In a nutshell, after Jan. 31, 2014, anyone who wants to get a license that allows them to teach reading in Wisconsin will have to pass the Massachusetts test, with 100 multiple choice questions and two essay questions, aimed at making sure they are...
While I am concerned that students from impoverished communities fare poorly on these state competency tests--and I worry that students indentified with LD are often waived or excluded from appropriate minimum competency standards; I caution against allowing ourselves in education to aspire to mediocrity in our schools. These state competency tests were orginally set up as achievement "floors. " Now it seems the "floor" is out of reach in so many places! Our kids, our comunities and our nation require more of us. --Lou
"...Why Massachusetts? Because in the 1990s, Massachusetts launched initiatives, including requiring students to pass a high school graduation test, requiring teachers to pass licensure tests specific to the subjects they teach, and increasing spending on education, especially in schools serving low-income children.
At that point, Wisconsin and Massachusetts were pretty much tied, and down the list of states a bit, when it came to how students were doing. Within a few years, scores in Massachusetts rose significantly. The state has led the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math achievement for a decade. Wisconsin scores have stayed flat.
The new test for teachers was part of the 2011 "Read to Lead" initiative that found Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Tony Evers, the decidedly more liberal state superintendent of public instruction, cooperating on new ways to improve reading outcomes for Wisconsin kids.
"Decoding" is an important word. The multiple-choice question above comes from the practice test for the Massachusetts reading license, which is posted on the Internet. "Decoding" refers to converting the letters in a word into sounds so you can pronounce the word. It is emphasized in phonics-oriented ways to teach reading.
The reading wars of 20 years ago or so, when "whole language" advocates and phonics advocates went at each other, have become more muted, but they haven't gone away. Whole language — a term rarely heard now — referred to teaching kids to read largely by having them immerse themselves in reading, without emphasis on skills and drills on how to sound out words. Phonics referred to teaching kids in more systematic (advocates argue scientifically sound) fashions in which skill building is important.
Saying "decoding" is the correct answer is a way of saying the new tests move the needle in Wisconsin more toward the phonics side.
Steve Dykstra, an intense advocate on the phonics side and a leader of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, praised Evers and the DPI for setting the passing score at the Massachusetts level...."