MADISON — Participation improved for the second year of online statewide testing in grades three through eight with the first administration of the Wisconsin Forward Exam, which replaced the 2014-15 Badger Exam developed through the SMARTER multi-state assessment consortium.
Statewide, 382,836 public and private school students took the Forward Exam. Overall, participation went from 97.3 percent of public school students on the Badger Exam to 98.8 percent for the Forward Exam. For private choice school students, participation went from 92.2 percent in 2014-15 to 93.6 percent for 2015-16.
“I am hopeful that this will be the last time for a very long time that we are transitioning assessments for our kids,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “The Forward Exam provides us with a new baseline as we work to prepare all Wisconsin kids for college and career. Successful administration of this exam was due to the high-quality teachers, administrators, and educational staff members who devote themselves to the children in Wisconsin’s schools.”
Last spring, nearly 100 educators from around the state participated in a standard setting process for the Wisconsin Forward Exam. Standards and benchmarks for each subject area were informed by performance levels for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. Educators reviewed each Forward Exam test item and established proficiency levels to meet Wisconsin classroom expectations. Given the difference in tests and cut scores, comparisons of Forward Exam school- and district-level achievement should not be made to results from the Badger Exam or Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE).
The Forward Exam is made up of subject area tests in English language arts and mathematics for grades three through eight; science for grades four and eight; and social studies for grades four, eight, and 10. Approximately 4,500 public school students with significant cogitative disabilities in grades three through eight took the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) exams. No private choice students took the DLM.
Results showed that 41.7 percent of public and private choice students scored in the proficient or advanced performance levels in English language arts. In mathematics, 41.3 percent of students were proficient or advanced and in science, 49.1 percent of students were proficient or advanced. The 369,409 public school students who took the Forward and DLM exams had overall proficiency of 42.5 percent in English language arts, 42.3 percent in mathematics, and 50.1 percent in science. Overall choice students had a proficiency rate of 19.1 percent in English language arts, 14.0 percent in mathematics, and 21.6 percent in science. Nearly 5 percent of the 13,427 choice students who were enrolled in the Milwaukee, Racine, or Wisconsin parental choice programs were opted out of the Forward Exam.
“We set a high bar when it comes to what we expect of our students,” Evers said. “As such, earning marks of proficient or advanced on the Forward Exam means a student has demonstrated skills that are at or above what is expected of them at a given grade.”
Forward results for public school students by race and ethnicity showed achievement gaps that have been evident on other state and national measures. Gaps are also apparent for English language learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students and their peers. (See attached table.) This was the first year that private choice schools used the WISEdata system, thus Forward Exam results for those schools disaggregated by student subgroups are unavailable this year.
“I remain troubled by the achievement gaps that persist in Wisconsin,” Evers said. “As a state and within our communities, we must work together to raise awareness of this problem and implement policy-driven solutions. It is not an issue of one student or one school district, it is an issue that impacts us all.”
NOTES: Tables with additional information about Forward and DLM testing are in the official news release. Additional information about assessment data for public schools and districts is in the WISEdash Public Portal. Data for private choice students is available on the Parental Choice Program website.