Proficiency Descriptors and Scale Scores for Reading


The Department of Public Instruction has established performance standards (cut scores) for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) Reading 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 Reading Scale Score by Grade

Performance Level Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8 Grade 10
Advanced 507-640 536-650 546-690 573-730 590-780 613-790 644-820
Proficient 475-506 498-535 503-545 525-572 535-589 548-612 566-643
Basic 445-474 462-497 464-502 479-524 486-534 493-547 496-565
Minimal Performance 270-444 280-461 290-463 300-478 310-485 330-492 350-495

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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