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About the Data - DLM

Overview | CautionsScoring | Definitions | Using the Performance Dashboards | Dynamic Learning Map Data Availability | DLM Exam Data Exchange | Data Changes | Useful Links | Data Errata | Privacy | Contact Us



The DLM™ assessment measures the academic progress of students with significant cognitive disabilities in the subject areas of ELA and mathematics at grades 3-11, science at grades 4 and 8‑11, and in social studies at grades 4, 8, and 10 in the spring of each school year. This is an online assessment delivered via computer; however, some students may need their teacher to present the items to them. The teacher will then enter the student’s response into the online platform.

The DLM system is designed to map a student’s learning throughout the year. The system will also use items and tasks that are embedded in day-to-day instruction. Instruction for these students is based upon the Wisconsin Essential Elements and aligns with the Wisconsin Academic Standards.

A learning map is a network of sequenced learning targets. Often, we think of learning as one skill building on another single skill. A dynamic learning map, by comparison, shows a learning landscape in which multiple skills are related to many other skills. Dynamic learning maps not only show the relationships between skills but also show multiple learning pathways. Instead of assuming that all children learn a skill in the same way, allowing for multiple pathways recognizes that there are alternate ways to learn the same skill. By using dynamic learning maps as the basis for assessments, the DLM system will give teachers a clearer view of each student's knowledge.

Where to Find DLM Results:
School years WISEdash (Badger and ACT Statewide) WISEdash (Forward and ACT Statewide)
2014-15 X  
2015-16 onward   X



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.



DLM results are not based on raw or scale scores; all results are calculated using an approach called diagnostic classification modeling, or cognitive diagnostic modeling. This approach determines whether the student showed mastery of specific skills. Based on the evidence from the DLM assessments, the student either mastered or did not master the skill. For each Essential Element tested, a student may master up to five skills at different levels, called linkage levels. The student’s overall performance in the subject is based upon the number of linkage levels mastered across the tested Essential Elements. This performance is reported using the four performance levels chosen by the consortium

  • Performance Levels
    • Student performance on DLM is reported in terms of four performance levels: Advanced, At Target (Proficient), Approaching the Target (Basic), and Emerging (Below Basic).
    • Performance level cut score recommendations were provided by the Dynamic Learning Maps Consortium. These cut score recommendations were approved by the Department of Public Instruction for use in Wisconsin beginning with the 2014-15 administration of DLM.
    • DLM metrics include a “No DLM” category that represents students who were enrolled as of the third Friday in September count date but who were not tested with DLM. Students may not have been tested because they were opted out of testing by a parent, absent from school for the duration of the testing window, or for another reason.
    • The table below provides general performance level descriptions of DLM.
Performance Level Description
Advanced The student demonstrates advanced understanding of and ability to apply targeted content knowledge and skills represented by the Essential Elements.
At Target The student’s understanding of and ability to apply content knowledge and skills represented by the Essential Elements is at target.
Approaching the Target The student’s understanding of and ability to apply targeted content knowledge and skills represented by the Essential Elements is approaching the target.
Emerging The student demonstrates emerging understanding of and ability to apply content knowledge and skills represented by the Essential Elements.

Additional information about the DLM performance level descriptors can be found at: DLM Parent Interpretive Guide.

  • Linkage Levels

For each Essential Element, there are skills at five linkage levels: Initial Precursor, Distal Precursor, Proximal Precursor, Target and Successor. These linkage levels progress in rigor beginning with Initial Precursor level through the highest level of Successor. The target level represents the grade-level expectation for all students with significant cognitive disabilities. DLM has created documentation of the skills found within each linkage level relative to the grade level Essential Elements.

Definitions of Key Terms


WSAS: Wisconsin Student Assessment System. The Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) is a comprehensive statewide program designed to provide information about what students know in core academic areas and whether they can apply what they know. For more information visit  

DLM Assessment: The DLM Assessment is the statewide alternate exam. It replaces the WAA from prior years.  The exam is given to students in grades 3 through 11 and currently measures student achievement in the subject areas of English language arts (ELA), mathematics, science and social studies.

Performance or Proficiency Levels: Levels which describe how well students performed on statewide tests. The levels are advanced, proficient, basic, and minimal performance. These levels are based solely on scores obtained on the Forward Exam (Badger or WKCE from previous years). For example, students tested on the Forward Exam receive a scale score for each subject. Each of the four levels in each subject and at each grade level is associated with a range of scores on the Forward Exam.

Full Academic Year (FAY): FAY -describes students who have been enrolled in the same school or district since the beginning of the  school year. For example, students in grade 4 who have been enrolled for a FAY are normally students who were enrolled since the beginning of the year.

Scale Score: A measure of student performance on a Forward Exam subject area test that takes into account the number and difficulty of test items answered correctly. The scale is applied to all students taking the Forward Exam in a particular subject at a particular grade level, making it possible to compare scores from different groups of students or individuals within a given year and over time.

Unknown Demographics (WISEdash): Data about student demographics that are collected by DPI for all students in schools covered by WISEdash Forward Exam reports but are unknown for certain students associated with these schools (rare). Demographics are unknown when a Forward Exam record is incomplete (e.g. gender or race/ethnicity code is missing or invalid) and that record cannot be matched to ISES Count Date (3rd Friday of September) records.

For more definitions, see the WISEdash Glossary.

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, science and social studies.

When used in combination with multiple measures of achievement, such as classroom observations and teacher-developed tests, the DLM assessment 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 performance dashboard allows users to compare the percentage of students who are performing at each performance level within a school or district. Comparing the At Target and Advanced levels in each school or district and filtering the data by full academic year 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 filters, users can compare the percentage of students in a specific demographic group who are performing at the At Target or Advanced levels in each school within the district. 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.

Users can also use this dashboard to quickly identify students performing in a specific range within a school or grade level. Along with additional sources of information from classroom assessments, this information may be used to identify students in need of additional instructional supports or interventions.

Dynamic Learning Map Data Availability


DLM scores are provided in WISEdash for those schools that have students in grades 3 through 11. DLM results are provided in WISEdash for Districts beginning with the results from the 2014-15 school year spring administration for students in grade 3 through 11.  In 2014-15, only ELA and mathematics were administered.  Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, results are available for ELA, mathematics, science and social studies. DLM results are published annually as they become available.

Dynamic Learning Maps Data Exchange


Districts are required to administer DLM in the spring of each school year to students in grades 3 through 11. After the conclusion of an administration window for all districts across the state, DLM results from that administration are provided to DPI from the test vendor. DPI loads these results for presentation in WISEdash for Districts. Part of the data loading process involves matching the assessment with the appropriate student in the data warehouse. That process uses the WSN, student name, and date of birth and allows some degree of variation or inaccuracy. Even so, some records cannot be matched and will be loaded and reported as unknown. A very small percentage of records may be misidentified with an incorrect student.

When reporting DLM results in WISEdash for Districts, a few students are listed as not having a disability (SWOD – student without a disability). Data presented in WISEdash for Districts is gathered from a number of collections throughout the year. Districts and schools update student information using WSLS/ISES and DPI also receives a data file from DLM. All students who complete DLM should have a disability however, there are a few instances where this information has not been forwarded to DPI through the relevant data collections at the time of reporting.

  • Planned Load Schedule
    • Spring test administration: Annually in the summer


Data Changes Over Time

  • Spring 2015-Spring 2021. The DLM consortium established performance levels and identified the scores required to achieve each performance level for ELA and Mathematics.

  • Spring 2022 and beyond. Beginning with the Spring 2022 administration, the DLM blueprints were revised for ELA and mathematics. The scores required to achieve each performance level were adjusted to maintain consistency with the Spring 2015-Spring 2021 administrations.

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

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