Last Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released test score data from 2021-2022, the best indicators we have of student learning loss from COVID and school closures. Here are some initial takeaways from Quinton Klabon, IRG’s Senior Research Director:
1. Statewide reading went down from 41% to 37% college-ready. In other words, 14,000 fewer kids are prepared for college or the workforce. 7th graders in 2019 scored higher than 8th graders in 2022. Mathematics went down from 43% to 39%. White students are below 50% in both for the first time ever. Non-White students are below 25%.
2. 29% of students test at a rock-bottom reading level. That’s 103,000 students at the lowest standard statewide.
3. School closures mattered, especially for low-income students who get stability and routine at school. Take math in Wisconsin’s 13 biggest districts. The ones that reopened quickly saw 47% fall below grade level, 9% worse. The ones that stayed closed got 12% worse, reaching 65% below grade level.
4. Among Milwaukee low-income students, just 10% are college-ready in reading compared to 65% below grade level. 7% are college-ready in math versus 73% at the minimum.
5. The MPS Board is especially failing its Black students. There are 9 district schools where 0 students are proficient in mathematics! You could fit every Black student who’s college-ready in math (548 total) into a single school building.
Tragically, the best schools appear destroyed by overlong pandemic lockdowns. Remarkable schools like Pratt, Milwaukee Excellence, and Bryant have gone from city leaders to similar to the rest.
Remember, Wisconsin’s Black students rank last in reading nationally according to the latest NAEP test scores, 2 years behind Black students in Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia.
6. In contrast, the best private schools in the MPCP have weathered the storm well. Schools like Saint Marcus Lutheran, Mount Lebanon Lutheran, Nativity Jesuit, and Notre Dame Catholic posted stellar results. Choice school results stand out overall, but we must help the best schools expand and grow.
District: 19% to 14%, 16,500 kids below grade level
Charter: 17% to 18%
Voucher: 21% to 19%
District: 16% to 10%, 18,500 kids below grade level
Charter: 18% to 18%
Voucher: 18% to 15%
7. As for Wisconsin’s other largest cities, Madison low-income children are doing worse now than Milwaukee kids were before the pandemic. Reading and math proficiency rates are 13% and 11%, whereas the below-grade-level rates are 61% and 66%.
Half of Kenosha, Green Bay, and Racine low-income students test below grade level, far behind a chance at college or a skilled trade.
8. That said, a decline in our graduates’ reading and math skills isn’t “a big-city problem.” There were huge drops in Sheboygan and Sun Prairie. 47,000 low-income kids in small towns aren’t prepared for a skilled blue- or white-collar jobs. Our most advanced students, many in the suburbs, declined in reading.
9. Unfortunately, this widespread proficiency decline is “a Wisconsin problem.” Tennessee and Mississippi have recovered in reading.
Want to talk about K-12? Feel free to reach out to Quinton directly: [email protected].