Student test scores plummet

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — The Department of Public Instruction on Thursday morning quietly released the latest statewide test scores. The results are pretty grim, according to a review by the Institute for Reforming Government — hence the quiet release.

IRG notes the scores, led by the state’s Forward Exam, illustrate just how far Wisconsin’s pre-K-12 public schools have fallen behind during the pandemic. Unlike 2020 and 2021, the vast majority of students participated in the 2022 statewide tests, so we’re seeing the first apples-to-apples comparison since 2019. The Forward Exam was canceled in 2020 and participation was limited in 2022.

According to Quinton Klabon, IRG’s Senior Research Director:

— 14,000 fewer Wisconsin children can read well enough for college, a 4 percent drop.

— 103,000 kids across the state can’t even read at grade level.

— 9 Milwaukee Public Schools don’t have a single student proficient in math, and their best schools have been devastated.

“20 years of (Gov Tony) Evers in Madison has come to this: statewide catastrophe for our kids,”  Klabon said, noting Evers’ former leadership positions at DPI. The Democrat served as superintendent of Public Instruction for a decade before becoming governor, and was a DPI bureaucrat for years before that.

“Real leadership would ensure that every child in Wisconsin is safe and thriving in school. Unfortunately, Gov. Evers spends millions to make bureaucrats and union bosses happy, not parents,” Klabon said.

The annual Forward Exam, given to Wisconsin students grades three through eight, shows under 39 percent of Wisconsin students can solve math problems at grade level or better. That’s down 4 percentage points from 2019. About 37 percent can read and write at grade level or better, down 4 percentage points from 2019.

Cumulative numbers are more troubling. The Wisconsin Student Assessment System, which includes the ACT Aspire exam, given in ninth and 10th grades, the ACT with writing in 11th Grade, and Dynamic Learning Maps given across all tested grades to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, show just 35.5 percent were proficient in English language arts. And 35.2 percent were considered proficient in mathematics.

DPI officials call that “strong signs of recovery and progress.”

The woeful test scores reflect trends nationally. As Klabon noted in a recent column, the National Assessment of Educational Progress “showed the devastation that overextended school shutdowns, quarantines, and substitute teachers wrought on students.”

Compared to 2020, the average fourth grader is three months behind in reading and six months behind in math. A struggling student is a whole year behind in both. Math collapsed 7 points in an instant; it took Wisconsin 16 years to rise just three points.

IRG’s report earlier this month, “Facing Reality: How Wisconsin Schools Have Fallen Behind,”, found Wisconsin’s education system:

› Ranked in the bottom 11 nationally in reading when compared equally

› Tied for last in history and civics education

› Finished last in math for black students

The report also found achievement has dropped off over the run of the pandemic and the state and local lockdowns.

“Our top students no longer compare to the nation’s best and, even more troubling, our struggling students face greater challenges than ever,” said CJ Szafir, president and CEO of the Institute for Reforming Government.

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 30, 2022

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2 responses to “Student test scores plummet”

  1. Charlie Gray Avatar
    Charlie Gray

    So I’m home recovering from hip replacement surgery and watching an article on Spectrum News channel that claims student test scores have improved?? What gives?

  2. Big Shirl Avatar
    Big Shirl

    What gives? CRT – Critical Race Theory
    DEI – Diversity – Equity – Inclusion
    SEL – Social Emotional Learning

    What doesn’t give? Real teaching

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