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Wisconsin students' test scores increase, but are still below pre-pandemic levels

Wisconsin State Superintendent Jill Underly (far left) visits Milwaukee's Maryland Avenue Montessori on the first day of the 2023-2024 school year.
Emily Files
/
WUWM
Wisconsin State Superintendent Jill Underly (far left) visits Milwaukee's Maryland Avenue Montessori on the first day of the 2023-2024 school year.

Wisconsin students are getting closer to recovering from pandemic-related learning loss, according to new standardized test data from the Department of Public Instruction.

In assessments administered last spring, 39% of Wisconsin 3rd through 8th graders were proficient in English Language Arts and 41% were proficient in math. That’s still two percentage points behind pre-pandemic levels, but it’s a two-point gain from last year.

>> Explore school district achievement data here

Students in Wisconsin’s private school choice programs have also made incremental gains.

DPI Communications Director Abigail Swetz said in a press conference that Wisconsin students are still in “recovery mode.”

"Our test participation rates have increased and our test results are trending up for the most part," Swetz said. "We are moving in the right direction, but at the same time, have not reached our desired destination."

Not all students are recovering at the same rate. Wisconsin’s white students are improving faster than Black students, widening the state’s already enormous achievement gaps. For example, 8% of Black 3rd through 8th graders were proficient in math, compared to 50% of white students: a 42-point gap.

In Milwaukee, where most of Wisconsin’s Black students reside, 16% of students tested proficient in English and 11.5% were proficient in math.

MPS Director of Research, Assessment and Data Melanie Stewart said nationally, students’ math scores were hit harder than reading during the pandemic.

"Our dip in math, like everyone else in the country, was more than it was in reading," Stewart said. "So we have a little bit higher trajectory to make that gap-closing occur."

While districts work to catch students up, they’re facing headwinds, including state funding that hasn’t kept pace with inflation, teacher shortages, and higher rates of absenteeism.

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Emily is an editor and project leader for WUWM.
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