Proposal gets serious about raising the bar for student achievement

This is interesting and disturbing.  I have copied and pasted part of the article that made me think ‘ yikes’   But please read the entire article.   Being Evansville has a hard time with W.K.C.E. in some cases, this could be bad news for Evansville because NAEP is a much harder grader.

I have asked Melissa to please explain exactly what this means and how it will could effect Evansville.  She is so good at explaining these things.

“Overall, the waiver plan means we are at the point where Wisconsin gets serious about raising expectations for student achievement. Wisconsin is regarded as having one of the lowest bars in the U.S. for rating a student as proficient. No more, the proposal says.

A new generation of state standardized tests is due in 2014-’15. But the waiver proposal says that, even as we continue using the current tests, known as the Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Examination (WKCE), kids statewide won’t be rated using the current measuring stick, beginning next year. They’ll be rated by the standards used by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). And NAEP is a much tougher grader.

How much tougher? Here’s the comparison, based on results of the state tests from November 2010 (the most recent available results) and the results for NAEP testing of Wisconsin kids in early 2011:

Eighth-grade reading: Using the WKCE measuring stick, 86% of students were rated as “advanced” or “proficient.” Using the NAEP measuring stick, it was 35% – a 51-point difference. At least as vivid: Using the WKCE measure, 47% of eighth-graders were “advanced,” the top bracket. Using the NAEP measure, it was 3%. Three percent! In other words, only a handful of kids statewide would be labeled advanced under the new system, not the nearly half we’re used to.

Fourth-grade reading: On the WKCE scale, 82% were proficient or advanced. On the NAEP scale, it was 33%.

Eighth-grade math: WKCE, 78% proficient. NAEP: 41%.

Fourth-grade math: WKCE: 79% proficient. NAEP: 47%.

Clearly, either we’re going to drive down the picture of our children’s achievement by a huge amount or we’re going to drive up what a large number of them achieve. Or, perhaps, both will happen, in that order and over a few years. And all this at a time when the picture for school budgets is getting tighter and issues such as morale among teachers and principals and the future of those professions need to be taken very seriously.

(One thought: Think what these higher bars are going to mean to schools and districts where the percentages of kids rated as proficient are already small, which is to say, in most of Milwaukee.)

In a news release, Evers made a very interesting statement: “Increasing our expectations of what students need to know and be able to do, to match the reality of the 21st century, will not be easy.”

As a reader pointed out to me, increasing expectations shouldn’t be that hard. Why not have high expectations for every child and school? It’s increasing the actual results that ought to be hard.

I asked Evers about this. He said both expectations and results are hard to increase. Change isn’t easy.

The future job market, he said, will require today’s students to do more analysis, more “higher-level thinking,” as educators call it. In simple terms, they need to be better educated than kids of the past.

The nationwide education standards plan that Wisconsin is joining and the new testing regimen that is coming both are premised on the NAEP levels for rating student performance. Evers said Wisconsin needs to adopt the NAEP rating system if it is to get the federal waiver.

But in the bigger picture, he said, it’s not just about pleasing federal officials. Evers’ statement said the waiver request “is driven by the belief that increasing rigor across the standards, assessment and accountability system will result in improved instruction and improved student outcomes.”

On the phone, he said, “This is an opportunity for this state to move forward. . . . After this transition time, our system will be better.” He added, “The teachers and the students of the state are ready for this move. It’s a whole new world.”

Brace yourself. And order extra large servings of expectations, hope and willingness on everyone’s part to seek and support improvement.

Alan J. Borsuk is senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. Reach him at”



One Response to “Proposal gets serious about raising the bar for student achievement”

  1. I posted a reply on my blog also, under the Swim Team Coop post. Go to my archive posts of May 2010. On May 13, I posted about the Origin of Proficient and Advanced on the WKCE. If you click on the title, it will take you to a link on Dick Woulfe’s Observer blog where I discuss this problem in a book he helped me self-publish on school issues that count. The second entry down predicts exactly what Professor Borsuk addresses above. Wisconsin is in for adjusting to a new paradigm that won’t be pretty. No more lies and obfuscation to get federal dollars. Your “Advanced” kid will be lucky to be considered “Proficient” using NAEP standards. Very stark reality and, based on what I wrote about two years ago, certainly not a new revelation.

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