Proficiency shrinks under new standard

District tops state on more rigorous test
By: 
Derek Spellman

Fewer than half of Verona students tested proficient or better in reading under the state’s standardized exam last fall, while 57.8 percent of students reached that mark in math, according to results recently released by the state.

School officials across Wisconsin had warned that student scores for this school year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, the state’s longtime standardized test, would fall compared to past years because the state is now applying a more rigorous method of determining student proficiency on the exam. That higher standard is meant to prepare school districts for a new, computer adaptive standardized test that all students will begin taking within two years.

Just over 47 percent of Verona students who took the WKCE exam in November 2012 were either proficient or advanced in reading, compared to the 57.8 percent in math, according to results released in late April by the state Department of Public Instruction.

By comparison, 86.1 percent of Verona students took the WKCE in November 2011 attained proficient or better in reading under the less stringent standard, while 82.8 percent reached that mark in math.

Donna Behn, the district’s director of instruction, said in past years the district sees “a little bit of rise and falls in scores” when it comes to WKCE results.

Not so this year, when scores varied quite a bit by grade level.

“The scores were just all over the place,” she said.

The gap between Verona’s student performance based on economic status, also known as an achievement gap, was more than 36 percentage points in reading this year and more than 42 percentage points in math under the new standard, according to DPI. Nearly 56.5 percent of the non-economically disadvantaged students were proficient or better in reading in the 2012 test, compared with 20.2 percent for economically-disadvantaged students. In math, it was 68.7 percent for non-disadvantaged students and 26.5 percent for disadvantaged students.

As for the district’s achievement gap based on ethnicity, 57.6 percent of Verona’s white students were proficient or better in reading, compared to 19.7 percent of black students and 12 percent of Hispanic students. In math, 68.9 percent of white students tested proficient or better, compared with 22.2 percent of Hispanic students and 24.1 percent of black students.

The proficiency standards for three other subjects tested by the WKCE – language arts, science and social studies – are unchanged. In those, 77.6 percent of Verona students were proficient or better in language arts, compared with 77.2 percent from November 2011. In science, scores dipped slightly, from 82.1 percent to 81.4 percent. In social studies, scores improved from 86.6 percent proficient to 87.9 percent in 2012.

Students in Grades 4, 8 and 10 take tests in reading, math, social studies, language arts and science for the WKCE, which consists of a series of multiple-choice tests. Students in Grades 3 and 5-7 take only the reading and math tests.

Districts are already eyeing the new standardized test that is being developed by a consortium of states and that will replace the WKCE in the 2014-2015 school year. Both measures are part of Wisconsin’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The more rigorous proficiency standards for the WKCE in the intervening time are meant to give school districts and the public a preview of higher expectations.

Statewide, 35.3 percent of the students who took the test scored proficient or better in reading, while 47.1 percent did so in math.

WKCE

Percentage of students proficient or better in the November 2012 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
        
                Reading    Math
VASD         47.1        57.8

Statewide  35.3        47.1

* Excludes results from the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment.

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