Wisconsin Has Worst Achievement Gap in the Country – Where is the Outrage?

MacIver News Service | November 21, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] Public officials seem to have largely ignored a report from earlier this month that Wisconsin has the largest racial academic achievement gap in the country.

That information was contained in the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which was released on November 7th.

Three African American representatives from Milwaukee addressed the achievement gap in press releases and several media outlets ran the story. However, there does not appear to be any other public acknowledgement of the problem.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction admitted there is an achievement gap in a news release sent out that day, but did not mention it is the highest in the country.

“In both mathematics and reading, the achievement gap between the state’s black and white students remained unacceptably high,” can be found on the second page of the release.

An e-newsletter from the state superintendent, Tony Evers, sent on November 11th did not mention the achievement gap at all.

The MacIver News Service (MNS) contacted DPI for additional comment, but received no response. MNS also contacted six Republican and Democrat lawmakers who sit on education committees, but, again, received no response.

The three lawmakers who released statements of the achievement gap were Representatives LaTonya Johnson, Mandela Barnes, and Nikiya Harris.

Johnson said black unemployment was the root of the problem.

“Closing an achievement gap built up over decades is going to require more than just education reform, it will require economic reforms that offer hope to families stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty,” her statement read.

Harris said the problem was education funding.

“How can we guarantee our children’s success when our state has cut funding for their schools, closed their classrooms, and eliminated much-needed programming? Children should no longer be the victims of political whims and backwards policies. We need to start backing public education to ensure that all of our children have the resources they need to be successful,” she said.

The state has, in fact, increased per student funding 16 percent since 2005. Unfortunately, the achievement gap in math has increased from 35.3 points to 37.3 in Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) proficiency scores. Meanwhile the reading gap has only improved slightly, from 29.5 points to 29.

NAEP tests are given every other year to fourth and eight grade students around the country to measure their abilities in math and reading. About eight thousand students in Wisconsin took the tests this year.