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Updates on the Wisconsin Social Studies Forward Exam Changes

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The number of emails I've gotten the last couple of weeks about the Forward exam shouldn't surprise me, as we're entering testing season in Wisconsin ("testing season"...kind of like "deer hunting season"...but not...) - so I just wanted to provide some information for you.

  1. The Forward exam for social studies will officially be 100% aligned to the 2018 Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies next year (2021 testing window). The test will still be at 4th, 8th, and 10th grades.  
  2. There will be practice tests released, but not until after the 2020 testing window is closed.  We didn't want to release them and confuse people, because the new test doesn't start until next year. 
  3. Changes you can expect in the 2021 test:
    1. All items on the Social Studies Forward Exam in spring 2021 will be aligned with teh new 2018 Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies. Any standard/indicator is open to being tested.  
    2. Any discrete content on the revised Forward exam is in the standards.  Example: SS.Geog1.c.4-5 Create and label a map (paper or digital) of the local community, state, tribal lands, and country, including both physical (e.g., oceans and continents) and human (e.g., roads, buildings) characteristics. Identify and construct regions (digital or paper) in Wisconsin and the United States.  Therefore, you could see questions asking students to identify physical characteristics in the state, tribal lands,, or country.  The test is NOT a "gotcha" - we won't ask students to find Lake Koshkonong on a map of Wisconsin.  However, things such as mountain ranges, the Great Lakes, oceans, etc could be on the test.
    3. Items in the WI Social Studies K-5 Suggested Scope & Sequence that are not identified in the standards will NOT be on the Forward exam.  Example:  the 3-5 portion of the Suggested S&S asks districts to consider a combination Wisconsin and US Studies across three years, divided chronologically.  In this document, at the beginning of 4th grade students would be studying the French and Indian War.  There are no questions on the names/dates/places of the French and Indian War in the 4th grade test.  Questions on the Forward exam (at any grade level) aligned to history indicators will have primary and secondary resources to support answering the question. 
    4. Remember that the new standards build on what comes before.  It is a K-12 progression.  Therefore, it's important to look at the verbs.  Example:  SS.Geog2.d.h Evaluate the impact of spatial inequality as a result of urbanization and develop various solutions to address these inequalities.  Note the verb "evaluate".  This means any question about this indicator would not be something like "define urbanization".  Quite frankly, the 10th grade test was difficult to write because of these progressions and higher level Bloom's and Webb's. 
    5. Note that there is specific content outlined in some indicators.  SS.PS1.b.m Hypothesize and defend why a specific historically significant person’s contribution to the development of the political culture of the United States was important. Investigate how principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution (including the Preamble and the Bill of Rights) have been applied throughout United States history, including how they may have evolved over time. Assess specific protections to individuals outlined in the Wisconsin Constitution and what they mean to local communities and regions of the state.  Any of this could be on the 8th grade test.  


I think these are the biggest points for now; remember, this is NOT reflected in the 2020 test, but in the 2021 test!

As we did last year, we will have the opportunity this summer for state educators to participate in item review for the 2020 test.  If this interests you, information to apply should be released sometime this spring, and I will get it out to the listserv.  You can also email me and I'll tag your email to remind me to send you the information direct.  

Let me know what questions come up!


WI DPI Social Studies consultant