Evers Wants to Shift High School Students from WKCE to ACT Based Testing Plan

MacIver News Service | September 12, 2012

[Pewaukee, Wisc…] Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers announced Wednesday that high school students may no longer have to worry about the state’s outdated standardized tests. Instead, their progress will be gauged by their performance on the ACT, an assessment better known for measuring college readiness. Evers announced the proposal, which is part of his 2013-15 education budget request, at a press conference in Pewaukee on Wednesday.

Evers unveiled a plan that would introduce a four-test ACT suite for Wisconsin’s students starting in 2014. These examinations would reach high schoolers from grades 9-11. The test package would replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) as the state’s educational metric for 10th graders in math, reading, and English language arts.

“States that have adopted the ACT have found ‘diamonds in the rough;’ students who had the skills to go on to college or a high-skills trade, but were not considering that as an option,” Evers said. “Additionally, administering the ACT suite will help us intervene early. It is too costly for students, their families, and our colleges and universities to provide remedial coursework to high school graduates who are not ready for postsecondary studies,”

The switch could provide two benefits for the state. The first is simply that it is an alternative to the WKCE, an examination that provides little meaningful feedback when it comes to student growth. The WKCE has long been slated for replacement, and a shift to national Common Core of Data standards in the twilight of No Child Left Behind regulations has hasted the need for a substitute.

The ACT will provide a more accountable measurement of how students are performing on a yearly basis – something that will tie directly to educator effectiveness and school accountability reforms that have been initiated in the past year.

The second benefit could be increased college readiness for Wisconsin high school students. The ACT has a long history as a respected metric for academic achievement, but its status as a meaningful tool for assessment has often been hampered by participation rates. Switching from the WKCE to the ACT will make participation compulsory, which will provide a better picture not only of where the state stands, but of how many of Wisconsin’s potential high school graduates are prepared for college.

“This shift from the WKCE to the ACT in high school – a shift that will raise participation in the ACT from 71 to 100 percent – could be a message that the state is investing in college readiness in its secondary schools.” said Christian D’Andrea, education policy analyst with the MacIver Institute.

MacIver News Service is a project of the MacIver Institute.

The test would cost the state $7 million to administer. Evers wants the state to cover costs often absorbed by parents and local school districts for students that would have opted to take the test on their own. However, the state will only provide funding for students to take each part of the four-test suite once.

This emphasis on ACT scores highlights an educational area that Wisconsin has traditionally excelled in. In 2012, the state had the second highest average score in the nation with 22.1 points. That trailed only Minnesota and tied with Iowa’s results. Seventy-one percent of all eligible Wisconsin high school students took the ACT in 2011-2012.

“We need to give our students and their families better resources to plan for study and work after high school,” Evers said. “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.”