Wisconsin’s Evers Wants to Use ACT Exam to Measure Schools

Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers has requested additional funding to develop a new suite of exams to be given to Wisconsin’s high school students that will assess what they’ve learned over the course of four years, and judge their preparedness to enter either college or a career.

Evers is proposing to have all Wisconsin 11th-graders take the ACT standardized college admissions exam as well as a new career skills test. He also hopes to have all 9th and 10th-graders take a pre-ACT test beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.

Evers estimates that it would take $7 million to roll out the new testing program, and he is adding this money to the education budget request for the 2013-15 years that he plans to present to Governor Scott Walker later this month. Using a  combination of ACT, pre-ACT and career skills exams will free the state from having to use the Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examinations in math and English that are currently given to high-schoolers in the fall of their 10th year. The data collected from the test will also be used to provide information to the public about the performance of Wisconsin’s schools.

“It makes sense to use the ACT to fulfill state and federal testing requirements at the high school level with an exam package that provides so much more than the WKCE: college and career readiness assessments and a college admissions test score,” Evers said in a statement.

A spokesman for ACT welcomed the change, saying that ACT-developed exams already adhere to national standards adopted by almost every state, including Wisconsin. This means that ACT tests are ideally suited to test the curriculum taught in the state’s schools. Although Wisconsin is one of the states that uses student achievement data in their teacher evaluation systems, Evers said it was too early to speculate on whether the ACT exam results will play a role in teacher and administrator assessment.

The state is in the process of phasing out the unpopular WKCE exams, given to students in third through eighth and 10th grade, in favor of new, computer-adaptive standardized tests for elementary and middle-school students. Those will be fully implemented in 2014-’15.

Implementing the ACT suite of tests at the high-school level would increase the percentage of juniors in Wisconsin taking the ACT, a 36-point test of four subject areas: English, math, reading and science, with an optional writing exam.