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children taking assessment testOur mission is to empower educators and school leaders by improving instruction and student achievement through the use of data obtained from student testing. We provide the tools that help staff both understand assessment data and how to connect data to effective instructional practices. Ultimately, student achievement improves when assessment data is used systematically and strategically.

We believe in ethical use of assessments and data; decisions based on facts; collaboration; and connectivity among curriculum, assessment, instruction, and continuous improvement. We are committed to providing accurate, timely, and meaningful data that is easily accessible and user-friendly for schools.


Core activities:

  • Train school and district staff in the appropriate administration of assessments to ensure the accuracy and validity of assessment results
  • Ensure the alignment of assessment practices to academic standards
  • Provide instruction and support to educators and district leaders in the effective use of student academic data
  • Coordinate the processes for distribution and collection of all district assessments
  • Measure, collect, and provide expertise in student academic assessment results
  • Coordinate formal and informal assessments that drive the decision-making processes to achieve classroom, school, and district goals

Assessment Descriptions

Select the name of an assessment below to read a basic description. If you are looking for more information, please contact the Assessment Office.

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The ACCESS for ELLs is used to monitor students’ progress in acquiring academic English. The results aid in determining when ELLs have attained the language proficiency needed to participate meaningfully in content-area classrooms without program support and on state academic content tests without accommodations. It identifies the English language proficiency (ELP) levels of students with respect to the WIDA ELP Standards’ levels 1-6. ACCESS for ELLs is used for accountability purposes in adherence to U.S. federal law.

DPI Website

  ACT Aspire Early High School

ACT Aspire Early High School is a summative assessment that measures what students have learned in the areas of English, reading, math, science, and writing.

ACT Aspire Early High School is an online assessment. Only a small number of students who require testing in a specialized format, such as braille or large-print materials, or those students who require American Sign Language translation will be tested with a paper-and-pencil test.

ACT Aspire Early High School scores predict how a student will perform on both the ACT and ACT WorkKeys when they reach grade 11. Students who need academic interventions or challenges can be identified earlier in their high school careers.

DPI Website

  ACT Plus Writing

The ACT tests include reading, math, English, science, and writing. The ACT plus writing is a paper-and-pencil test.

The ACT plus writing helps students understand what they need to learn next so that they can build rigorous high school course plans and identify career areas that align with their interests.

Wisconsin high schools will be certified as ACT state testing sites. Scores from the administration of the ACT plus writing (if taken with ACT Standard Time or ACT-approved accommodations) can be used by students for a variety of purposes, including college admission, scholarships, course placement, and NCAA eligibility. 

DPI Website

  Civics Test

Starting with the class of 2017, students graduating from a Wisconsin high school must take a civics test composed of 100 questions that are identical to the 100 questions that may be asked of an individual during the process of applying for U.S. citizenship by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Students will meet the graduation requirement by correctly answering at least 65 of the 100 questions.

DPI Website


The CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test) assesses students’ abilities in reasoning and problem solving using verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal (spatial) symbols. It is used as a screener in 2nd grade to help identify students for possible eligibility for gifted and talented programs and may also be used to in other grade levels on an individual student basis. 


  Dynamic Learning Maps

The Dynamic Learning Maps assessment measures the academic progress of students with significant cognitive disabilities in the subject areas of ELA and mathematics at grades 3-11, in science at grades 4 and 8-11, and in social studies at grades 4, 8, and 10. This is an online assessment delivered via the computer; however, some students may need their teacher to present the items to them. The teacher will then enter the student’s response into the online platform.

DPI Website



The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the "Nation's Report Card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in school. The National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education is responsible by law for carrying out the NAEP project. It yields public school state results for grades 4 and 8 and public/nonpublic national results for grades 4, 8, and sometimes grade 12. As a part of NAEP, MPS also participates in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which is used to report on the performance of public school students at the district level.

DPI Website


  Reading Readiness

Wis. Stats. 118.016 requires each pupil enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten to 2nd grade in a school district or in a charter school to be annually assessed for reading readiness. Starting in 2021-2022, MPS will use a new combination of tools to meet these requirements at each grade level. 

DPI Website



Star is a district assessment used in 1st grade through high school. It is a computer-adaptive test used to screen students three times per year in the areas of early literacy, reading, and math. It is also used for progress monitoring of students who receive academic interventions. 

  Wisconsin Forward Exam

Since the 2015-2016 school year, students in the state of Wisconsin have been taking the Wisconsin Forward Exam. The exam is designed to gauge how well students are doing in relation to the Wisconsin Academic Standards and is administered in English language arts and mathematics in grades 3 through 8, in science in grades 4 and 8, and in social studies in grades 4, 8, and 10.

DPI Website




Dr. Melanie Stewart
Director of the Department of Research, Assessment, and Data
Phone: 414-475-8751

Natalie Collins, Ph.D.
Assessment and Data Manager
Phone: 414-475-8011

Bob Latterman, Ed. S.
Assessment Specialist
Phone: 414-475-8073

Jill Waltersdorf, M. Ed. 
Assessment Specialist
Phone: 414-773-9846


© Milwaukee Public Schools 2023
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