The state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released on Thursday the ACT test data from tests taken in the spring of 2017. Once again, students in the three private school voucher programs outperformed their public school counterparts.

Graphic by RightWisconsin

Composite ACT Scores Spring 201

“All three Parental Choice Programs, comprised predominately of low-income students, outscored their full-income, public school counterparts across the entire state on the ACT for the second year in a row,” Jim Bender said in a statement released Thursday.

As the chart to the right shows, students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) fared the worst of the three voucher programs but still scored significantly better than their Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) counterparts.

Justin Moralez of the American Federation for Children issued a statement Thursday praising the ACT results. “We recognize that a student’s education experience is not ultimately defined by test scores alone, yet these results show a consistent trend that those in the involved in the choice programs are excelling in academics despite financial limitations,” Moralez said.

“This is particularly notable because students involved in the Parental Choice Program are predominately low income and are still out scoring their full income counterparts,” Moralez said. “These results should be recognized as a win for all families and the entire concept of school choice.”

According to DPI, statewide public school students had a better composite score (20.0) compared to voucher schools statewide (17.9). However, the MPCP serves a disproportionately large segment of the state’s voucher population, throwing off the state voucher composite score.

Students in the three private school voucher programs also outperformed their public school counterparts on the state’s Forward Exam when students of similar demographics are compared.

“Combined with the Forward Exam, these results highlight the continued success of the program,” Bender said.

The Forward Exam, a statewide exam now in its second year of use, tests students on English/Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics for grades three through eight, science in grades four and eight, and social studies for students in grades four, eight, and 10.

Because the Milwaukee and Racine school choice programs disproportionately enroll students from disadvantaged economic backgrounds, a comparison can be made between voucher students and economically disadvantaged public school students.

So while it would appear that MPS students are barely outperforming their voucher school peers in ELA and math, a like comparison of students shows the voucher schools performing better in the three categories. Overall MPS students appear to be doing better in science, but a like comparison of students shows the voucher schools outperforming the public schools.

In Racine, even when socioeconomic backgrounds are not taken into account the students in the school choice program are outperforming their peers in the public schools in ELA, science and social studies.

The test results also show the achievement gap between minority and white students continues to be a significant problem in Wisconsin. “The math achievement gap among black and white students at MPS shrank slightly, from a 29.3 point gap last year to a 28.9 gap today,” Ola Lisowski at the MacIver Institute reports. “Still, just 8.4 percent of black students were proficient in math. The troubled district continues to underserve its students.”

“Statewide, the achievement gap between white and black students grew in English language arts and stayed stagnant in math,” Lisowski reported.

Updated to add the remarks from Justin Moralez of the American Federation for Children.