Wisconsin’s wide and persistent achievement gap between black and white students continues to be the largest of any state based on results of a test known as the nation’s report card.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress test results released Wednesday show no significant change from statewide results a decade ago.
However, declining scores for the lowest-performing students resulted in Wisconsin again having the widest achievement gap of any state, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.
Nationally, there were declines in performance in three of the four areas tested. Eighth-graders fell behind in reading and math, while fourth-graders dropped in math and showed a slight improvement in reading.
Students across the country made big gains in math in the 1990s and 2000s but have shown little improvement since then. Reading scores have risen a little since the tests began in 1992.
State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said in a statement that Wisconsin’s achievement gap is a crisis and closing it is “imperative for our state.”
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, test is given to fourth- and eighth-grade students every two years, assessing them in mathematics and reading.
In the last six times the NAEP tests were administered, Wisconsin has almost always had the widest racial achievement gap in both subjects and across both grade levels.
For the 2019 test, Wisconsin had the biggest gaps in math and reading among all states where data were available. The state also had or was tied for the worst gaps in both grades and in both subjects in 2015 and 2013.
Between 2009 and 2019, there were only three times when other states reported larger gaps in either subject and either grade.
The only other area in the country that consistently posts worse gaps between black and white students is Washington, D.C.
When looking at all students, Wisconsin’s scores were higher than the national averages in both grades and in both subjects.
A little more than a third of Wisconsin fourth-grade students scored proficient or better in reading, while about 38.5% of eighth-grade students scored at that level. On math, 44.8% of fourth-graders and 41.3% of eighth-graders were proficient or better.
The gaps between the percentage of white students and black students in Wisconsin who scored proficient or better on the 2019 tests ranged from a 31-point difference in fourth-grade reading to a 39-point gap in fourth-grade math.
African American students in Wisconsin in both fourth and eighth grades underperformed students nationally.
“We have work ahead to achieve our rigorous expectations,” Stanford Taylor said in a statement.
Nationwide, a little more than a third of eighth-graders are proficient in reading and math. About a third of fourth-graders are proficient in reading, while more than 40% of fourth-graders are proficient in math.
“This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said.
The test is administered to a representative sample in each state by the National Center for Education Statistics within the federal Department of Education. About 13,400 Wisconsin students took the NAEP test this spring.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.