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Wisconsin public schools assessed third-graders' reading comprehension each spring from 1989 to 2005 using the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRCT). The WRCT, called the Third Grade Reading Test from 1989 to 1995, was a part of the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS), a comprehensive statewide program designed to provide information about what students know in core academic areas and whether they can apply what they know.

Created to meet the requirements of Section 121.02(1)(c) and Section 121.02(1)(r) Wisconsin Statutes, the WRCT served to help identify the reading levels of students with respect to state standards and to provide districts with information useful for evaluating the effectiveness of their primary reading programs. Wisconsin educators participated throughout the lifetime of the WRCT as members of the WRCT Advisory Committee, two standard-setting panels, and an item writing committee.

The WRCT consisted of three discrete reading passages and associated questions from 1989 to 2003. In 2004 and 2005 the test consisted of two related passages, questions on each of the passages, and a third set of questions related to both passages. The WRCT was last administered in spring 2005. This WRCT "paired passage" concept required students to connect information from both sources and was carried over into the reading portion of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE), also part of WSAS. In fall 2005 the WKCE replaced the WRCT as the required third-grade reading test with the implementation of a comprehensive assessment and accountability system under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

From 1989 to 1997 reading levels were reported as "Below the Standard," "At the Standard," and "Above the Standard." From 1998 to 2005 reading levels were reported as "Minimal," "Basic," "Proficient," and "Advanced." Nearly one million third graders took the WRCT over the 17 years during which it was administered. From 1998 to 2005 the percent of students scoring proficient or above on the WRCT rose from 65% to 87%.

WRCT results by district and by school are available on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Website.

Where to Find WRCT Results
School Years  WISEdash   School District Performance Report   WINSS Historical Data Files 
1993-94 through 2004-05 -- -- X

WINSS Historical Data Files include both the WRCT data and the WRCT interpretative guides for each year from 1993-94 through 2004-05. To download these data go to the WINSS Historical Data Files web page. You will see a list of files. Open the zip file for the school year ####-## of interest. See About WINSS Historical Data Files for more information about accessing and using these files.

Frequently Asked Questions about WRCT


Note: These questions and answers reflect policies in place for the WRCT, but not for subsequent assessments. They are provided to help users better understand WRCT data.

1. Why a third grade reading test?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is required, under Standard(r) of Section 121.02(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes, to test all public school third graders in reading every year in spring. All school districts will administer the DPI-developed third grade reading test to their third graders. The third grade reading test requirement does allow districts to exclude some students from testing.

2. Who may be excluded from the test?

The following categories of children may be excluded under certain conditions: those who are absent, have exceptional educational needs (EEN) or are limited English proficient (LEP).

Absent. These are children who are not in school or who are unable to complete the test during the test administration period. The DPI expects this number to be very small.

Exceptional Educational Needs (EEN). A child with EEN may be excluded if, taking into consideration the EEN child's reading level and other characteristics, the district determines that the third grade reading test is not appropriate for that child. This determination must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Limited English Proficient (LEP). LEP children in level five (as defined in PI 13.03(3) (e), Wis. Admin. Code) must take the third grade reading test. These are students who read and comprehend English with little help. Students in levels one through four (as defined in PI 13.03 (a) through (d)) should be excluded.

3. May districts exclude Title I children or slow readers?

No. All Title I children must be tested. The only exclusions are for absent children, and, under certain conditions, EEN and LEP children.

4. May districts exclude all non-mainstreamed children with EEN?

No. Districts must look at each child with EEN individually and make a determination of the appropriateness of the WRCT for each child with EEN separately. There are no categorical exclusions. That is, districts may not automatically exclude any children with EEN based on their category of handicapping condition alone.

5. Must districts include all mainstreamed children with EEN?

No. All children with EEN, whether mainstreamed for reading or not, must be reviewed individually. However, the department strongly supports the right of all handicapped children to be provided equal educational opportunities, equal access to programs and services, and equal treatment as those provided to non-handicapped children. Logically, then, the district would need particularly strong documentation for not testing children with EEN who are mainstreamed for reading.

6. May we exclude a child who was determined to be EEN but whose parents or guardians denied placement?

No. Unless the district begins due process procedures to challenge the parents' decision, that child must be treated as a non-handicapped child and must be included in the testing.

7. May we exclude a child who has been referred for an EEN multidisciplinary team (M-team) evaluation?

No. A child who has been referred is non-handicapped until an M-team, following established legal procedures, determines that the child has exceptional educational needs. Referred children must be included in the testing.

8. What should we do with the test booklet of a child who starts the test but cannot finish?

All test booklets sent to the scoring contractor will be scored and included in the school and district results. If a child becomes ill and cannot complete the test or if a child with EEN, given the "benefit of the doubt" and allowed to begin the third grade test, becomes too frustrated to continue or complete the test, these test booklets should probably not be sent to the scoring contractor.

Some children will not be able to complete the test, but this is a true measure of their reading ability. These booklets must be included and sent to the scoring contractor with the district's tests.

9. Will scores of children with EEN be reported separately?

No. Scores for a school and district will be reported as single totals. Districts may purchase a tape or diskette and do this further analysis themselves.

10. What should we do if parents or guardians insist we test a child for whom we feel the third grade reading comprehension test is inappropriate, or parents or guardians insist we not test a child for whom we feel the test is appropriate?

Although districts have the ultimate authority for their students' educational programs, there is little to be gained by either defying parents or guardians or arguing with them. If agreement cannot be reached, students whose parents want them tested could be allowed to attempt the test, and the district could score it by hand rather than send it to the scoring contractor for inclusion in school and district results. Students whose parents or guardians do not want them tested may be counted as absent.

11. Many of our EEN programs are located in one school or certain specific schools. Where should the scores be reported?

Between district programs/transfers. If a district's EEN programs include children from other school districts, scores for those children with EEN should be included with the scores of their district and school of residence. The district of residence is responsible for the children and must make the determination regarding testing. The district of residence, then, should collect those test booklets and include them with their tests.

Between schools within a district programs/transfers. If a district's EEN programs for resident district children require relocation of children with EEN, the district should include the scores of resident children in the school they are attending and are counted for enrollment purposes. Although this may skew the scores a bit, the district and school reports include the number of children with EEN in the school and the number of children with EEN tested and excluded from testing. These data will provide explanatory information for scores.

12. How should the determination to test children with EEN be made?

Refer to "The Testing of Exceptional Educational Needs Students: DPI Guidelines for Non-Discriminatory Testing;" for a discussion of the process and criteria to use in testing students with EEN.

13. Would it be okay to cut up the passages into smaller sections because some students are overwhelmed at the sight of so much text on a page?

No, the test booklet cannot be cut up into smaller sections. During the scoring process the entire booklet goes through a scanner. If the booklet is not intact, it cannot be scored. Within the format constraints of the test, white space and illustrations are used as much as possible to make the text less overwhelming in appearance. Students can use bookmarks or a piece of paper to help them keep their place while reading.

14. Would it be okay to have the students read a small section, answer the questions pertaining to that section, then continue with the next small section, etc.?

One of the purposes of this test is to have students read entire selections so that they can fully understand the whole story or report. Therefore, many of the test questions are based on understanding information and important messages of the whole passage. These questions cannot be successfully answered by reading only a small section. Instructions to the students encourage them to go back to the passages while they are answering the questions.

15. Would it be okay to read aloud passages and/or questions to help students comprehend better?

No, neither the passages nor the comprehension questions can be read aloud. This is a reading comprehension test. Reading passages and/or comprehension questions aloud would change the test into a listening test. This is not acceptable. The only questions that can be read aloud are those printed in the Test Administration Guide: prior knowledge and strategy questions. The answers to these questions are not part of the student's comprehension score, but are included to help teachers better understand and interpret reading comprehension scores. For example, if a student has a low score on the reading comprehension and a low score on reading strategies, this may indicate that the student needs help on developing reading strategies that could help the student comprehend better.

16. Would it be okay to allow a student to read the passage and items aloud?

Yes, if the student normally reads this way. However, to avoid disturbing other students, it would be best to test this student in another room.

17. Would it be okay for students to use highlighters to mark in the passages as they read so it is easier for them to go back and find important information?

No, students may not use highlighters, pencils, pens, etc. to mark in the passages or questions. Such marks can make a test unscorable. Also, if a young child were allowed to use markers, etc., he/she might forget to switch back to the pencil to mark the answer. A sharp, number 2 pencil should be used for indicating the correct answers - no other marks should be made.

18. Would it be okay for students to take the test over a longer period of time (i.e., more than three sessions)?

The test is now divided into three parts and each session is untimed. This should help cut down on fatigue. Unless the child is a student with EEN and requires extra time as a modification in testing, the test should be given in three sessions as described on page 1.

19. Can districts get enlarged-print copies of the test, and can they be used with students who aren't visually impaired but are used to reading larger print?

The type size used on the test is comparable to the type size used in most third grade materials. Only visually impaired students are allowed to use enlarged copies of the test. For visually handicapped students, enlarged copies and Braille copies of the test are available from the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped in Janesville (608) 758-6145. If the district wishes to have tests of students using enlarged copies scored with the rest of the tests, answers must be recorded in a regular-sized test booklet. Enlarged copies cannot be scored by the contractor.

20. Can a student who has attention deficit disorder be tested in a room away from the regular classroom?

Yes, if this is a modification that is normally made for this child when the child is involved in similar tasks.

21. What, if any, modifications can be made for Title I students?

Title 1 students can be tested as a group with their regular Title 1 teacher if they are normally taught and/or tested in this manner. Having the test administered by the Title 1 teacher away from other students may help put children at ease so they can do their best.

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