Common Core Advocate Tony Evers Plans to Run for Wisconsin Governor

I’ve written several articles about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s treatment of Common Core. His record on Common Core is a mixed bag and, in my opinion, he has not done enough to rid the state those standards. Dr. Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, is a Democrat who plans to officially announce tomorrow that he is challenging Walker. His record is abundantly clear he is the man solely responsible for bringing Common Core into the state.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal reports:

State schools superintendent Tony Evers will formally announce his gubernatorial run Wednesday, making him the third Democrat to commit to a bid and the first statewide office holder to challenge GOP Gov Scott Walker.

Evers, who heads the state Department of Public Instruction, will announce his run at a suburban Madison park for children, according to an email sent to supporters Sunday and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The venue at McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg will highlight Evers’ main credential for voters – his years working on behalf of children as a local school leader and state education official.

“On Wednesday, Tony will officially announce his run for governor because we need a real change here in Wisconsin. That change starts with putting our kids first, investing in our schools, and rebuilding Wisconsin’s middle class,” according to an email sent from the personal account of Jeff Pertl, a top aide to Evers in the superintendent’s office.

The Evers campaign had no comment except to note that Pertl is a volunteer.

They note that Evers has been criticized for adopting Common Core, as well as, the rollout of the state’s new computer-based test. He has to win the Democrat primary first before he can challenge Walker in the general election.

If he wins the primary and then loses the general election he’ll be out at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Common Core opponents have the opportunity to run candidates for that position who will work with the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor Walker to repeal Common Core (provided they truly want to do that). You may remember that Evers threatened to sue if the Legislature and Walker repealed Common Core claiming he had sole authority over academic standards in the state.

Common Core: A Serious Problem for Governors in 2016

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Common Core has been a thorn in Jeb Bush’s presidential campapign
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

It has taken a while for the mainstream media to focus on the effect Common Core has had on Republican presidential campaigns. But Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, in discussing the unexpected weakness and in some cases collapse of candidates who were or are governors, has drawn the connection between a governor’s support of Common Core and his political fortunes.

As Barnes notes, governors can present themselves as more experienced and reliable since they’ve had to make decisions and run things, not just talk about what they would do if given an executive position. But when they act against the wishes of their states’ citizens on something as critical as education, those citizens sound the alarm about the true nature of this Man Who Would Be President. And with the pro-Constitution, anti-Common Core movement connected by such national networks as TAE, there’s nowhere for the offending governor to hide.

The worst miscreant on the Common Core front, of course, is former Gov. Jeb Bush. Anyone who has attended anti-Common Core rallies in critical electoral states such as Ohio knew from the outset that Bush had no chance with the base (he could have saved a lot of time and money if he had consulted us before launching his campaign). Bush has been Mr. Common Core from the beginning, and nothing he could do or say would change that.

And speaking of Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has achieved the distinction of alienating his constituents on Common Core more than any other candidate. Ohioans not only reject his support of Common Core, they quite properly resent his sneering disdain for their concerns. You may notice the absence of a groundswell for Kasich (even, or perhaps especially, in Ohio).

Then there are the governors such as Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie who initially embraced Common Core but tried to walk back their support. For years Jindal gave the impression that he wasn’t really focused on education issues, and he may truly have seen the light and tried to undo the damage (even with a federal lawsuit), but it was hard for him to erase the lingering distrust of Louisiana parents who tried so hard to get his attention earlier. Christie, on the other hand, has focused less on the unconstitutionality and philosophical deficiencies of Common Core and more on problematic “implementation.” Suggesting that an unconstitutional monstrosity would be fine if it were properly implemented has greatly diminished Christie’s appeal to the Republican base.

Scott Walker is in a category by himself. Having blown both hot and cold on the issue, Walker finally settled into an embrace of “state control” over standards and said the right things against Common Core.  But the anti-Common Core activists in Wisconsin recognized – and repeatedly warned the national networks – that Walker not only was not helping rid the state of Common Core, but he or his people were working behind the scenes to defeat attempts to replace the national standards with superior state standards. The implosion of the Walker campaign began – coincidentally? – about the time these warnings were circulated.

The only governor whose campaign crumbled despite his true anti-Common Core bona fides was Rick Perry. But a compelling argument can be made that Perry’s fall was precipitated more by lingering memories of his campaign stumbles from four years ago than by any of his current positions.

The lesson here is that candidates act at their peril when they ignore parents’ concerns about their children. Add those concerns to worries about threats to the rule of law and to our constitutional structure, and you have a potent force that can sink – and have sunk – political fortunes.

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul Receive an A – on Common Core Report Card


U.S. Senator Rand Paul, along with Ted Cruz, received an A-.

ThePulse2016, American Principles in Action, and Cornerstone Policy Research released  a Common Core score card on all of the major Republican candidates minus former New York Governor George Pataki and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.  Leaders are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) received an A-, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal received a B+.  On the other end of the spectrum former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich received an F.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie receive a D+.  Surprisingly, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio received a C.

Here are the candidates’ grades:

A- … Ted Cruz
A- … Rand Paul
B+… Bobby Jindal
B  … Lindsey Graham
B  … Rick Perry
B  … Rick Santorum
B- … Ben Carson
B- … Donald Trump
C+… Carly Fiorina
C  … Mike Huckabee
C  … Marco Rubio
D+… Chris Christie
D+… Scott Walker
F  … Jeb Bush
F  … John Kasich

Full disclosure: I was a contributor for the report that accompanies the report card, but I did not determine the final grade.

The criteria used was:

  1. Whether the candidate recognizes the full scope of the Common Core issue and has advocated for, or taken, action that would roll back the Common Core education standards.
  2. Whether the candidate has advocated for protecting, or taken steps to protect, state and local decision-making in the area of education, e.g., offered a plan to give states enforceable protection against USED overreach, to opt out of the USED, unwind USED as a whole, etc.
  3. Whether the candidate has advocated for protecting child and family privacy, for example by opposing improper gathering and use of data including student medical information and any information that would reflect a student’s psychological characteristics or behaviors.

They could have included more criteria and noted in the scorecard report, “Due to time constraints, we did not include categories that could rightly be included in a Common Core scorecard. Those include initiatives that expand government-funded early childcare and the alignment of education to a national workforce system. Those initiatives will require increased data collection. The latter one will also entail the continuation of federal efforts to shape state “workforce investment” efforts that are an affront to state sovereignty and capitalism and that treat children and adults as human capital–as a means to an end.”

They also explain the grading:

  • A  Champions the issue (e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue)
  • B  Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it
  • C  Has neither helped nor hurt the cause
  • D  Has an overall negative record on the issue
  • F  Robustly and consistently works against the issue

Below are excerpts of what was said about each candidate in the report:

Jeb Bush – F

Gov. Bush is perhaps the most outspoken supporter of the Common Core Standards in the 2016 field. He has publicly praised David Coleman, one of the two chief architects of the Common Core (who is now chairman of the College Board). He has propagated the false narrative that the Common Core standards are merely learning goals and are of high quality.91 He has turned a blind eye to the reasons underlying opposition to Common Core and instead used straw-man arguments to dismiss opponents as relying on “Alice-in- Wonderland logic.

Ben Carson – B-

As a non-office-holder, Carson is pretty much limited to speaking on the issues. He says the right things but has given no indication of a deep understanding of Common Core or the attendant problems.

Chris Christie – D+

We would look for Christie to lead the effort to replace the Common Core in New Jersey with good standards – not just a “review” leading to a rebrand – and to replace PARCC with an assessment aligned to the new standards. His statement, in a thinly veiled reference to Gov. Perry, that at least he tried Common Core is particularly troublesome.116 It indicates that he does not understand how the federal government interferes with state decision- making, does not appreciate the academic deficiencies of the Common Core, and does not understand why parents are upset.

Christie epitomizes “making a big issue into a small issue.” His website does not address Common Core and does not address his view as to the relationship between USED and the states on education. Does he think it is just fine? Does he think the states need structural protections? Does he want to eliminate USED? Perhaps make it bigger? These are campaign issues, and the people want to know.

Ted Cruz – A-

We encourage Sen. Cruz to spell out in greater detail his plans for reigning in the federal government, to talk about the nexus between Common Core’s quality and the perversion of our constitutional structure and to raise the issues with accurate specifics rather than to talk about “repealing” Common Core. Does Cruz have further proposals to safeguard state and local decision-making and protect parental rights? His website does not address the Common Core issues, does not say anything about student and family privacy, and does not address his views as to the relationship between the federal government and the states with regard to education.

Carly Fiorina – C+

Fiorina’s website states, “Government is rigged in favor of powerful interests. The only way to reimagine our government is to reimagine who is running it.” She would do well to address these issues more often and in more detail -especially given that the Common Core is being driven by the “powerful interests” that claim to serve the interests of the economy and business. Fiorina would do well to discuss the issue in more depth, to raise the qualitative problems, and to state whether she has any proposals to safeguard state decision-making.

Lindsey Graham – B

Graham seems to understand the issues with Common Core today, but it is unfortunate this opposition did not come sooner. He missed an early opportunity to strike at the Common Core in 2013 by not co-signing a letter penned by Senator Chuck Grassley to the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education that called for language to prohibit the use of federal funding to promote the Common Core, end the federal government’s involvement in the Common Core testing consortium, and prevent the United States Department of Education from rescinding a state’s No Child Left Behind waiver if it repealed Common Core.

Mike Huckabee – C

Gov. Mike Huckabee has a checkered past on the issue of the Common Core. Once an ardent supporter of the system, he now claims that the original “governor-controlled states’ initiative” eventually “morphed into a frankenstandard that nobody, including me, can support.” However, as recently as 2013, Mike Huckabee told the Council of Chief State School Officers to “[r]ebrand [Common Core], refocus it, but don’t retreat.”

As the campaign approached, Huckabee began to be more consistent in his opposition (although he was still giving a nod to the supposedly pure origins of the Common Core).

Bobby Jindal – B+

Jindal was an early supporter of Common Core. But in 2014 he come out swinging against it, although he occasionally lapses into a narrative that it was the federal involvement that made it bad. He supported legislation to rid his state of Common Core. He has also sued USED in federal court on the grounds that the Department’s Race to the Top programs was coercive, violates federal law, and is contrary to the Constitution. Jindal stumbled out of the gate on Common Core, but he has righted himself and has admirably pushed back against the federal overreach.

John Kasich – F

Like Bush, Kasich is an unapologetic cheerleader for the Common Core. His only response to the large and active anti-Common Core grassroots operation in Ohio is to make fun of them.

Rand Paul – A-

Sen. Rand Paul supported Senator Grassley’s effort to defund the Common Core in 2013 and 2014. He co-signed a letter penned by Senator Chuck Grassley to the chair and vice- chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education that called for language to be included prohibiting the use of federal funding to promote the Common Core, ending the federal government’s involvement in the Common Core testing consortium and preventing USED from rescinding a state’s No Child Left Behind waiver if it repealed Common Core. Sens. Paul and Cruz are the only senatorial candidates for president who co-signed Grassley’s letter.

Paul has paid more attention to the Common Core issue than most other candidates and has spoken forcefully against it.

Rick Perry – B

Gov. Rick Perry is one of the few candidates, declared or prospective, who has opposed the Common Core from the outset. As Governor, Rick Perry signed HB 462, which effectively banned the Common Core from being adopted in Texas…

…With regard to privacy, in 2013 Perry signed HB 2103, which created a data-sharing agency for educational data governed by an appointed board rather than the state educational agency. It appears that the data can only be shared within the state- with the exception of inter-state sharing with other state departments of education. Among other problems, it allows unfettered data-sharing among agencies designated as “cooperating agencies” –the Texas Education Agency, the state higher-ed authority, and the Texas Workforce Commission. It allows any researcher (no parameters on who is a legitimate researcher) to get data if he uses “secure methods” and agrees to comply with the ineffective federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It requires each participating state agency to make data available for the preceding 20 years, and allows data-sharing agreements with “local agencies or organizations” that provide education services if “useful to the conduct of research.”

Marco Rubio – C

Sen. Marco Rubio has spoken strongly against Common Core and wrote a letter to Secretary Duncan in 2011 questioning the legality of using federal No Child Left Behind waivers to drive policy changes, like the adoption of Common Core, in the states…

…Rubio’s official website does not specifically address the issue of Common Core. However, it does states that in order to prepare people to “seize their opportunities in the new economy,” high schools should graduate more students “ready to work.” It is hard to parse from this general statement what the education policies would look like under a Rubio Administration. What does Rubio believe would validate a student as “work ready”? Would it be the further alignment of our K-12 education system to the projected demands of specific sectors of the economy to train workers for favored big-businesses, which would mean more of the Chamber of Commerce-endorsed Common Core? Or, does it mean aligning education to the demands of parents and the local community as a whole, which would mean more local control? It would behoove Senator Rubio to answer these questions and to discuss the qualitative aspects of the Common Core and whether he believes the federal involvement helped, or hurt, the quality of the standards.

Rick Santorum – B

Santorum’s website addresses the problem of Common Core in terms of both federal overreach and the substance of the standards. While many other candidates do the former, few address the latter…

…Although Santorum voted for No Child Left Behind when it passed the Senate in 2001, he has since described that vote as “a mistake.” We give a candidate credit for truly admitting a mistake.

Donald Trump – B-

Trump has struck a chord with the Republican base, something many would have thought unlikely a year ago. Citizens view him as having the courage and will to stand and fight, something that many GOP candidates have seemed to lack in years past. As the primary cycle wears on, the base will want to hear more detail from Trump as well as other candidates. The candidate who does this will engender the gratitude of parents and other citizens. Trump would do well to blaze the trail on this.

Scott Walker – D+

Until recently, Governor Walker’s rhetoric on Common Core has been good. He admits that, when he ran in 2010, it wasn’t on his radar and that’s certainly understandable given how the standards were pushed into the states. He rightly gives credit to the state’s citizens for making it an issue, something that may not seem like a big deal, but it is to activists who have been ridiculed as irrational by elitists in both parties…

Sometimes legislation gets watered down despite the intrepid efforts of its proponents. At other times, a nominal proponent gives it lip service but fails to fight and, thereby, actually signals that he will not raise an objection if the legislation is defeated or watered down. On the Common Core, Walker is in the latter category…

You can read the entire report below.

Scott Walker’s Veto on State Assessment Budget Language

Photo credit: Kelvey Vander Hart

Photo credit: Kelvey Vander Hart

I would be remiss not to point out a line-item veto that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made in the budget bill he signed.  He made 104 line-item vetoes in the bill and one of them had to do with assessments.

Walker stated he presented a budget which “(i)ncreases local control by affirming the authority of school districts to choose their own academic standards, provides a pathway to offering multiple student assessment options and prevents the mandatory application of the national Common Core Standards.”

In his veto message he said (pg. 3) he then vetoed language in the bill that would have prevented that.

  1. Statewide Assessment System

    Sections 3248b [as it relates to renumbering s. 118.30 (1) (a)] and 3248c

    These sections require the State Superintendent to review and adopt a summative examination system to be administered beginning in the 2015-16 school year to pupils in grades 3 through 10 in the subjects of English, reading, writing, science and mathematics. The State Superintendent must ensure that each examination adopted or approved under the system satisfies the assessment and accountability requirements under federal law. Additionally, the State Superintendent must ensure that the summative examination system adopted or approved meets the following criteria:

    (a) the system is vertically scaled and standards-based; (b) the system documents pupil progress toward national college and career readiness benchmarks derived from empirical research and state academic standards; (c) the system measures individual pupil performance in the subject areas of English, reading, writing, science and mathematics; (d) the system provides for the administration of examinations primarily in a computer-based format but permits examinations to be administered with pencil and paper in certain limited circumstances; and (e) pupil performance on examinations adopted or approved under the system serves as a predictive measure of pupil performance on college readiness assessments used by institutions of higher education.

    I am partially vetoing section 3248b as it relates to renumbering s. 118.30 (1) (a) and vetoing section 3248c in its entirety. This provision is unnecessary and would have codified assessment criteria in state law that are closely aligned with national standards I oppose and which local school districts should not be mandated to adopt. Ultimately, local school boards across Wisconsin should be able to determine what test they administer and what standards they adopt. 

The emphasis is mine.  It is important to hold elected officials accountable, but it is also important to point out when they have done the right thing.  He defunded Smarter Balanced, and now he is trying to make sure, within his power, that schools will be able to select the assessment they use.

I have to give him kudos for that.

This precedes a trip he made to Iowa last week where he railed against a “nationwide school board.”

During a speech at the grand opening of his Iowa campaign headquarters last Thursday, Walker appealed to local control.

“Going forward I believe in high standards, but I think those standards should be set at the local level – no Common Core, no nationwide school board. We need to take money and power out of Washington and send it back to our states and back to our schools where it is more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the American taxpayers out there,” Walker said.

Has he done everything possible to rid Wisconsin of Common Core? I don’t know for certain. I do know, and it seems to be something his critics are unwilling to acknowledge, is that he does not have the final say over standards and assessments.  Dr. Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, does, but Walker can control the budget through the power of the veto pen and it appears he has done just that.

Update: First, I want to make it abundantly clear that this isn’t an endorsement or that I think Walker has done everything in his power to get rid of Common Core.

Second, I had the following point brought up in an email.

“If he doesn’t have any power how can he propose vouchers  and teacher accountability? To believe his statement would mean he has no control over multi-billion department. Further there would be no need for the Senate and assembly education committee.”

That is a good point. Vouchers, one could argue, is a budget concern which is part of the legislature’s and governor’s purview.  Teacher accountability on the other hand… if the legislature and governor can direct this there isn’t any reason they can’t impact standards and assessments.  If I were a Wisconsin resident I’d want the Legislature to challenge Evers on this even if it does mean a lawsuit.  As was mentioned in a different email, Evers is not an emperor.

Wisconsin Common Core Opt-Out vs. School Accountability

wisconsin-state-flagThe Wisconsin Legislature Joint Committee on Finance is currently considering AB 21, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s budget bill, which according to the Legislative Reference Bureau does a couple of different things related to Common Core.

First it prohibits the State Superintendent of Public Instruction from approving any assessment developed by Smarter Balanced.

Current law requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (state superintendent) to approve examinations for measuring pupil attainment of knowledge and concepts in the 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grades. With certain exceptions, current law requires school districts, private schools participating in a parental choice program (PCP), and independent charter schools to administer the examination approved for each grade by the state superintendent. This bill prohibits the state superintendent from approving examinations developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Current law requires these schools to administer the ninth grade examination once in the fall session and once in the spring session. This bill eliminates the requirement to administer the ninth grade examination in the fall session.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction also recently put out bids for a new state test.  Opponents of Common Core in the state believe this will just be another Common Core-aligned assessment that is developed by some vendor with ties to Smarter Balanced or PARCC.

It also prohibits the State Superintendent of Public Instruction from requiring a school to implement the Common Core.

Current law requires each school district, private school participating in a PCP,  and independent charter school to adopt pupil academic standards, and permits the  schools to adopt academic standards approved by the state superintendent. The state superintendent has adopted academic standards, in mathematics and in English and language arts, developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative (common core standards). This bill prohibits the state superintendent from giving effect to any common core standards currently in effect, and prohibits the state superintendent from adopting or implementing any new common core standards. The bill also prohibits the state superintendent from requiring a school district to adopt or implement any common core standard.

This is the “Common Core repeal” that Walker eluded to in my interview with him.  The effectiveness of such prohibitions upon the State Superintendent is in doubt with the priorities laid out under the school accountability bill, AB 1.

How much weight will be given to student assessments will be left up to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  AB 1 does change the law to allow schools to administer assessments approved by the Academic Review Board (created by this bill) in lieu of ones approved by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

It is questionable whether Walker’s school accountability focus will actually give school districts the space they need to opt-out of Common Core.

Scott Walker: We Effectively Repealed Common Core in Wisconsin

IMG_0255On Saturday during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kickoff in Waukee, IA I was given the opportunity to interview Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for  I was able to ask him about Common Core and testing in Wisconsin below is the transcript of that part of the interview.

Shane: Common Core seems to be an issue that is cropping up, at least in the primary election, and we are seeing some differences between different candidates.  Where do you stand on Common Core?

Gov. Walker: I oppose it.  I like high standards.  I think high standards are a good thing.  I have two kids who went to public schools who are in college now, and I’ve got two nieces who are in public schools.  I want high standards, but I want them set by people at the local level – by parents, by teachers, by school board members and others out there. 

Years ago, when I first ran in 2010, it wasn’t even on our radar.  I didn’t hear about it, it didn’t really come up anywhere on my radar, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago in 2013 in our state when a number of parents and concerned citizens and even teachers came to us so after that we drafted legislation to pull back from that.  It had been in the law in our state before I became governor, we actually have an independently-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction who is not in my cabinet who actually administers it, so we have to change the law to do that.

The legislature didn’t pass it, but I put in my budget language that said, that pulls back on it and says no school district has to use it, and we pulled the testing for any money for Smarter Balanced.

Shane: When you campaigned, you were campaigning on a repeal, and are now pushing, putting forth an opt-out…

Gov. Walker: Well it really is a repeal.  There is no law that mandates it.  What it does, the language we put in explicitly says school districts don’t have to, and that the language in there… there is not a law that says they have to do Common Core.  There is a law that says they have to do standards, and then there is a law.. or there is money in the budget for Smarter Balanced.  We got rid of that, so that is effectively a repeal.

Shane: What is Wisconsin going to end up with next year without Smarter Balanced if that is not funded?

Gov. Walker: Oh I think what we’ll do is have whole options of things that people can use for testing so people, so school boards, administrators can pick at the local level which option they want to use so whether it is the ACT or any number of other things out there, but they are not told by the state government exactly what they have to do and they do not have to abide by, they don’t have to be obligated to use Common Core curriculum.

Go here to watch the video or read the transcript for the entire interview.

There were additional questions I could have asked on the subject to press him further, but this was an interview, not a debate.  If the other assessments, and we are not certain of what other assessments will be offered, are aligned to Common Core what motivation will a school board have to opt-out?  That is the burning question behind opt-out legislation.  Also a recent article in The Journal-Times says his budget just reiterates current law:

…Walker’s budget doesn’t repeal the standards. Instead, the spending plan reiterates what state law already provides: that no school board is required to adopt the Common Core standards.

While the state Department of Public Instruction adopted the standards in 2010, and chose a state assessment aligned to the standards, school districts are not required to use the standards by law.

Walker also proposes in his budget to prohibit use of the Common Core-aligned state exam developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, but does not prohibit using a new test also aligned to the standards.

The budget prohibits state Superintendent Tony Evers from adopting any standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative after the budget is passed, but currently no new standards are being developed by the group.

Wisconsin grassroots activists I’ve talked to want a real repeal, not an opt-out that could still leave school districts on the hook with Common Core.  If there were legitimate assessment options that were not tied to Common Core that would be an entirely different matter that unfortunately is being left in the hands of Dr. Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, who threatened to sue if the Common Core was repealed in his state.

Scott Walker Removes Smarter Balanced from Wisconsin’s Budget

Walker gives inauguration address.

Walker gives inauguration address.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in his budget address on Tuesday said that he removed funding for Smarter Balanced in his proposed budget.

He said, “..our budget removes funding for the Smarter Balanced test, which is connected to Common Core.  We also include legal language making it clear that no school district in the state has to use these standards, which are set by people from outside the state.”

“I want high standards—and those decisions should be made by school board members and parents and others at the local level,” Walker added.

Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers had plenty to say about Walker’s budget proposal for education, but did not address Smarter Balanced.

It is unclear what assessment grades 3-8 will use for ELA and mathematics.  Under the Wisconsin Student Assessment System 11 grade students take the ACT.  Students in 9th and 10th grade take the ACT Aspire assessment.

There has been concern about how effective a local opt-out strategy will be if Wisconsin used Smarter Balanced.  Defunding Smarter Balanced to force a different assessment would give districts more leverage to say no to the standards provided the Wisconsin Legislature doesn’t add the funding back in.

Common Core in Scott Walker’s State of the State

Walker gives inauguration address.

Walker gives inauguration address.

I watched Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s State of the State address for a couple reasons.  One I was curious what, if anything, he would say about Common Core.  Second, as an Iowan he’s been discussed as a prospective presidential candidate and in a recent poll taken in Iowa he was 3rd.  In his inaugural speech he said nothing about Common Core.  Last night he did in the midst of other remarks made about education.

In addition, to worker training, we will ensure every child—regardless of background or birthright—has access to a quality education.  We will continue to empower families to make the choice that is right for their sons and daughters.

Tonight, I call on the members of the state Legislature to pass legislation ensuring objective information is available for each and every school receiving public funds in this state.  Provide the information and allow parents to make the choice.

No need for bureaucrats or politicians to make that choice—I trust parents.  Give them access to objective information and they will make the choice that is best for their children.

And speaking of what is best for our students, I call on the members of the state Legislature to pass legislation making it crystal clear that no school district in the state is required to use Common Core standards.   Going forward, I want to eliminate any requirement to use Common Core.

My sons graduated from outstanding public schools in Wauwatosa and my nieces are in public schools as well, so I have a vested interest, like parents all across the state, in high standards.  But those standards should be set by people from within Wisconsin—and preferably at the local level.

I was quoted in the Wisconsin paper, The Capital Times, on the speech.

Shane Vander Hart, editor of the Iowa-based Christian conservative site Caffeinated Thoughts, said Walker’s mention of France and his criticisms of federal overreach were the two points at which the governor’s speech transcended Wisconsin politics. Vander Hart said he believes Walker could make a strong case for how his experience as governor would translate to the Oval Office.

Walker also made a strong case for limited, effective government, Vander Hart said, praising the governor’s rejection of Common Core and his stance against the EPA.

“Taking on the federal government on energy policies will play well with Iowa’s grassroots conservatives,” Vander Hart said. “I was looking (for an) aspect of his speech that would address federal overreach. Walker delivered, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad did not in his Condition of the State address today.”

Unfortunately the reporter boiled down my comments on Common Core to “praising the governor’s rejection of Common Core.”  I understand my comments went beyond what she was looking for with a 2016 story.  For the sake of our Wisconsin readers I want to share what I emailed the author of the article, Jessie Opoien, last night after watching the speech responding to several of her questions.

In terms of his education policy his statement, “I trust parents” encompasses a shift that must take place within public education.  A parent’s sovereignty over their children’s education must be paramount.  His comments on Common Core stand out in contrast to what I’ve seen in my state.  Governor Walker appears to be serious about making sure that local control is returned to parents, taxpayers and their elected school boards.  Being versed in education policy I am concerned (about) how many school districts will opt-out if the state mandates Common Core-aligned tests.  I would hope that is something the Wisconsin Legislature would address along with any opt-out bill they consider.

My concerns with an opt-out bill (which has not been filed yet) stands.  So far Wisconsin schools are expected to administer Smarter Balanced.  Then you have a school accountability bill that I believe would eliminate any desire on the part of a school board to opt-out when the accountability is largely based on assessments which will come in the form of Smarter Balanced Assessments.  Also, private schools that receive voucher money are tied into the accountability system outlined in the bill.  Not to mention if a school is considering a failing school as part of their improvement plan they have to use curriculum that is aligned to the state’s model academic standards which is Common Core.

If we are to take Governor Walker seriously then he either needs to call for a full repeal, not just an opt-out of Common Core, and it’s assessment or make it clear that schools can opt-out of Smarter Balanced and the Common Core standards then use another assessment tool.  He also must call for the legislature to amend the school accountability bill to exclude a requirement for failing schools to abide by Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Discuss Common Core Opt-Out

wisconsin-state-flagWisconsin Republican lawmakers are backing away from discussion of repealing the Common Core instead allowing schools to keep them if they want or adopt other standards if they would rather do that.

Wisconsin State Journal reports:

Top Republican lawmakers are backing away from rhetoric calling for an end to the Common Core State Standards, saying any legislation next year would allow school districts to keep the standards.

The acknowledgments come as Senate and Assembly leaders prepare bills to revamp the state’s school accountability system designed to gauge how well schools educate students. The possible changes include allowing school districts to choose among more than one test.

“We’re not necessarily going to repeal (Common Core) because they are standards adopted by DPI,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, referring to the state Department of Public Instruction. “If (school districts) like the standards, they can keep them. But I think we want to make sure that nobody feels compelled.”

They also want to offer multiple, nationally recognized tests that school districts could choose from.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is still calling for the Common Core’s repeal.

“Governor Walker has said he wants an accountability bill that includes a repeal of Common Core and bottom line is he wants to make sure that no school district in the state is required to use the Common Core standards,” said spokeswoman Laurel Patrick.

Activists in Wisconsin tell me that Republican leadership is backing away from a campaign pledge to repeal the Common Core.  The increased their majority in the Wisconsin Senate and should be able to get this done.  Some are even skeptical about the Governor’s commitment and I don’t blame them.  One one hand he can talk tough on repealing Common Core to help bolster some additional street cred should he run for President.  On the other he could do nothing behind the scenes to push a repeal along.  I don’t know if that is what is happening here so for now I’ll go with what he says he will do.

To Speaker Vos’ point – it does precious little good to allow schools to opt-out if you don’t allow multiple tests.  Most schools won’t likely go for that.  Granted this takes the Common Core battle down to the school district level, but it would be easier for schools to opt-out if they know they won’t be held accountable to the Common Core instead of their own standards.  The U.S. Department of Education also makes it hard to have this kind of local control possible when they require a test that is linked to the state’s standards.

Then there is the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction dynamic.  If Common Core is repealed then I would suspect there will be a legal challenge from State Superintendent Tony Evers.  He’s already threatened it.  That is something that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor Walker could balk at as well.

So basically who knows what will come out the next legislative session in Wisconsin, but we’ll keep you up to date.

Scott Walker Continues Call for Common Core Repeal in Wisconsin

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker reiterated his call to see Wisconsin have their own standards.  Common Core became a wedge issue between Walker and his Democrat challenger Mary Burke.

USA Today reported last week:

“One of the things I mentioned throughout the campaign that I wanted to do early on is an overall education reform package,” the Republican governor said last week during a visit to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. “I think that’s something we can work on, whether it’s a special session or not, it would be early in the next session.

“Having high standards, but standards that are set by people here in … Wisconsin, not by people outside of the state would be a key part of that.”

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican from Juneau, confirmed Thursday the Legislature will make changes to Common Core next year, but he was unsure how the process would evolve.

Common Core became a key issue during the gubernatorial election, but few details about alternative standards and the process needed to create them have been disclosed.

Wisconsin adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, and Walker called on the Legislature to repeal them in July.

There would likely be an uphill fight.  Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers threatened to sue if the State Legislature and Walker managed to repeal Common Core in the state.