Statewide test results released Tuesday show that though significant achievement gaps still exist, Wisconsin students across the board improved slightly in reading and math skills.
Those improvements were not high, however. According to a Department of Public Instruction statement, results from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations show 29 percent of Madison students were proficient in reading and 9 percent were advanced. When it came to math, 32 percent were considered proficient and 14 percent were advanced.
"Where we thought we may have had strengths, we may not be quite as strong as we thought we were," said Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
However, given the new heightened state standards, the Wisconsin Department of Instruction said student performance slightly improved.
Cheatham met with a dozen other community members and education partners Tuesday in repsonse to the WKCE results. She said the results showed a lack of alignment and focus.
"What I'm hearing a lot about is what people have been calling initiative overload, that we're trying to do too many things and we're not doing any of them particularly well," said Cheatham.
Cheatham said the district will focus on a coherent instructional program for all schools and classrooms, literacy, language and staff support among other things.
While students must focus on higher scores, educators should as well.
"We're focusing on common core standard, focusing on career and college readiness and really paying attention to more modern philosophies and more modern technologies of teaching and learning," said University of Wisconsin-Madison's Dean of Education Julie Underwood.
WKCE statewide results showed students in private schools fell slightly behind those in the public school system.
Results from the test, taken by in November by more than 430,000 public school students, showed they improved their test scores from five years ago by 3.1 percent and 1.1 percent in math skills and reading skills, respectively.
Despite the increased test scores across ethnic and racial groups, the statement said achievement gaps remained visible in the data. While 55.4 percent of white students in all grades scored “proficient” or “advanced” in mathematics, only 18.1 percent of black students, 28.1 percent of Hispanic students and 31.4 percent of American Indian students achieved similar scores.
According to the statement, more Wisconsin students live in poverty, as measured by free and reduced-price meal eligibility rates. Subsidized meal eligibility rose 7.2 percentage points from five years ago to a total of 41.9 percent of tested students.
Higher numbers of black and Hispanic students were eligible, with data showing 81 and 77.6 percent of students qualified, respectively. The statement said among white students, 30.3 percent qualified for free and reduced-price meals.
The data also showed middle and high school students improved in math skills while elementary school students’ scores remained flat. While middle school students improved by 4.9 percent and high school students by 5 percent from five years ago, elementary students improved by .4 percent, down by 2.2 percent from the 2011-12 school year.
All age groups made modest gains in reading skills, coming in at 1.1 percentage points higher than the 2008-09 school year.
The DPI will use the results to calculate new school report cards later this year, which are available here.