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Statewide ACT assessment opens opportunities

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

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Tom McCarthy, DPI Communications Director, (608) 266-3559

MADISON — For the first time in Wisconsin history, all public school 11th-graders had the opportunity to take the ACT college admissions exam during the 2014-15 school year as part of the more rigorous Wisconsin Student Assessment System.

Last spring, 65,065 public high school juniors had the opportunity to take either the ACT Plus Writing or Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), an alternate assessment that measures the academic progress of students with significant cognitive disabilities. Results show that 45.7 percent of students were proficient or advanced in English language arts and 35.9 percent achieved at those performance levels in mathematics.

“What an opportunity for our students,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Taking the ACT exposes young people to the expectations for college and careers and may prompt those who weren’t considering further education beyond high school to finish strong and take the leap into higher education and training.”

The ACT is scored on a scale of one to 36 and consists of five subject area tests: English, reading, writing, mathematics, and science. The 2014-15 statewide composite score for public school juniors who took the ACT was 20.0.

For accountability purposes, the Department of Public Instruction worked with content experts across the state to establish cut scores along four performance categories: advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic. Wisconsin’s English language arts scores are comprised of the English, reading, and writing subtests. While Wisconsin specific, the cut scores generally mirror college readiness benchmarks set by ACT. Wisconsin student proficiency rates showed achievement gaps for various student groups. (See table in official news release)

“Assessing for college and career readiness sets the bar very high, yet that is what employers and postsecondary schools tell us is required for high school graduates to be successful,” Evers noted. “The statewide ACT assessment establishes a baseline of student performance that we can work from to improve academic achievement for all student groups.”

Of the 65,065 students enrolled in 11th grade for the 2014-15 school year, 742 juniors, or 1.1 percent, took the DLM. Parents, students, and teachers received performance reports during the summer. Administration of statewide exams in the ACT suite for the 2015-16 school year begins in March.

Historically, ACT results have been released annually for public and private school graduates who took the test during their high school career. For the 2015 graduating class, 46,738 students or approximately 73 percent of all graduating seniors, took the ACT and had a composite score of 22.2. The differences in the number of students, the multiple times graduates may have taken the ACT, and the fact that many graduates take the test during their final year of high school make comparisons between statewide and graduating class ACT results invalid and flawed.

NOTES: Tables with additional information about statewide student performance on the ACT Plus Writing and Dynamic Learning Maps exams are in the official news release. Public schools and school districts have received their ACT and DLM results through the Department of Public Instruction data portal. Statewide and district-level results are not yet available in the WISEdash Public Portal. Please contact area schools or districts for local results.

Official Release