Wisconsin public school students struggle with reading, math



(The Center Square) – Nearly 60% of students in Wisconsin’s Public Schools continue to be unable to read, write or do math at grade level.

The State’s Department of Public Instruction released the latest standardized test scores Tuesday, and they show 39.2% of public school students are proficient or better in reading, while 41.1% are proficient or better in math.

But those are the statewide averages.

Individual schools saw differing results, and the numbers show low-income students did worse across the board.

DPI’s numbers show 22.6% of low-income students are proficient in reading, and 23.1% are proficient in math. The numbers also show 42.2% of low-income students are rated minimal in reading, while 45.9% of low-income students are rated as minimal in math.

Wisconsin’s worst in the nation racial learning gap also remains unclosed.

DPI communications director Abigail Swetz said learning gap is just “one window” into student performance.

“I’m sure you read it or heard in our State of Education address we are talking again and always about making sure that our students are feeling affirmed and welcomed in our schools. That includes our black indigenous and students of color, that includes our LGBTQ+ students, and it really goes to what we believe so strongly about the whole student making sure that they are very safe and supported in our schools,” Swetz said, “That is not the only thing that is going to change the disparities we’re seeing, but it is a thing that we think can go a long way towards really pushing that needle.”

The new scores, from last spring, are better than the test scores from the year before, but Wisconsin public school students are not back to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quinton Klabon with the Institute For Reforming Government said the poor test scores come after a billion dollars in federal coronavirus aid, and hundreds of millions of dollars more from Wisconsin taxpayers.

“Wisconsin is quickly becoming a state where disadvantaged students do not succeed. Cities like Green Bay and Janesville are failing to recover from the pandemic and the number of Black students below grade level would overflow Fiserv Forum. When we look at how federal COVID relief was allocated, our state’s struggles are no surprise,” Klabon said.

Will Flanders with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said the poor test scores are even more striking when you look at the success that students in choice schools in Wisconsin are having.

“Private Choice in Milwaukee continues to enjoy a significant proficiency advantage in reading. Private Choice in Racine enjoys a significant proficiency advantage in reading,” Flanders told the Center Square. “Private Choice statewide enjoys a slight proficiency advantage when compared to low-income students, which is the most fair comparison due to the low-income limits on statewide choice.“



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