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School test scores rise; achievement gap remains


MADISON (WRN)   New test results from the state Department of Public Instruction show math and reading scores for Wisconsin students largely improved over the past five years. Although, the results also highlight the fact that an achievement gap between white and minority students remains a major problem in the state’s school districts.

More than 430,000 public school students took the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations last fall. John Johnson with DPI says overall results show about 48 percent of students were at least proficient in math, up about three percent from five years ago, while 36 percent were at least proficient in reading, up about one percent.Johnson says the results show students have been making gains, and it links in well with efforts DPI has been making through new common core standards, a new assessment system coming online soon, and statewide report cards that can help identify areas where schools need improvement.

The results also show a continued achievement gap among racial and ethnic groups though, with white and Asian students scoring better than American Indian, black, and Hispanic students. While each group saw proficiency rates increase, blacks remained below 20 percent in both reading and mathematics.

Johnson says poverty plays a major role in those numbers. Many of the groups with the lowest proficiencies also have a large percentage of the student populations on free or reduced price lunch programs, the common standard used to determine if students are economically disadvantaged.

Overall, 42 percent of students statewide fall in to that category, with 81 percent of black students and over 77 percent of Hispanic students qualifying for those programs. Those numbers are up almost seven percent, compared to five years ago.

Johnson says it’s an issue that remains a top concern and DPI continues to focus resources on helping those student access the resources they need.