Badger Exam and ASPIRE
District Administrator Gary Hansen
Wisconsin news has been flooded with the topic of testing in public schools lately, especially with all the political debates regarding the Badger Exam and whether we should continue using it or not. Due to all the controversy and concerns associated with the Badger Exam, I thought you might be interested in knowing how the exam played out with the students here in the Rosendale-Brandon School District.
Our district is structured in such a way that we have a District Assessment Coordinator (DAC) and each building has a School Assessment Coordinator (SAC). Guidance Counselor Mary Verch is our DAC, responsible for testing procedures on a district level, attending all the preparation workshops, and training our SAC’s, who are again Verch at the Brandon School, Guidance Counselor Tom Teofilo and Media Specialist Cindy Bailey at Rosendale Primary and Intermediate Schools, and Guidance Counselor Diane Raue at Laconia High School.
You’ve heard me speak for years about the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) and MAPS testing, of which Mary Verch has been heavily involved. While MAPS testing continues to be used here at Rosendale-Brandon for 1st – 8th grade students, the state of Wisconsin has replaced the WKCE with the Badger Exam. The Badger Exam is an English/Language Arts (ELA) and Math exam for grades 3-8, of which, as I mentioned earlier, has received quite a bit of controversy.
Despite all the state rambling, I’m told by our DAC and other staff that students faired quite well. The students did mention it was a bit challenging, but the way I see it, if we are going to be testing, some difficulty is not all bad. The problem I do have, however, is there is a good possibility the exam will no longer be continued in its current form, which means that the district won’t be able to develop a longitude measure.
Meanwhile at the high school, this is the first year the state has required all freshman and sophomores to take the ASPIRE test. Unlike the Badger Exam, ASPIRE has remained under the media and legislative radar, and therefore the test will likely continue from year to year. Consisting of five different areas for testing, (reading, math, science, writing, and English), this is a very helpful test for all freshman and sophomores because it is in line with the American College Test (ACT) which is used by juniors and seniors for college entrance. ASPIRE is entirely computerized and each of the five testing areas vary in that some questions require a multiple choice answer, some require written response, some take as little as 30 minutes to complete and others as much as 65 minutes. Taking the ASPIRE test at the 9th and 10th grade level is of great value to the students as it provides them with better insight as to whether they are on track for college, and offers suggestions for improvement in the student’s area(s) of weakness. It also holds value for the district as it identifies individual students to whom we can provide extra help on a certain skill or concept. The results from the ASPIRE test provide helpful information for shaping our curriculum to address areas where we see a larger number of students needing assistance. Even though this is the first year of ASPIRE, we are pleased to see it continue and the value it is sure to provide the students and district.
All in all it seems the testing dog’s bark was worse than its bite. Both the ASPIRE test and the Badger Exam were received by the students with little complaints, and on the technology front we had fewer problems than what other districts reported. That’s not to imply we were trouble free, rather that our technology department was able to resolve the glitches we did encounter and students were able to complete all testing sessions in a timely manner.
As I write this, we are now hearing talk that the ASPIRE might possibly take the place of the Badger Exam, which means it will cover grades 3-10, and better prepare students for the ACT in grades 11 and 12. In my opinion, this makes good sense.