This year’s results on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE), the state’s standardized test, became public this week. The reading and math results reflect the newer and more rigorous cut scores that were adopted by the Department of Public Instruction as part of the deal by which Wisconsin received a waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Here in Madison, our attention is primarily focused on our troubling achievement gaps, and those gaps are achingly apparent in the new WKCE scores. Under new superintendent Jen Cheatham’s leadership, we’ll continue to pursue the most promising steps to accelerate the learning of our African-American, Latino and Hmong students who have fallen behind.
At the same time, we also need to continue to meet the needs of our students who are doing well. I am going to focus on the latter groups of students in this post.
In particular, I want to take a look at how our Madison students stack up against those attending schools in other Dane County school districts under the new WKCE scoring scale. The demographics of our Madison schools are quite a bit different from those of our surrounding school districts. This can skew comparisons. To control for this a bit, I am going to compare the performance of Dane County students who do not fall into the “economically disadvantaged” category. I’ll refer to these students as “non-low income.”
First, let’s take a look at the percentages of non-low income students in Dane County schools who scored at the proficient or advanced level in reading on the WKCE test administered in November of last year. The following chart ranks 15 Dane County school districts on this basis, with the state average also included to provide some perspective:
Next, let’s take a look at students who are higher achieving, at least by WKCE standards. The following chart lists the percentages of non-low-income students who scored in the advanced range on the WKCE reading test:
The next two charts show the same information for the WKCE math test. First, the percentages of non-low income students scoring proficient or advanced:
Finally, the percentages of non-low income students with advanced scores on the WKCE math test:
What to make of this? First, kudos to our neighbors in Middleton-Cross Plains. The performance of their students leads Dane County. If you go by cumulative rankings, Waunakee comes next, just edging out Madison. The remaining dozen school districts fill out the rest of the rankings.
We in Madison know that we lose a lot of students to neighboring school districts. Sadly for us, many parents believe that if their children attend our Madison public schools, they won’t receive the kind of education they’ll need to succeed in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century world.
As these charts show, the data tell a different story. By and large, students who are not low income are doing fine in our Madison schools, whether in comparison to other students in Dane County or to students statewide. Add to this the undeniable benefits our students derive in terms of cultural competency and interpersonal skills as a result of attending our richly diverse schools and the unique opportunities available to our Madison students (have you visited the wonderful showing of our students’ artwork currently on display at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art?), and, as smart Realtors should realize, the logical conclusion is that our Madison public schools are currently one of the truly undervalued assets of our region.