Forward Exams This Month Grades 3-8, Results Will Indicate If Wisconsin Students Are Improving Academically
March 16, 2023

Tamira Musgrave


Every year, except when they were canceled in 2020, students in Wisconsin take a series of standardized tests to assess their proficiency in various subjects. These test results are a tool to gauge a student’s academic progress and the overall effectiveness of Wisconsin’s K-12 education system.

These testing standards outline what students should know and what they should be able to do, skills that will prepare them for college and their future careers. The forward exam is given to students in grades 3-8 and ten. 

In 2023, English Language Arts Proficiency was 27.5%, down 5.4 points and a 16.41% decrease from 2019. Math proficiency was also down, at 27%, 7 points lower than in 2019, a 20.59% decrease. These numbers observe proficiency rates as a percentage of total students in Wisconsin, not just those tested.

The 2022 standardized test results revealed significant academic declines and gaps during the pandemic. Concerning math and language arts tests for grades 3-8, less than half of Wisconsin students were deemed proficient. A drop of around 10% compared to 2019. 

Only 39% of WI students scored proficient or higher in math on the spring 2022 forward exams, compared to 43% in 2019, and around 37% were proficient in English language arts, down from 41% in 2019. 

The grading metric isn’t harsh; a student deemed proficient on the Forward Exam means they are operating a grade level. Unfortunately, the numbers represent a shocking one-third of students in Wisconsin being proficient in math or reading and writing.

The Governor has been pumping billions of dollars into the public education system and already has planned to allocate more, yet we still see these concerning numbers. With such a steady and heavy flow of resources, it’s not surprising that parents and Republican legislative leaders want to see better results.

This year, the testing will begin on March 20, 2023. The testing windows typically run from mid-March through April. This forward exam will provide us with further insight into whether Wisconsin students are recovering and improving and whether or not the consistent funding is positively impacting these numbers. 

What is The Wisconsin Forward Exam?

The Wisconsin Forward Exam is an element of the WI Student Assessment System (WSAS); it consists of tests designed to assess students beginning in grade 3. The exam covers English language arts, math, science, and social studies. 

The forward exam tests the following subjects and grade levels:

  • English Language Arts (3-8)
  • Mathematics (3-8)
  • Science (4 and 8)
  • Social Studies (4, 8, and 10)

The online platform for administering the exam includes accommodations and support for English language art learners and disabled students. Qualifying students with significant cognitive disabilities can take the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), the state’s alternative assessment. The DLM offers students the option of one-on-one instead of online for those needing additional support and assistance. 

In grades 9 and 10, students take the “PreACT Secure” exam, which covers English, reading, math, and science. This exam provides insight into how students will perform on the “ACT with Writing” exam in grade 11. In addition, ACT results can help students and educators identify weaknesses that must be addressed. 
Visit the Wisconsin DOE website for more information on state assessment windows. In addition, individual Student Reports and summary reports will likely be available electronically in the DRC Insight Portal in late June.

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