Only 39 Percent of Wisconsin Public-School Eighth Graders Proficient in Math, Says Department of Education

February 22, 2011 - 1:23 PM

Wisconsin protest teacher

Protestors at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

(CNSNews.com) - Only 39 percent of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools are proficient or better in mathematics, according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.

In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year available—only 31 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 8 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 61 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 40 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 21 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”

The test also showed that the mathematics test scores of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders have remained almost flat since 1996 while inflation adjusted per-pupil spending has significantly increased.   

In 1996, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin public-school eighth graders scored an average of 283 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics test. In 2009, they scored an average of 288 out of 500. In other words, the average mathematics test score for Wisconsin eighth graders increased by 5 points out of 500—or one percentage point—from 1996 to 2009.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s per pupil spending on public school students increased from $6,517 in 1996 to $10,791 in 2008. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator the $6,517 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in 1996 dollars equaled $8,942 in 2008 dollars. That means that from 1996 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $1,849—or 20.7 percent--in real terms while adding only one percentage point to their average eighth grader’s math score.

The $10,791 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in its public elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year 2008 was more than any other state in the Midwest.

Nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education, public schools are not doing a good job teaching children to be proficient in math. The average American eighth-grade public school student scored 282 out of 500 on the NAEP mathematics test in 2009, with only 25 percent earning a “proficient” rating and only 7 percent earning an “advanced rating.” The other 68 percent of American eighth grader were rated less than proficient in math.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress explains its student rating system as follows: “Basic denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. Proficient represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Advanced represents superior performance.”

In fiscal 2008, the federal government provided $669.6 million in subsidies to the public schools in Wisconsin.