer support. Education funding in Wisconsin is at historic levels. Wisconsin taxpayers have increased state support for K12 education by more than $ 2 billion in recent years and federal taxpayers have sent unprecedented and unthinkable $ 2.6 billion to Wisconsin schools since the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone knew that educating our children during COVID-19 would be a challenge and would require additional resources. Taxpayers stepped up to provide that support and gave the educational institution everything they needed to do their job, but they failed miserably.

Almost as concerning as the low number of children who are performing at a failure or proficiency level is the high number of students who have not taken the test this year. According to DPI, about 487,000 students, or only about 84% of Wisconsin’s 580,000 students, took math and ELA exams. In recent years, according to DPI, turnout has typically been over 95%.

For context, we have about 830,000 K12 students enrolled in public schools this year and 120,000 in private schools.

Some of the larger districts in the state had alarming rates of students failing to pass the advanced exam. In Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), 56% of students did not take the ELA test in 2021, compared with 1.5% who did not take the same test in 2019. Madison schools have seen a trend similar with 50% of students not taking the ELA. test in 2021, against 4.7% in 2019. Other large neighborhoods had slightly better participation with only 8.2% of students in La Crosse, 8.6% of students in Wausau, 18.1% of students in Racine and 26.2% of students in Green Bay not having completed the ELA test in 2021.

State Superintendent Underly, head of the Department of Public Education and the elected official responsible for K12 education here in Wisconsin, attempted to explain the dismal scores. In a press release, Underly commented that “turnout and skill rates are different from other years, and this is not surprising given the extraordinary circumstances and challenges faced all over our state, including schools and districts “.

At MacIver, we’ve been demanding for over a year that Governor Evers and our senior education officials speak out about the loss of learning and the actions needed to help our children meet this challenge.

In an article titled The Lost Year of Learning – What Wisconsin Needs to Do to Keep Our Kids From Falling Behind, MacIver lists many steps members of the educational institution could have taken to prevent this loss of learning. happen. Whether it’s extending the 2021-2022 school year, adding extra teaching time to the school day, eliminating optional electives, forcing students who are falling behind. In getting extra help through tutors or summer school there were a number of different ways to avoid this. learning loss to occur.

However, former DPI chief Stanford Taylor did not have a plan. Governor Evers did not include a detailed plan in his 2021-2023 budget. Newly elected Superintendent Underly has spent most of her time talking about the need to implement racist critical race theory in our schools and push our kids to mediocrity rather than using the pulpit of bullying. to raise awareness of this critical issue.

The dismal results come less than a month after Superintendent Underly’s State of Education address, where she made no mention of the staggering drop in skill rates or even the focus on loss. learning. At the time, Underly said, “We need to give school staff and school board members the grace and support they need as they work to keep children safe and avoid interruptions in school. ‘learning.”

Underly must have known at the time of her speech that this year’s advanced exam results were a disaster, and yet she chose to focus on Critical Race Theory.

This is a huge problem that should not and cannot be ignored or dismissed. It is neither pleasant nor easy to hear the sad truth about our children’s poor performance, but it is a vital conversation that we must have and keep in the forefront until we resolve the issue. Talking openly about academic success, actual academic performance, not awakening or fairness, is the only way to give our children a chance to fight. We can’t fix the problem or even begin to fix it if we can’t be honest with ourselves about the dismal performance of our children and our schools.

Parents and taxpayers must stand up, speak out and demand better from our children, our teachers, our administrators and our elected officials. Our children are counting on us to fix the K12 education.

The Ministry of Education’s next big data drop will be at the end of November, when the report card data is released.

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