The Wisconsin Department of Instruction is hoping to usher in a new era of learning and assessment at every high school in the state, and Wauwatosa is on board.
State Superintendent Tony Evers on Wednesday announced a proposal to replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) with a suite of ACT assessments to measure student learning and better prepare the state’s youth for post-secondary education careers.
Wauwatosa School Superintendent Phil Ertl said, "It's a good thing."
"We're close to doing that anyway – 70 percent of juniors are already taking the ACT. It's geared toward college readiness, and that's what we're about, that's where we want our students to be headed," Ertl said.
Ertl said the ACT suite is a better choice, one that "we've had the option to explore" already even under the state-mandated WKCE testing regime.
Wauwatosa schools will not change their testing schedule this year because of the state's decision, Ertl said.
Test directed more toward college, careers
“This is really a historic day in Wisconsin,” Evers said in his announcement of the statewide change. “We’re moving to a different place in the state, and we need to make sure every student is adequately and significantly prepared for their future careers.”
Evers said the assessment suite would include four different tests, which would be paid for and provided by the state. Students would take the tests over the course of their high school careers. The cost to administer the series of four tests would cost roughly $7 million, and the suite is part of Evers’ 2013-15 budget proposal.
Some of the cost would be offset by not administering the WKCE.
“There’s a cost to this. Quality does cost,” Evers said. “I think this is a huge step forward for Wisconsin to consistently address career and college preparation. This will be a priority moving forward.”
Under the proposal, ninth-grade students would take an ACT EXPLORE test in spring of the 2014-15 school year. The ACT PLAN test would be administered in 10th grade, and the actual ACT and WorkKeys assessments would be administered in 11th grade.
The WorkKeys test assesses students’ job skills and helps them prepare for the workforce whether they gain employment directly from school, learn a trade, or enter post-secondary education. The ACT EXPLORE and ACT PLAN tests help students identify areas for improvement, and guide their future course selection.
Addressing a lack of incentive
Evers said the current WKCE assessment doesn’t provide much incentive for students to do well. The ACT assessment; however, would count for the future educational goals of students and is a more accurate assessment of student learning.
“It will serve as a great early warning system for students, which will help us make sure they are planning in an effective way,” Evers said.
Approximately 61 percent of all the state’s high school students already take the ACT examination.
About 70 percent of Wauwatosa students take the ACT on average over the past 15 years, with a high of over 76 percent and a low of close to 65 percent during that period.
Evers’ plan would ensure all students take it as part of their high school experience. In rural parts of the state many students lack access to ACT testing centers, but every school would become a certified testing center under his plan.
Several states have already mandated the ACT assessment for high school students. Milwaukee Public Schools have also required the ACT assessment.
“This budget proposal will meet the demand for accountability that matters,” Evers said. “The ACT suite will provide multiple measures of student achievement that give a picture of individual and school growth for high school accountability.”