WI Parents Win Changes to Test

K-12 Testing

Wisconsin assessment reform advocates are calling recent changes to the state’s testing laws a major victory for parental efforts against high-stakes tests.


Last summer, both houses of the legislature agreed to discontinue the graduation test and amend provisions requiring a minimum score on the test for promotion (see Examiner, Summer 1999). These reforms were weakened by Governor Thompson and legislative leaders.The final version of the state budget reinstates funds to develop the graduation test.


However, advocates point to several new provisions which effectively end high-stakes reliance on the exam. Each local school board will be required to develop its own criteria for granting a high school diploma. The test will be used as only one factor, along with teacher recommendations, academic performance and other criteria set by the local school board. A similar proposal was adopted regarding grade promotion for 4th and 8th grade students.


“We are delighted with this outcome,” explained Connie Gavin of Advocates for Education, a leader in the statewide parents’ efforts. “This takes care of a child who can master the standards but whose abilities will not show up on a test, which was always one of our major concerns. It also takes care of some of the pressure on our schools to teach to the test.”


Parents also retained the right to opt their children out of the test, a provision Governor Thompson had strongly opposed. Given the high probability that Thompson would have vetoed any legislation repealing the graduation test, advocates claim the result is a clear victory.


“Parents participated and made a huge difference,” Gavin commented. “We hope that this victory will convince them to stay involved.” She credited compelling testimony from “real parents about what the test will do to their children” as being a deciding factor in the successful campaign.