The Accountability Fallacy in Wisconsin

The Accountability Fallacy in Wisconsin


What does the WKCE tell us about student learning?

Until recently, more schools achieved the benchmark of Annual Yearly Progress under Wisconsin’s accountability system than in any other state in the country, but only because Wisconsin’s proficiency standards (or cut-off scores) were below 30% - meaning a student would be deemed proficient if she or he answered more than 30% of the questions correctly on a test. Does this sound reasonable? Would you want someone driving a car who could only answer 30% of the driving test questions correctly?

In 2013, the DPI raised the WKCE cut-off scores to around 50%, “to reflect higher expectations for students.” According to State Superintendent Tony Evers, “Raising the WKCE benchmarks is part of a strategic effort to ensure our children are ready for college and careers in today’s rapidly changing, global society and economy.”

While the 50% cut-off is an improvement over the arguably criminally low benchmark of 30%, this move is hardly a comfort to a parent hoping their children will have the actual skills to succeed in college or in the competitive market economy.  

As they raised the bar to 50%, the WKCE showed a significant decline in “proficient” students. In fact, barely half of the students in Wisconsin’s second highest performing district, Elm Grove, were deemed proficient or at grade level in reading or mathematics in 2013 and 2014.  Evers writes that the decline, “does not reflect a change in the abilities of students, but rather reflects the higher standards and aspirations we have for our students and schools.”

Clearly, there is an educational crisis in the state of Wisconsin.  

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