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As I See It

Wisconsin’s achievement gap the widest in the nation

Scott Robert Shaw



Good news and bad news for Wisconsin as test scores are released. Fourth and eighth graders across the country take the annual test that measures their proficiency in things like reading and writing. When comparing the scores by state, Wisconsin eighth graders were near the top of the list in both reading and mathematics. This year’s test scores in Wisconsin were largely unchanged from the 2017 test scores. That is the good news. The bad news is that Wisconsin has the widest achievement gap between black and white students of any state. That is a title Wisconsin does not want to hold. Wisconsin Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Stanford Taylor rightly calls the achievement gap a crisis and says closing the gap is imperative for our state. But how to do that remains elusive. Wisconsin has long had a large gap in test scores between white and African-American students, but that gap is getting larger. One answer to closing this gap is to expand four-year-old kindergarten opportunities around the state. Stanford Taylor has called for that in her State of Education speech, and state legislators are considering a bill that could expand 4k around the state. Given Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of having the greatest disparity in test scores between black and white students, lawmakers should vote to expand 4k, which has been shown to increase literacy rates. Not doing so only increases the likelihood that this achievement gap will continue to grow.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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    November 2, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Unfortunately, average achievement gaps appear to be here to stay! And the racial gap obtains at all family income levels See https://lesacreduprintemps1…… It’s pertinent to note that the resistance of average performance on tests of reading writing and arithmetic is clearly documented. For example, data for a recent 30-year period indicate the stability of average performance of all students as well as students classified by race/ethnicity, on an internationally recognized test (the SAT).
    See table below, showing SAT Critical Reading averages for selected years. Note. Data for Asian-Americans indicate that they’re exceptions to that rule. Their average has improved steadily, and they’re now
    “leaders of the pack”.

    Table 1. SAT Critical Reading average, selected years
    1987 ’97 2001 ’06 ’11 ’15 ’16
    507 505 506 503 497 495 494 All students
    524 526 529 527 528 529 528 White
    479 496 501 510 517 525 529 Asian
    ……………………436 Hispanic
    457 451 451 454 451 448 Mex-Am
    436 454 457 459 452 448 Puerto R
    464 466 460 458 451 449 Oth Hisp
    471 475 481 487 484 481 447 Amer Ind
    428 434 433 434 428 431 430 Black
    SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
    Statistics.(2012).Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001), Chapter 2. SAT averages for college-bound seniors,by race/ethnicity: Selected years,1986-87 through 2010–11 Data for 2015&2016 https://nces.ed.gov/fastfac… 2016 data were not provided for Hispanic subgroups.
    If SAT averages haven’t changed materially over at least three decades, despite the effort, time and money expended to improve
    educational programs for all students, it seems reasonable to assume that we shouldn’t expect any meaningful change in average perrformance in the foreseeable future. There are some things
    that more funding can’t buy–an unpleasant truth.

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