State testing proposal no surprise to MCPASD

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Tony Evers' announcement on Wednesday that Wisconsin public high schools administer four tests as part of a career planning and accountability initiative didn't take the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District by surprise.

"We've been doing this for five years,'' Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services George Mavroulis said.

Evers' proposal would have all ninth-graders take the ACT EXPLORE assessment in the spring of 2014-15 school year. The ACT PLAN would be given to 10th-graders and the ACT and WorkKeys assessments would be administered to 11th-graders.

MCPASD has ninth- and 10th-graders take the PLAN test, while juniors take a practice ACT, which doesn't give them an official score but is identical to the ACT. The testing is part of the district's own College and Career Readiness (CCR) assessment program.

"We have eighth-graders take the EXPLORE test, too,'' he said.

Mavroulis said the district decided to have MHS ninth-graders stop taking the EXPLORE and switch to the PLAN recently. "We had so many kids topping out that it didn't make sense. We're moving to the PLAN because of its higher ceiling.''

There are a couple of benefits for the district because of the announcement, Mavroulis said. The state is proposing administering the tests, which would cost approximately $7 million annually. Evers' proposal is part of his 2013-15 education budget.

"This could save us money,'' Mavroulis said.

In addition, the proposal would mean the district could compare its scores in each grade against other districts in the state. Currently, MHS compares scores with a number of Dane County schools, including Monona Grove, Waunakee and Verona.

"This would give us a state-wide system for doing that,'' he said. "We think that's a good thing.''

MHS freshman and sophomores will take the PLAN test, while juniors take a practice ACT test on the morning of Sept. 19. Kromrey and Glacier Creek eighth-graders will take the EXPLORE test on Sept. 19, too.

About 61 percent of Wisconsin public high school graduates take the ACT. The ACT is a benchmark for college readiness. In late August it was announced that MHS had the third-highest ACT composite average in the state out of more than 400 schools for the second straight year.

At least 12 states use EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT as part of their state testing program. The EXPLORE test is designed to help students explore high school and post-high school options. The PLAN helps students continue coursework selection and planning for college and career readiness. Both tests also prepare students for the ACT.

Under Evers' proposal, the costs for 11th-graders to take the ACT would be paid by the state and used for state and federal accountability requirements. Students who take the ACT more than one time to improve their score for college admission purposes would pay for each additional assessment.