West Allis-West Milwaukee WKCE scores below state average

April 15, 2014

West Allis — West Allis-West Milwaukee School District scores on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam hovered below the state average in all five subjects tested, and remained significantly below in reading and science.

Every fall, Wisconsin students take the WKCEs that test proficiency in reading, math, science, language arts, including spelling and grammar, and social studies. The goal is to see what percentage of students are working at or above grade level. Those are deemed to be either proficient or advanced.

In the previous 2012-13 school year, West Allis-West Milwaukee math and social studies scores were above the state average, but both slipped below the average last fall.

Ironically, the schools have been concentrating on both math and reading for the last year, but improvements have been elusive.

The proportion of students proficient or advanced in reading hasn't budged from the previous year to last fall. Johnna Noll, director of curiculum and instruction, said that with the emphasis reading has received, she had expected to see better results by last fall's WKCEs. That will take some looking into, she said.

School Board President Pat Kerhin was disappointed to see math slipping under the state average.

"Math has been a very key emphasis for the principals," she said.

However, what the larger numbers don't show, is that both high schools actually did better in both math and reading in the latest round of testing, Noll said.

Both Nathan Hale and Central improved their scores 6 percent in math, and Central's reading score rose 5 percent and Hale's rose 4 percent, she said. So, the gap between Hale and Central in terms of percentage of students proficient or advanced in reading closed slightly.

Like other schools, West Allis-West Milwaukee is in transition as state educators issue report cards for the schools themselves. On those report cards, overall WKCE scores count for only a quarter of the schools' "grades" so attention is being focused on other areas as well, Noll said.

Schools are now finding ways to make sure no student groups are disproportionately working below grade level, making sure there is growth and that all students are on track for jobs or college, she said.

"So every child does count," more than ever before, Noll said.

In a way, the West Allis-West Milwaukee schools are swimming upstream when it comes to getting all students at grade level, Kerhin said.

"We're steadily increasing our low-level poverty students," she said, where students come from homes that simply can't give them the push toward excellence they need because both parents work.

"We're an affordable community to live in; we are richer because of the diversity of families we have," she said, but she noted there are challenges that go along with that.

Even so, Kerhin is optimistic, saying the schools are on the right track with its new Next Generation Learning program of personalized learning.

"This is a really wonderful program," she said, with students progressing at their own rates. In the two years since the district started the program, more than 1,000 educators from other states and all over Wisconsin have come to see how it works, Kerhin said.

She predicted tangible results in statewide testing soon.

"As students become more confident and skilled in what they are doing, the test scores will rise," she said.



Percentage of Students Scoring Proficient or Advanced on 2013-14 WKCE





Language Arts

Social Studies


43.3 (40 percent previous year)

64.1 (62.3)

83.2 (82.9)

79.8 (76.8)

89.2 (87.9)


35.6 (33.8)

46.4 (46.3)

75.2 (79)

68.4 (70.6)

81.9 (83.7)

West Allis

32.7 (32.8)

46.8 (50)

69 (73.5)

67.3 (68.5)

80.8 (84.7)


36.6 (36.2)

48.6 (48.1)

76.5 (76.7)

70 (69.5)

82.8 (84.2)


59.7 (63.2)

73 (71.1)

93.5 (97)

94 (91)

97 (95)


*Kohler was added for comparison because it is traditionally one of the highest-performing schools in the state.

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