By School Choice Wisconsin

Students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program continue to outperform their public school peers, says a new report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL).

Proficiency rates in private choice schools were 4.6% higher in English/language arts and 4.5% higher in math on average than proficiency rates in traditional public schools in Milwaukee, says the Apples to Apples report from WILL.

The report draws on data from the state Department of Public Instruction’s WISEdash system for the 2020­–21 school year.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • Forward Exam participation was higher in Milwaukee choice and charter schools. Compared to public schools, choice students in Milwaukee participated in the Forward Exam at a 46% higher rate. Independent charter school students participated at a 39% higher rate. The Forward Exam is an assessment designed to gauge how well students are doing in relation to the Wisconsin Academic Standards.
  • Charter school students in Milwaukee continue to outperform their public school peers. In both math and English/language arts, independent charter school students in Milwaukee saw about 2.6% higher proficiency on average than traditional public school students.
  • Statewide, choice students outperform their public school peers in English/language arts. Proficiency rates were about 4.6% higher for students participating in school choice statewide than traditional public school students. No difference was found in math performance.
  • For the first time, proficiency fell below 40% statewide in both math and English/language arts. Even accounting for test non-participation rates, proficiency in Wisconsin’s schools hit a record low in the 2020–21 school year.

WILL titles the report the “Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin for 2021.”

The report has returned after a three-year hiatus due to a dearth of data during the pandemic.

Demographic factors have historically played a major role in student performance, the report notes. In the report, WILL aims to incorporate demographic factors through “rigorous statistical modeling that controls for, and assesses the impact of, a number of student characteristics,” says the report.