For all of the conversation around education, student proficiency and academic outcomes can often take a back seat. Worse, the conversation can be shrouded in myths and bad data.

WILL has authored the Apples to Apples report to provide true comparisons about academic achievement across school sectors. And WILL continues to make the case for policies that will place academic outcomes and student proficiency as a top priority.

Research and Analysis

Feds in the Classroom


October 2023 | Will Flanders 

Our analysis reveals that school choice represents an opportunity for thousands of Wisconsin kids to have a chance at a better education

Blog Post


Feds in the Classroom

Trust the Science? The Use of Outdated Reading Curricula in Wisconsin Schools

May, 2023 | Will Flanders and Matt LeVene 

In this policy report, we explore the correlation between the use of “Whole Language” lesson plans and lower reading proficiency, controlling for other factors.  

Press Release | Report 

Feds in the Classroom

Apples to Apples: Assessing Wisconsin’s State of Education

January 25, 2023 | Will Flanders 

WILL issued its fifth edition of the Apples to Apples report, an assessment of the state of education in Wisconsin. After a two-year pause due to COVID, the policy report resumed last year and now continues with data from the 2021-22 school year.

Press Release | Report 

Feds in the Classroom


October 25, 2022 | Will Flanders 

Despite declining scores across the board, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) attempted to paint a relatively rosy picture of the results for the state. On the surface, this information appeared to be true—Wisconsin 4th graders tied for 18th in reading and 8th graders tied for 9th. But a look below the surface reveals that Wisconsin families should be far more concerned than these rankings suggest.  


Feds in the Classroom

CRITICAL THEORIES HUMAN FLOURISHING Alternative Social-Studies Curricula for Wisconsin Schools

October 10, 2022 | Libby Sobic, Scott Niederjohn & Mark Schug 

In this paper we offer a number of ideas for Wisconsin school districts interested in a more hopeful social-studies curriculum, one which emphasizes free markets, free people, free enterprise, capitalism, and human flourishing. This paper is broken down into three sections: it begins with definitions and background, then we discuss “Flawed Curriculum and Textbooks” and then concludes with our longest section entitled “Hopeful Lessons for Social Studies Instruction.”


Feds in the Classroom

Analysis of 2021-2022 Student Proficiency

September 30, 2022 | Will Flanders 

WILL’s data analysis shows that the effects of the union-led school shutdowns are still being felt across the state.

Feds in the Classroom

The State of Education in Wisconsin

August 11, 2022 | Will Flanders and Dylan Palmer

How does Wisconsin stack up against other states in K-12 education? An eye-popping list from U.S. News and World Report ranked the Badger State K-12 system as the 8th best in the country. But this rosy picture contradicts other key indicators that Wisconsin students are falling behind. Will Flanders and Dylan Palmer cut through the noise to provide a clear look at public education in the Badger State.

Press Release | Report 

Feds in the Classroom

Apples to Apples: The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin for 2021

May 26, 2022 | Will Flanders

WILL issued the fourth edition of the Apples to Apples report, a definitive and objective analysis of Wisconsin school performance across sectors. This year’s report, the first in three years due to pandemic disruption of the Forward Exam, finds that Milwaukee’s choice and charter schools continue to perform better, on average, than traditional public schools in Milwaukee. But the pandemic has taken a toll as proficiency rates across all schools, statewide, has dropped below 40% for the first time.

Press Release | Report | Webinar

Feds in the Classroom

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations: Wisconsin’s Report Card “Fails to Meet Expectations,"

December 2, 2021 | Will Flanders

A new policy brief from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) highlights why the various elements of the report card intended to address persistent achievement gaps serve to create a scenario where schools with high numbers of low-income students can earn a passing grade, “Meets Expectations,” with academic proficiency rates of 10% or less.

Press Release | Report

Feds in the Classroom

Lost Kids: Exploring the Missing Results in Wisconsin’s Report Card

November 1, 2021 | Will Flanders

The recent release of 2020-21 Forward Exam results was largely characterized by gaps in the data due to a record number of students not taking the test. But those gaps tell a story. WILL Research Director, Will Flanders, examines the missing students and what their past performance could reveal about the true proficiency rates of Wisconsin students during the pandemic.

Press Release | Report

Feds in the Classroom

Needs Improvement: How Wisconsin’s Report Card Can Mislead Parents

September 16, 2020 | Will Flanders

This policy brief explains how Wisconsin’s school report cards, issued by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), currently work and identify ways to improve the report card to better reflect school performance. Without Forward Exam scores for the most recent school year, the legislature has a unique opportunity to improve the state report card with minimal disruption.

Press Release | Report

Two Madisons: The Education and Opportunity Gap in Wisconsin’s Fastest Growing City

August, 2019 | Will Flanders

Our report reveals a bifurcated school district where predominantly white, wealthy families attend top schools while low-income and minority students attend unsafe, low-quality schools.

Press Release | Report 


Apples to Apples: The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin for 2019

June 6, 2019 | Will Flanders

The 2019 Apples to Apples report finds, for a third year in a row, Wisconsin’s charter schools and private schools in the choice program are outperforming traditional public schools. These results, and many more, provide a clear, fair, and consistent look at Wisconsin’s schools, school sectors, and how they perform on a level playing field.

Press Release | Report

Roadmap to Student Achievement: Policies to improve student outcomes at Wisconsin K-12 schools

January 29, 2019 | CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic

WILL staff have spent more than two years conducting extensive interviews with school leaders, education advocates, and national think tanks in order to come up with serious policy recommendations on how to improve student achievement in Wisconsin. The “Roadmap to Student Achievement” is one of the most comprehensive reform agendas for Wisconsin that is publicly available.

Press Release | Report

Apples to Apples: The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin for 2018

April 17, 2018 | Will Flanders

WILL released its second annual report comparing school academic performance across Wisconsin, Apples to Apples. In this new peer-reviewed study, control variables—such as student economic status and demographics—are included to level the playing field and make the clearest possible comparisons between schools for policymakers and parents.

Press Release | Report

Apples to Apples: The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin 2017

March 1, 2017 | Will Flanders

This WILL study, for the first time using the most recent test score results, provides parents and policymakers with the clearest possible comparison of student outcomes in each school sector in Milwaukee – as well as in Wisconsin.

Press Release | Report

Apples-to-Oranges? When comparisons are made between MPCP and MPS schools

February 9, 2015 | CJ Szafir and Martin Lueken

Too often, the media and politicans average WKCE test scores according to each school sector, as if they are one homogenous unit. But, given the differences in private schools in the choice program and public charter schools – and the limitations of the WKCE testing, this is a flawed approach to comparing schools in Milwaukee. WILL’s newest policy brief (found here) shows a better way to form conclusions from the flawed WKCE data.

Press Release | Report

Media and Commentary

WILL Blog | New Study: Students in Milwaukee Choice Program More Likely to Graduate from Four-Year College

July 22, 2019 | Will Flanders

Washington Examiner | School choice works, but it could work better

April 18, 2018 | Will Flanders and Cori Petersen

Wisconsin State Journal | Study shows need to expand Wisconsin's choice program

March 24, 2017 | Will Flanders

National Review | New Evidence on School-Choice Successes in Wisconsin

March 8, 2017 | Will Flanders and Collin Roth

Wisconsin Public Radio | Study Shows Wisconsin Choice Schools Outperform Traditional Public Schools

March 2, 2017 | Avory Brookins

Share This