Academic Achievement

Relative to other states, student performance in Wisconsin is higher than average. Fourth and eighth grade students stand 5 and 6 percentage points above the national average, respectively, in the percentage at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam. The national average is 42% for 4th graders and 34% for 8th graders.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

Wisconsin earns a failing grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. For African-American 8th graders, only 9% score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam, and only 8% score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam.

Return on Investment

Student achievement in Wisconsin is average relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living. 

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

Wisconsin posts mediocre marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Wisconsin earns a very high grade preparing its students for college and careers. Twenty-two students out of 100 pass an AP exam, and the state’s high school graduation rate of 92% is above the national average.

21st Century Teacher Force

Wisconsin does a weak job of creating a strong teacher workforce. The Badger State struggles to remove ineffective teachers. 

Parental Options

Wisconsin does an average job providing parents with strong school choice options. Despite having one of the oldest voucher programs in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the state’s charter school law is relatively weak.

Data Quality

Wisconsin earns a very good grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. The state supports a longitudinal data system and links student performance data with teacher data.


Wisconsin receives a very poor grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. Despite the availability of a number of high-quality digital learning options, student enrollment is capped and the state’s funding stream could be improved.

International Competitiveness

Wisconsin earns a high grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy, with 35% of students proficient in reading and math compared with an international standard.

Fiscal Responsibility

Wisconsin receives excellent marks on fiscal responsibility. One hundred percent of the state’s pension is funded, and its most recent pension contribution was more than 100%.