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Reformers demand legislative action on plan to change Wisconsin test score designations

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(The Center Square) – There are calls for hearings and action at the Wisconsin Capitol after the state’s public school managers announced a plan to change student reading and math scores.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently updated the asset-based performance levels that are used to see how well students are reading, writing and doing math.

“After extensive engagement with internal and external education partners, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is updating terminology used to describe student performance levels on statewide standardized assessments. Performance level descriptors provide information to parents, guardians, educators, and others about student achievement relative to grade-level expectations,” DPI said in its announcement.

Kids who are thriving in reading, writing and math will continue to be rated in the advanced category. But the other terms for performance are changing.

That means the current proficient rating will change to meeting. The current basic rating will change to approaching. And the current below basic will change to developing.

“So, 78% of kids in Milwaukee’ predominantly Black schools are now developing their math skills,” Quinton Klabon, an educational researcher at the Institute for Reforming Government, told The Center Square.

Klabon said the change will make it much more difficult for parents, and anyone else for that matter, to see if students in Wisconsin are making progress in their reading, writing and math skills.

“This update promotes academic potential, engagement, and growth at every level, and improves feelings of encouragement and motivation among students,” DPI said in its announcement.

Klabon said DPI is also changing Wisconsin’s reading scores to align with the new category names.

“Now, true, it may barely budge!,” he said on social media. “But, because of this, 2024 will not be comparable to 2023 or 2019. So, regular people will not know if their children recovered from the pandemic.”

Will Flanders, an education expert at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said Wisconsin lawmakers need to step in.

“The legislature must take action to ensure that DPI doesn’t continue to ‘game the system’ with report cards,” Flanders explained. “There is no reason to change them yet again and make all previous years incomparable.”

WILL is also saying DPI is hosting a meeting next week to set the cut scores for the new standardized test results that are due out soon. However, everyone attending that meeting must agree to not speak about what they saw or learned.

“Changing terms for student performance on the Forward Exam will only serve to cloud parent’s ability to know how their child is doing in school. It’s great if a child in the lowest category is developing skills, but those skills may never actually develop in a failing school,” Flanders added on social media.

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