Madison School District students’ results on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE)
April 7, 2010
Background and participation rates
The 2009-10 school year marked the fifth consecutive year in which testing in grades 3 through 8 and 10 was conducted in fulfillment of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) is a criterion-referenced test (CRT) where a student's performance is compared to a specific set of learning standard outcomes.
- Testing in reading and math in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 (federal requirement)
- Testing in science, social studies, language arts, and writing in grades 4, 8, and 10 (state requirement)
- Approximately 12,300 students were tested in November 2009
Under NCLB, schools are required to test 95% of their full academic year (FAY) students in reading and math. Grades 3 through 8 achieved 99% test participation or higher while the district's 10th graders reached 98% in test participation.
Note: all exam scores are determined to be in one of four proficiency levels: advanced (highest), proficient, basic, or minimal (lowest).
- All schools meet the test participation requirement of 95% or higher.
Overall performance – Reading and Math
- Reading performance across all grades and student groups remained essentially the same between 2008-09 and 2009-10 as measured by the percentage of students scoring proficient or higher.
- Performance in math as measured by the percentage of students scoring proficient or higher improved somewhat. Four grade levels posted increases in math proficiency; two remained the same as last year and one grade’s performance declined slightly.
- This improvement in math performance also extended to low income students in grades 4 through 10. A higher percentage of low income students scored proficient or higher in math between 2008-09 and 2009-10. Performance in math for grade 3 low income students remained the same as the prior year.
Changing demographic effects on overall performance
The changing demographics of the MadisonSchool District affect the overall aggregate achievement data. As the district has experienced a greater proportion of students from subgroups which are at a disadvantage in testing, e.g., non-native English speakers or English language learners (ELLs), the overall district averages have correspondingly declined.
Other subgroups which traditionally perform well on student achievement tests, i.e., non-low income students and white students, continue to perform very high relative to statewide peer groups.
Therefore, it is important to disaggregate the data to interpret and understand the district results.
- ELL population increased from 8.1% in September 1998; and 14.3% in September 2005, to 16% in September 2009.
- Low income population increased from 26.8% in September 2000; and 38.4% in September 2005, to 47% in September 2009.
Advanced performance by subgroup
- Groups that traditionally perform well on WKCE achievement tests continued to do so in 2009-10. Non-low income, Asian, and white students had significantly higher percentages of students scoring in the highest performance category – advanced – on the reading and math tests when compared to their peers statewide.
Despite the change in the proportion of these subgroups within the total MMSD student population, there has been no decrease in the percentage scoring at the advanced level. This percentage point difference ranged from 10 to 14 points across all grade levels in reading for non-low income students in the MMSD compared to their statewide peers, and between 5 and 16 points in math for the same student group.
For Asian students, this differential between MMSD students and their statewide peers is between 5 and 13 percentage points in reading, and between 5 and 16 points in math across all grades tested.
For the white subgroup who scored advanced in reading, MMSD averages over 14 percentage points higher compared to their statewide peers and approximately 14 percentage points in math across all tested grades.
Similarly, and very interestingly, a consistently higher percentage of MMSD students score at the lowest proficiency level - minimal - than do students across the state. This is evidence of the higher degree of economic and ethnic/racial diversity in MMSD compared with other Wisconsin school districts.
In other words, MMSD is a more “bi-modal” distribution of student achievement performance than the state as a whole. This reinforces the array of learning needs within the MMSD, and is descriptive of the instructional challenges within MMSD classrooms and schools.
Just as MMSD has proportionately more students scoring at the highest level – advanced – than the state as a whole, it also has a greater proportion of students scoring at the lowest level – minimal.
This suggests that the district’s schools and classrooms have a much broader range of achievement performance than elsewhere in the state.
Reading and math by student subgroup
- Special education students in the district scored at about the same rate in reading and math compared to the statewide special education subgroup.
- MMSD African American students had a 2% higher average difference in the proficient or higher categories compared to their statewide peers. In reading, African American students in the MMSD scored about the same or slightly lower in all but grades 8 and 10 where students outperformed their statewide peers by 3 and 8 points, respectively, as measured by proficient or higher performance.
- MMSD’s Asian and non-low income student subgroups score somewhat higher than their statewide peers in reading and math.
- When compared with the state as a whole, MMSD has a much higher percentage of white students scoring proficient or higher in both reading and math.
A key goal of the MMSD is to eliminate the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and those who are not economically disadvantaged.
- In reading, the gap in the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced between low income and non-low income students decreased in five of the seven grades tested in mathematics between 2008-09 and 2009-10. However, grades 4 and 10 experienced an increase in the gap compared to last year.
- In mathematics, the gap in the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced between low income and non-low income students decreased in five of the seven grades tested in mathematics between 2008-09 and 2009-10. The gap in math performance remained stable in the other two grade levels.
Results for Language Arts, Science and Social Studies
Unlike reading and math, the State of Wisconsin does not have annual measurable objectives set for language arts, science and social studies.
- At grade 4, the percentage of students performing at the proficient and advanced level in language arts grew by 1 point compared to the previous year while performance in science and social studies remained the same.
- At grade 8, the percentage of students performing at the proficient/advanced level in science increased for the second consecutive year moving from 70% to 72 % in 2008-09 to 74% proficient or advanced this year; performance in language arts posted a 1 point gain over last year moving from 62% to 63% proficient and advanced; performance in social studies fell slightly from 79% proficient and advanced in 2008-09 to 77% this year.
- Student performance at grade 10 in language arts decreased to 60% proficient and advanced this year, compared to 63% the prior year. Performance in science and social studies remained stable compared to the previous year at 64% and 70% proficient and advanced, respectively.