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Plan to Phase Out WKCE Tests Won't Change Much for Waukesha Schools, Says Superintendent

The proposal would replace the current high school assessment system with a four-test ACT suite that would be given to high school students starting in 2014-15.

The Wisconsin Department of Instruction is hoping to usher in a new era of learning and assessment at every high school in the state, including at and high schools.

State Superintendent Tony Evers on Wednesday announced a proposal to replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) with a suite of ACT assessments to measure student learning and better prepare the state’s youth for post-secondary education careers.

“This is really a historic day in Wisconsin,” Evers said. “We’re moving to a different place in the state, and we need to make sure every student is adequately and significantly prepared for their future careers.”

Evers said the assessment suite would include four different tests, which would be paid for and provided by the state. Students would take the tests over the course of their high school careers. The cost to administer the series of four tests would cost roughly $7 million, and the suite is part of Evers’ 2013-15 budget proposal.

Some of the cost would be offset by not administering the WKCE.

“There’s a cost to this. Quality does cost,” Evers said. “I think this is a huge step forward for Wisconsin to consistently address career and college preparation. This will be a priority moving forward.”

Under the proposal, ninth-grade students would take an ACT EXPLORE test in spring of the 2014-15 school year. The ACT PLAN test would be administered in 10th grade, and the actual ACT and WorkKeys assessments would be administered in 11th grade.

The WorkKeys test assesses students’ job skills and helps them prepare for the workforce whether they gain employment directly from school, learn a trade, or enter post-secondary education. The ACT EXPLORE and ACT PLAN tests help students identify areas for improvement, and guide their future course selection.

Waukesha Superintendent Todd Gray was supportive of the new testing program, commending the work of DPI and the taskforce.

“They are good tests," Gray said Wednesday night. "They are good measures of how our students are doing. And better than that, we’re all set for it. It won’t be much of a change for us at all.”

Evers said the current WKCE assessment doesn’t provide much incentive for students to do well. The ACT assessment; however, would count for the future educational goals of students and is a more accurate assessment of student learning.

“It will serve as a great early warning system for students, which will help us make sure they are planning in an effective way,” Evers said.

Approximately 61 percent of all the state’s high school students already take the ACT examination. Evers’ plan would ensure all students take it as part of their high school experience. In rural parts of the state many students lack access to ACT testing centers, but every school would become a certified testing center under his plan.

Having more students take the tests might drop the of the district, Gray said. However, the focus should be on what the district can learn from the additional testing.

“We do have good ACT scores," Gray said. "That percentage of students varies however, between 50 and 70 percent each year, so this will provide much broader scope of what we’re doing.”

We’ve seen that (drop) with other districts that have gone to 100 percent testing. But I don’t think that should be our focus. I think our focus should be getting that baseline information and improving on that each year.”

Several states have already mandated the ACT assessment for high school students. Milwaukee Public Schools have also required the ACT assessment.

“This budget proposal will meet the demand for accountability that matters,” Evers said. “The ACT suite will provide multiple measures of student achievement that give a picture of individual and school growth for high school accountability.”

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