The Condition of Education in Wisconsin

WCER Working Paper No. 2020-12

Noah Hirschl and Eric Grodsky

December 2020, 73 pp.


This report presents a snapshot of selected features of the condition of education in Wisconsin in 2019. With support from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences, and in collaboration with colleagues at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the authors set out to measure practices in PK–12 education that they considered especially important for educational equity and success for children in Wisconsin.

Public school teachers and administrators in Wisconsin are responsible for educating about 855,000 students between four-year-old kindergarten and twelfth grade. State report cards produced annually by the Wisconsin DPI show how well we are doing as a school system with respect to student outcomes. In this paper, we focus on what principals and teachers in the state are doing. How do kindergarten teachers at both the four-year-old and five-year-old levels engage in play in their classrooms? How do elementary teachers group students for instruction and how frequently do they reconsider these groupings? What sorts of educational opportunities do teachers and schools offer their English language learners and their students with special needs? How supported do teachers feel in their early years in the profession? These are just a few of the questions we asked a representative sample of almost 700 principals and 2,200 teachers in the state.

This paper offers a big picture view of instructional practice and educational opportunity in Wisconsin. It makes no claims about what schools and teachers should do to increase equity and success for students in Wisconsin. Instead, it shines a light on the many ways our educators work to support students in the state and, we hope, offers insights into where we might do better.

Full Paper

keywords: instructional practices, education policy, 4K to Grade 12 education, public schools, educational opportunity