Dear District Administrators,
With testing season upon us – and the ACT testing window about to open--its an appropriate time for a reminder about the impact and importance of test participation, and call your attention to these expectations in our accountability systems.
Equitable testing is a priority because clearly knowing the performance of all students is the first step in closing Wisconsin’s achievement gaps: we must understand exactly which gaps exist, the size of the gaps, and the persistence of the gaps.
Students, regardless of ability, regardless of family circumstance, should have access to all possible college and career pathways. When college readiness tests, like the ACT and WorkKeys, are given universally, students who would not have taken such a test discover they have more options than they and their families realized. Improving access to postsecondary options is one way we are addressing equity issues in Wisconsin.
We have a new federal accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), recently approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The federal expectation for test participation has not changed: schools must test all students. New for Wisconsin is how test participation factors into ESSA accountability calculations: non-tested students – regardless of the reason – will count against school and subgroup achievement scores in the federal accountability system.
Last year, we announced the removal of test participation deductions from the state Accountability Report Cards. At that time, we committed to monitoring test participation. As one form of this, we reported (but did not score) test participation rates by subgroup in the 2016-17 report cards. The department will continue to monitor test participation rates, paying particular attention to rates by student subgroups, and examining trends for schools and districts to determine if there have been unexpected changes in test participation. Going forward, DPI will contact schools or districts with significant decreases in overall or subgroup test participation rates.
Test participation matters for accountability, but it is also an issue of equity for our students.