MADISON — Participation was up from the prior year for both public school and private choice students who took the ACT Plus Writing this spring as part of statewide testing requirements.
Overall, 64,668 students took the 11th-grade exams that are part of the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS). Average participation for public school students went from 93.9 percent in 2014-15 to 96.0 percent for the 2015‑16 school year. For private choice students, participation was 93.3 percent in 2014-15 and 99.4 percent for 2015-16. Overall, the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced for all students was down from the prior year for English language arts and mathematics and up for science. ACT made changes to the design of the writing portion of the English language arts assessment that impacted student results. Wisconsin’s ELA scores are comprised of the English, reading, and writing subtests.
“Using the ACT as a statewide assessment provides an opportunity for our high school juniors to demonstrate their level of knowledge against college-ready expectations,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Increased participation is a positive result, and in some cases opens doors for further education that students and their parents may not have been considering.”
This is the second year that high school juniors took the ACT Plus Writing or Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), an alternate assessment that measures the academic progress of students with significant cognitive disabilities. Approximately 800 public school students took the DLM; there were no choice students who took the alternate assessment. Results show that 40.8 percent of public school juniors were proficient or advanced in English language arts, while 29.1 percent of choice students reached that proficiency level. In mathematics, 34.8 percent of public school students and 18.7 percent of choice students were proficient or advanced. For science, 34.0 percent of public school students and 20.5 percent of choice students achieved at the proficient or advanced performance levels. Private choice students had improved performance from the prior year’s ACT Plus Writing assessment across all three subject areas.
Wisconsin public school students had a one-tenth of a point composite score increase on the ACT Plus Writing (20.1) for 2015-16 compared to the prior year. The ACT Plus Writing is scored on a scale of one to 36. Public school students averaged 18.6 for English language arts, a decline of seven-tenths of a point, and 20.1 for mathematics, a tenth-of a point increase. The 1,217 private choice school juniors who took the ACT had an average composite score of 18.2 for 2015-16, up from 17.5 for the prior year. For English language arts, choice students averaged 17.1, down one-tenth of a point. The mathematics score was up one-half point (17.9) from the prior school year’s results. Scores typically fluctuate more widely when smaller numbers of students are tested.
Results for the ACT on both test scores and performance levels show achievement gaps for public school students by race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, economic and disability status, and for students learning English. This was the first year that private choice schools used the WISEdata system, thus ACT Plus Writing results disaggregated by student subgroups are unavailable this year.
“Closing achievement gaps between subgroups of students is one of the great moral imperatives of our time,” Evers said. “We cannot overcome those gaps without an honest conversation about the policies and practices, both in schools and in our communities, that have contributed to them. I commend the education community and policymakers for picking and sticking with the ACT as Wisconsin’s federally required summative test. It is proving to have real value for our kids.”
NOTES: Tables with additional information about ACT testing is in the official news release. Additional information about assessment data for public schools and districts is on the WISEdash Public Portal. Data for private choice students is available on the Parental Choice Program website.