Proficiency Descriptors and Scale Scores for Mathematics

The Department of Public Instruction has established performance standards (cut scores) for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) Mathematics content area to more closely align with national and international expectations of what is required to be college and career ready. The higher cut scores are comparable to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) cut scores. The performance level descriptors that accompany the college and career ready cut scores have been revised to reflect the higher expectations required with these higher performance benchmarks.


WKCE Mathematics Scale Score by Grade

Performance Level Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8 Grade 10
Advanced 492-630 526-650 553-680 573-700 591-710 605-730 618-750
Proficient 438-491 474-525 501-552 524-572 544-590 558-604 574-617
Basic 388-437 425-473 449-500 475-523 500-543 510-557 528-573
Minimal Performance 220-387 240-424 270-448 310-474 330-499 350-509 410-527

These new WKCE cut scores and performance level descriptors will serve as a bridge to the more rigorous Smarter Balanced assessments, which will be introduced in the 2014-15 school year. Smarter Balanced is developing assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics—academic standards that are designed to help prepare all students to graduate from high school college and career ready.

WKCE Performance Levels:

  • Advanced - Students at this level demonstrate a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of rigorous subject matter and provide sophisticated solutions to complex problems.
  • Proficient - Students at this level demonstrate a solid understanding of challenging subject matter and solve a wide variety of problems.
  • Basic – Students at this level demonstrate partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work.
  • Minimal Performance – Students at this level demonstrate limited knowledge and skills in the subject matter and limited ability to apply knowledge and skills effectively.


Several steps were taken to arrive at the new college and career ready cut scores for the WKCE. Percentile ranks of Wisconsin students’ performance on the 4th and 8th grade Spring 2011 NAEP administration and on the WKCE for the past five administrations were used. Statistical processes were used to establish WKCE cut scores for grades 3, 5, 6, 7, and 10. These steps were reviewed by DPI’s Technical Advisory Committee, as well as a number of other assessment experts, and were approved by the US Department of Education as part of Wisconsin’s ESEA Waiver application.

Please note that these cut score changes and the performance level descriptors do not apply to the alternate assessment (WAA-SwD).




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