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Wisconsin test results hold steady, less than half of students proficient

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Student test results in Wisconsin held steady last year, with less than half of public and private school students scoring as proficient or advanced in English language arts, math, science and social studies.

The state Department of Public Instruction released the results Wednesday for all public school students and those enrolled in private schools using taxpayer-funded vouchers under the choice program.

The figures show that 42.7 percent were proficient or advanced in English, 40.5 percent in math, 42.3 percent in science and 49.6 percent in social studies. Compared with the previous school year, English scores were up 1.2 percentage points, math was up just 0.2 points while science dropped 1.6 points and social studies declined just 0.1 point.

The biggest gains in English scores were seen in fifth grade (up 4), fourth grade (up 3.4) and sixth grade (up 2.7).

State Superintendent Tony Evers said the increases in English scores were positive, crediting teachers and students growing more comfortable with the test and using information it provides to improve performance.

The results continued to show achievement gaps based on race and ethnicity, with African American, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian students trailing their white classmates. Those disparities have been persistent for years and also seen in other state and national measurements. There are also gaps for English language learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students.

All 11th graders — about 66,700 public and private school choice students — took the ACT college entrance exam for a third year.

The average ACT score for public school students was 20, the same as last year. For choice students, the statewide average was 17.9 points, down from 18.1 the previous year. But when looking at only students in the statewide choice program — which does not include Racine or Milwaukee — the average was 21.3.

In Milwaukee, the average public school ACT score was 16.3 compared with 17.2 for choice students. And in Racine, the average public school score was 17.5 compared with 20 for choice students.

Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, praised the results showing students in choice schools scoring higher than their public school counterparts, calling it "great news for students and taxpayers."

Other results of the Forward Exam showed:

— In Milwaukee, results between choice and public school students were roughly comparable for English language arts and math. Public school students were about 3 points higher in science, while choice students were about 4 points higher in social studies.

— In Racine, choice students scored higher in English, science and social students while public school students were higher in math.

— Statewide, public school students outscored choice students in all subject areas.

This marks the second year of the Forward Exam, which tests English language arts and mathematics for grades three through eight and science for fourth and eighth grades. The test was given in March to nearly 372,000 public school students and about 14,600 students in the Milwaukee, Racine and statewide choice programs.

And it's the third year of the Dynamic Learning Maps assessment for those significant cognitive disabilities.

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