Posted on October 31, 2019

Wisconsin Again Has the Worst Gap in Academic Achievement Between Its Black and White Students

Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 30, 2019


Wisconsin also again bears the distinction of having the worst gap between black and white academic success of any state, according to new results of the National Assessment of Education Progress — known as the Nation’s Report Card.

Wisconsin has the highest percentage of black students exhibiting skills considered below a basic level, according to the assessment, taken by fourth and eighth graders earlier this year.

State superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, the first African American leader of the Department of Public Instruction, said the results indicate a “crisis.”

“We have work ahead to achieve our rigorous expectations,” she said in a statement. “Our persistent achievement gaps are a crisis. Closing these gaps is not only the right thing to do, it is imperative for our state.”


Black students in fourth and eighth grade posted the lowest average scores in reading nationwide, though DPI officials say the scores were not statistically different than fourth graders in seven other states and eighth graders in 29 other states.

In math, black fourth graders scored lowest among peers nationwide and fourth-lowest among black eighth graders. DPI officials also said those scores were not statistically different than many other states’ black students’ scores.


Even so, fewer than half of students who took the test are considered proficient in reading and math at both grade levels. In fact, the latest results show just 36% of fourth graders showed they have high reading skills.


Grim picture nationally

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called the overall results of the test known as the Nation’s Report Card “devastating.”

“This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students,” she said in a statement. “This must be America’s wake-up call. We cannot abide these poor results any longer. We can neither excuse them away nor simply throw more money at the problem.”

Nationwide, fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores have not progressed in a decade, despite the introduction of the Common Core curriculum, tougher teacher evaluations, and more frequent testing of students.


“It’s well past the time for politicians to scapegoat public schools and educators,” WEAC spokeswoman Christina Brey said. “Instead it’s time for them to bring forward ideas on how to work together in our communities and society so future generations have every opportunity to be successful. Betsy DeVos is wholly unqualified and galactically inexperienced to offer any insight into achievement gap issues.”