By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Standardized testing has become incorporated into mainstream schooling, and while the debate remains over whether it’s necessary or not, data collected from the Forward, ACT Plus Writing and Dynamic Learning Maps tests taken in the 2016-2017 school year has been assessed and released.
These exams, which are given based on grade level and cognitive abilities accumulate to form the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS). As such, over 453,000 schools, both private and public, participated in the tests this past academic year. Students in grades three through eight, as well as grade 11, are assessed on their knowledge pertaining to subjects such as English, math, social studies, and science. Some tests also include a writing assessment portion. In addition to testing the students on their schooling, data surrounding their race, economic status and English language status is also collected.
Compared to last year, in terms of participation, a total of 5,713 more students took the exams. For the 2015- 2016 school year, 447,313 students took part in the assessments, comparatively the 2016-2017 school year saw 453,026 students participate.
Thomas McCarthy, the Communications Director for the Wisconsin Department of Public Intrusion noted that the increase in participation occurred mostly on the ACT tests which is only for 11th graders, while the participation on the Forward exams only saw a slight increase. The data collected accumulated for 65,180 11th graders.
According to McCarthy, last year’s participation results encouraged them to reach out to districts where student participation was lower. They urged the schools to attempt a more proactive outreach, and the encouragement paid off.
The increment is a trend that the Department hopes to continue as more students and parents recognize the value of the tests, specifically the ACT as it relates to student’s futures.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Intrusion, choice schools displayed a slight score fluctuation on the Forward and ACT exams. Student’s results for public schools in grades fourth through seventh increased for the English Language Arts section of the exam.
“We’re seeing some positive student gains in the Forward Exam in English language arts,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers.
Public schools displayed improved results in the following: fourth grade increased 3.4 points, fifth grade by 4.0 points, sixth grade by 2.7 points and seventh grade by 1.6 points. On the ACT, public schools combined scores stayed around the 20.0 mark, same as last year, while private schools decreased to 17.9 from 18.1.
Both Evers and McCarthy attribute the spike to the teachers. McCarthy explained teachers can help their students by understanding the test and learning to “decode” it, but they shouldn’t teach to test.
It is important to note, that the results and exams are generally used to evaluate and measure a student’s and by extension their school and district, academic standing at that given time, according to McCarthy. He also said that exam results are only one piece of information about the kids.
As of now, standardized testing, per federal law will continue to be utilized in schools across the nation with the hope that participation and score results continue to increase.