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Information for Families About Assessment in Wisconsin


​Why are children in Wisconsin required to take standardized assessments?

stock image of studentsThe Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires all states to test all students in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once in high school. ESSA also requires students be assessed in Science once each grade span (3-6, 7-9, and 10-12 grades). Student performance on these assessments is reported in proficiency categories and used for accountability determination at the school, district and state levels. Wisconsin State statute also requires students to take grade 9 and 10 assessments as well as the social studies test. These tests together create the Wisconsin Student Assessment System.

What is the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS)?

The WSAS is a statewide program designed to provide information about what students know in core academic areas and whether they can apply what they know. The WSAS includes: 


Wisconsin Forward Exam

Forward exam logo

A summative assessment administered during the last 7 weeks of the school year (measuring students’ cumulative progress from the past school year). The Wisconsin Forward exam is administered in ELA and mathematics for grades 3-8, in science for grades 4, and 8, and 4, 8, and 10 in social Studies. This online assessment will provide a measure of students’ knowledge and skills required to be college- and career-ready.

For more information go to the Forward Exam web page


DLM logo

The DLM™ Alternate Assessment will let students with significant cognitive disabilities show what they know in ways that traditional multiple-choice tests cannot in grades 3-11 in ELA and mathematics, grades 4 and 8-11 in science, and grades 4, 8, and 10 in social studies. DLM is an untimed online assessment. Each student is administered the test on an individual basis. A student may take the test over several days, as long as it is completed within the testing window. The total time required to administer the test varies from student to student; however, it is estimated the entire test will take about 2.5 hours to complete.

For more information go to the DLM web page.



ACCESS for ELLs® is a test that measures how well students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 are able to understand and use English. It stands for Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners (ACCESS for ELLs). English Learners (ELs), including immigrant students and ELs with disabilities, are required to participate in all state or federally required language and academic content assessments.

ELs participate in:

  • WSAS – The Wisconsin Student Assessment System which consists of the state summative assessments
  • W-APT - WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test which is an English language Proficiency (ELP) "screener" 
  • ACCESS for ELLS® (or Alternate ACCESS for ELLs™) - a large-scale assessment that measures how students are meeting the English language development (ELD) standards

A recently arrived EL (a student that has attended a U.S. school for less than 12 months) may be exempt from one required administration of the state’s reading assessment. Recently arrived students must participate in all other content areas, with or without accommodations.

For more information go to the ACCESS for ELLs web page.

ACT High School Assessments

ACT logo

There are three High School assessments:

  • ACT Aspire™ Early High School assessment for grades 9 and 10 students
  • The ACT® with writing for grade 11 students
  • The ACT® WorkKeys® for grade 11 students

The ACT Aspire™ Early High School - ACT Aspire assesses student readiness in English, mathematics, reading, science, and writing.

The ACT® with writing - The ACT with writing consists of four multiple-choice tests: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science; and an essay test that measures student writing skills.

 ACT® WorkKeys® - ACT WorkKeys is an applied skills assessment system which consists of 3 tests: Applied Math, Graphic Literacy, and Workplace Documents.

All students in the tested grades will be administered one of these assessments with the exception of the 1% of students with significant cognitive disabilities. These students will be assessed with an alternate assessment. Wisconsin is using the DLM assessment as our alternate assessment for students with disabilities.

For more information go to the ACT High School Assessments web page.

Assessment for Reading Readiness

stock image girl reading

Wis. Stats 118.016(1) requires an early literacy screener to be administered to all 4 year old kindergarten to 2nd grade students enrolled in public school districts and charter schools. School boards and charter schools are authorized to select a valid and reliable assessment of literacy fundamentals to fulfill this requirement. The purpose of this requirement is to:

  • Identify students who are struggling to learn to read
  • Find out what each student is ready to learn next, and
  • Check each student’s reading progress during the school year.

For more information go to Assessment for Reading Readiness web page.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

NAEP logo

NAEP also known as the Nation's Report Card, is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in school. NAEP is a survey assessment. It provides results for populations and groups of students. It is not a testing program designed to provide individual student, school, or district results (except for a select group of urban districts that participate in the Trial Urban District Assessment).

For more information go to the NAEP web page.


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