Assignment: Education – New Wisconsin assessment still measures Common Core

Wisconsin Forward Exam to replace Badger Exam this spring

Computers will once again be the tool students use to take the online statewide assessments this spring. But the actual testing software is changing from last year’s Badger Exam to the new Wisconsin Forward Exam which has some educators frustrated, because they won’t have comparative data.

“We didn’t learn anything from that last assessment, and we won’t,” said West Salem Superintendent Troy Gunderson. “So, all that time and money that went into that is wasted.”

The content and standards being tested in the new Wisconsin Forward Exam will be similar to the Badger Exam.

“They just don’t want to say it out loud,” said Gunderson. “The new test is going to measure the Common Core, just like the last one did. There is no reason to switch this.”

The Badger Exam suffered from problems with its rollout and was criticized by some parents, teachers and lawmakers. As part of Wisconsin’s 2015-17 budget, state government prohibited the Department of Public Instruction from using the Badger Exam.

In a written statement, Communications Officer Thomas McCarthy, with the Department of Public Instruction, says, “As with any change, there will be challenges and tradeoffs, but the department is confident that the preparation that went in to getting students ready for an online exam will not be in vain.”

Now with the new test chosen, the DPI will be working with Wisconsin educators to review the test, and teachers will once again prepare themselves and their students for a new assessment.

“I think we’ll go back to the drawing board with professional development,” said West Salem Elementary school teacher Andrea Ihle. “So, I think first and foremost, you have to have those teachers feeling comfortable so they can teach and engage the kids.”

Teachers know this is important, because their schools will be graded by the state based on this assessment.

“Public education is the largest slice of the state budget,” said Gunderson. “As taxpayers, we all have an interest in understanding, ‘Are we wasting that money or can the kids actually read when we’re done?’ So, testing them for that purpose, there’s some understanding to that. We should have some sort of accountability.”

But Gunderson cautions against over emphasizing a test that is intended to measure educators and school districts, not children.

“That test isn’t measuring their art skills, their speaking skills, their inventive skills, how they are working on a team building a robot, none of what employers think is important is measured by that. Not one thing really worth having, other than the basic skills of reading and arithmetic, are measured on that thing,” said Gunderson. “So, while important to understand are we doing those basic things, the real things that you should expect from our school district are measured in many, many different ways.”

The DPI will contract for the Wisconsin Forward Exam with a Midwestern company with offices in Wisconsin known as Data Recognition Corp.

The DPI also said this new test could save the state money.