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About the Data - ACT

Overview | Cautions | FAQ | Using the Performance Dashboards | Data Changes Over Time | Useful Links



ACT Statewide data includes test records for students who tested on the state-mandated administration dates during their junior year. This differs from ACT Graduates data (found under the Graduation dropdown) which includes test records for school year X for students who tested during their sophomore, junior or senior year, and who indicated they would graduate in school year X.

The ACT® assesses students' academic readiness for college and is the capstone of several assessment products offered by ACT, Inc. The page focuses only on The ACT.  The exam tests five subject areas – English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Writing. The Composite score is the whole number average of the subject area scores not including writing. The Combined score (English/writing) combines a student's performance on the English and the writing test and was not reported after 2014-15. DPI also calculates an English Language Arts score based on the English, reading and writing scores.  ACT began providing a STEM score in 2015-16, combining science and mathematics.

The highest possible score on the exam is 36 for the Composite score, the Combined score and each of the subject scores. The lowest possible score for writing is 2 and the highest possible score is 12 except for 2015-16 when the score range was 1-36. The scores of each subject area are categorized as College Ready or Below College Ready based on benchmark values provided by the ACT. No benchmarks are provided for the Composite, Combined, and Writing scores.

Where to Find Data about The ACT
School Years  WISEdash   WINSS Historical Data Files 
Beginning with 2007-08 X --
1995-96 through 2006-07 -- X

WISEdash is DPI's primary data analysis portal and contains the most current and most complete range of data about The ACT.

Two Types of Reporting for ACT Results

ACT exam results in WISEdash are organized into two types of reporting:

  1. ACT Graduates - results for students that are expected to graduate from high school that year. For example, if a student took the ACT in 11th grade in 2013-14 and was expected to graduate in 2014-15 then their results will appear in the 2014-15 ACT graduating class results. These graduating class results are available from the 2007-08 school year on. More information about the ACT Graduating Class data can be found at:
  2. ACT Statewide - results for students that took the exam as part of the Wisconsin statewide 11th grade ACT administration. These statewide results are available from the 2014-15 school year on. More information about the statewide ACT administration is available at

Beginning with the 2015-16 graduating class results, these two sets of ACT results will overlap. For example, a student’s 2014-15 Wisconsin statewide 11th grade ACT administration results will also be included in the 2015-16 ACT graduating class results.

ACT Statewide 11th Grade Administration Results

Beginning with the 2014-15 school year all 11th grade students in Wisconsin (except for approximately 1% of students with cognitive disabilities who are assessed with an alternate assessment - Dynamic Learning Maps, or DLM) are required to take the ACT plus Writing.

ACT Statewide 11th grade administration data include results for the Composite, Combined, English Language Arts (ELA), English, Mathematics, Reading, Science and Writing. For the 2014-15 administration, the English Language Arts score was calculated by DPI by multiplying the Writing score by three, combining that score with the English and Reading scores, and then dividing that result by three. Prior to 2016-17, students who did not receive scores for all three subject areas (English, Reading, Writing) did not receive an ELA score. These students are identified as “Not Tested” for reporting and accountability purposes.  In 2016-17 the calculation was modified to use 0 for a missing score if at least 2 of the scores were available.

ACT Statewide 11th grade administration results are reported as scores for all sections and also reported as the performance categories Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic or No Test for ELA, Mathematics and Science. These performance categories are Wisconsin specific and are not available in other states or nationally. See for more information about performance categories.

The ACT Statewide dashboards contain data for both ACT and Dynamic Learning Maps (grade 11) data. Users can filter by “Test Type” to select which exam type is displayed on the performance dashboards. The average score dashboards only provide data for the ACT. The “No Test” category representing non tested students is included with the ACT Statewide dashboards. Students may not have been tested because they were opted out of testing by a parent, were absent on the test administration date, or for another reason.


  1. For the 2014-15 school year, DPI calculated an ELA score which combined the English, Reading and Writing scores. For the 2015-16 school year, ACT changed the scoring range for the Writing section and calculated the ELA score using a different methodology than was used by DPI in 2014-15. Because of this, the 2015-16 average ELA score in Wisconsin is approximately 0.7 points lower than the 2014-15 average ELA score. This may have contributed to a lower percentage of students being classified as proficient or advanced during the 2015-16 school year.

  2. For the 2016-17 school year, DPI began calculating an ELA score when only one of the three scores was missing.  The calculation uses 0 for the missing score, resulting in a lower average ELA score for groups where some students were missing a single English, reading or writing score.  Lower average scores results in a lower percentage of students being classified as proficient or advanced beginning in the 2016-17 school year than prior years.

  3. Note that no single test can tell us whether students have learned everything that is important for students to learn. Additional local evidence should be reviewed for a more complete picture of student learning.

  4. Test participation for 2020-21 may be lower than in other years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When making comparisons to the state or across years or districts, use caution when participation rates are lower than 95%, especially when the group of tested students is not representative of the overall population of students.

Frequently Asked Questions about ACT Statewide Data


1. Is FAY (Full Academic Year) used in the ACT dashboards? If so, where can I find FAY and non-FAY?

School level reporting is FAY in the School, District is FAY in the District, Statewide is combined FAY and non-FAY. See Glossary for the definition of FAY.

2. Why is FAY used?

Including only FAY students in district and school summaries provides one indicator of how successful a district or school community has been in meeting the academic needs of students in tested grades up to the time of testing. Students in grade 11 who have been enrolled for a FAY are students who were enrolled in the same district or school since the beginning of the school year.

3. Why are results reported as a percent of students enrolled in tested grades rather than students tested?

For federal accountability purposes, all students enrolled in tested grades are expected to participate in statewide exams. Reporting percentages based on enrollment during the testing window accounts for all FAY students in the school or district including students not tested. For schools and districts where all or nearly all students participate, reporting by total enrolled or total tested makes little or no difference in reporting. However, for schools with low participation rates, reporting the percentage based on "total tested" does not provide an accurate picture of overall achievement of these schools, so this approach is not used. Student groups with the lowest achievement levels typically have the highest percentages of students who do not take tests. Reporting based on "total tested" provides a disincentive to administer tests or makeup tests to students who are not expected to do well because their inclusion in testing may lower the results for the school.

Data Changes Over Time

  • 2017-18. English learner status (EL Status) changed to display the value reported for the third Friday of September for this topic.

Using the Performance Dashboards to Improve Learning


Timely and meaningful assessment information about student performance allows:

  • teachers to target instruction to individual student needs,
  • students to better target their own efforts,
  • administrators to more fully understand what students know and are able to do, and to guide curriculum and professional development decisions, and
  • parents to understand what their child knows and is able to do in ELA, mathematics and science.

When used in combination with multiple measures of achievement, such as classroom observations and teacher-developed tests, the ACT provides information about the progress of groups of students as well as the effectiveness of educational programs. No single test can tell us whether students have learned everything that is important to learn.

The ACT Statewide Comparison graphs allow users to compare the percentage of students who are performing at the proficient level (advanced and proficient) and not proficient level (basic and below basic) across a school, a district or statewide. Comparing performance across schools, districts or the state provides one indicator of school and/or district success. If, for any group, the percentage of students tested is low, users should not use the proficiency level percentages to reach conclusions about the performance of that group.

The ACT Statewide graphs allow users to compare the percentage of students who are performing at each performance level within a school, district or statewide. Comparing the Proficient and Advanced categories in each school or district provides one indicator of school and/or district success in a specific grade and prior grades up to the time of testing. Similarly, using the available grouping, users can compare the percentage of students in a specific demographic group who are performing at the Proficient or Advanced categories in each school within the district. In addition, the graphs provide information about the distribution of average scale scores within and across student groups. By using the filters, educators can compare the average scale scores for student groups between schools. Wide score distributions or low scores provide evidence of wide achievement gaps and/or low achievement. If, for any group, the percentage of students tested is low, users should not use the proficiency level percentages or scale scores to reach conclusions about the performance of that group.

The ACT Statewide Trends graph shows the recent trend in percentage of students with DPI performance levels of Proficient and Advanced on the ACT Statewide or DLM (alternate) exam (grade 11) as well as the participation rate of eligible students. Caution should be exercised when interpreting summary results when participation rates are low. The standard participation rate threshold is 95%. When participation falls below that level, inferences about overall performance are uncertain, especially when the composition of test takers is different compared to the underlying eligible population. These DPI performance ratings are available only for English language arts, mathematics, and science (DLM did not test science in 2014-15).

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