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 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.

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.


Why is the Common Core Hearing in Wisconsin Private?

Wisconsin_State_Capitol_Building_during_Tulip_FestivalRyan Ekvall of the Wisconsin Reporter (part of Watchdog.org) reports that two Republican lawmakers will meet in private to decide whether or not they will pursue a legislative study of the Common Core State Standards.

That the lawmakers will meet in private is perhaps apropos given the under-the-radar way in which Common Core, the set of national academic standards, is being implemented in Wisconsin…

…More than 100 anti-Common Core crusaders showed up to a legislative hearing — the only legislative hearing on Common Core to this point — in May. The session resulted in more questions than answers, but state Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson,led a budget motion to hit the pause button on Common Core…

…Knudson’s budget motion required the Department of Public Instruction to implement academic standards that meet the “college and career readiness” threshold for the state to qualify for a federal flexibility waiver. It also required DPI to keep standards adopted prior to July 1 – namely, English and math Common Core standards.

And the motion required DPI to consult with the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau to estimate the fiscal costs of both fully implementing Common Core standards and discontinuing the implementation of the Common Core. That report is due by Sept. 1. The fiscal bureau told Wisconsin Reporter it has started working on those estimates.

Knudson’s motion also requested that the Joint Legislative Council, co-chaired by Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, establish a committee to study Common Core standards and report the findings of the following by Nov. 1…

…It’s the squishy legislative lingo “request” instead of “require” that has activists concerned.

Ed Perkins of the Fox Valley Initiative, an Appleton tea party group, said he and other anti-common core activists thought they had won the opportunity to have Common Core vetted publicly in Wisconsin.

Read the rest.  Since the Common Core was implemented in private Wisconsin taxpayers deserve sunshine on all things Common Core from here on out.

Photo credit: Vijay Kumar Koulampet via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Common Core is “Conservative” to the Core?

There is an orchestrated push on the part of Common Core advocates to publish nonsense in local papers and other publication.  We can’t respond to each and every piece here, but this particular post should cause a collective eye roll.

Chester Finn and Michael Pretrilli of the Fordham Institute wrote a piece published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that must be addressed.

They say the Common Core State Standards should make conservatives happy, and they give six reasons.

1. Fiscal responsibility.

Yes I am not joking, that was their opening pitch to Wisconsinites.  They write:

The Common Core protects taxpayer dollars by setting world-class academic standards for student achievement — and taxpayers and families deserve real results for their money. Wisconsin has already invested time and money to implement the new standards, and many districts have already spent scarce dollars training teachers for Common Core’s increased rigor. Calling for a do-over at this point would waste time and money already expended.

First off, these are not world class.  Secondly I agree that taxpayers and families deserve real results for their money which why I’m against the Common Core.  Perhaps the Wisconsin Legislature should have approved the standards before money was spent.  But to appeal to fiscal responsibility when both the implementation of and assessments for the Common Core State Standards have lead to an increase in state education spending is laughable.

2. Accountability

Common Core demands accountability, high standards and testing — not the low expectations and excuses that many politicians and the establishment have permitted. The Common Core standards are pegged at a high level, which will bring a healthy dose of reality to the education-reform conversation.

I’m not against teachers and school districts being held accountable what I’m against is linking it to assessment scores which will do nothing, but continue to promote teaching to the test.  That is something that began with No Child Left Behind with what results?  Governor Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature have made great strides in reigning in the hold that teacher’s unions have had on public education that made it virtually impossible to get rid of bad teachers.  That will do more to promote accountability than a test culture will.

3. School Choice:

As strong supporters of parental choice, we are often asked how to reconcile our enthusiasm for the Common Core. Doesn’t it force a “one-size-fits-all” approach onto schools? The short answer: No. Standards describe what students are expected to know and be able to do. Written correctly, they do not dictate any particular curriculum or pedagogy. Plus, the information that comes from standards-based testing gives parents a common yardstick with which to judge schools and make informed choices. In the end, Common Core is not a national curriculum—the standards were written by governors and local education officials, and they were adopted by each state independently.

First, standards when linked to assessments drives curriculum and pedagogy.  Secondly they diminish school choice when private schools who receive vouchers are forced to align their curriculum with the Common Core because they have to participate in the same assessments.  Third when college-entrance exams align to the Common Core that impacts homeschoolers.  It takes a lot of spin to say this bolsters school choice.

Their claim that these standards were written by governors is plainly false.  They were written by three committees, of which there were only a handful of classroom teachers chosen by special interest groups.  States didn’t adopt these standards – state boards of education did without approval of the legislative branch.

4. Competitiveness.

If we don’t want to cede the 21st century to our economic and political rivals — China especially — we need to ensure that many more young Americans emerge from high school truly ready for college and a career that allows them to compete in the global marketplace. This is why the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce support the standards — because they will help ensure that students are ready to succeed on the job.

First education is for more than workforce production.  Secondly, we still haven’t seen what these standards are benchmarked to.  Third, there’s no data that suggests centralized standards raises student achievement.  The Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement is meaningless since they endorsed these standards sight unseen.

5.  Innovation.

Common Core standards are encouraging a huge amount of investment from states, philanthropic groups and private firms — which is producing Common Core–aligned textbooks, e-books, professional development, online learning and more. Online learning especially is going to open up a world of new choices for students and families to seek a high-quality, individualized education.

So basically we see a creation of a monopoly surrounding curriculum and textbooks and this is supposed to excite us?  How is it innovative for companies that back the standards to also profit from them as well?  Online learning can’t exist without the Common Core?

6. Tradition education values.

The Common Core standards are worth supporting because they’re educationally solid. They are rigorous, they are traditional — one might even say they are “conservative.” They expect students to know their math facts, to read the nation’s founding documents and to evaluate evidence and come to independent judgments. In all of these ways, they are miles better than three-quarters of the state standards they replaced — standards that hardly deserve the name and that often pushed the left-wing drivel that Common Core critics say they abhor.

The Common Core is not educationally solid.  They were created in a virtual echo-chamber with a just a handful of people ultimately deciding how feedback was implemented.  Here are some of the concerns with the Common Core as addressed by content experts such as Sandra Stotsky, Ze’ev Wurman and James Milgram:

The CCSS Mathematics Standards:

  • Delay development of some key concepts and skills.
  • Include significant mathematical sophistication written at a level beyond understanding of most parents, students, administrators, decision maker
    s and many teachers.

  • Lack coherence and clarity to be consistently interpreted by students, parents, teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, textbook developers/publishers, and assessment developers.  Will this lead to consistent expectations and equity?
  • Have standards inappropriately placed, including delayed requirement for standard algorithms, which will hinder student success and waste valuable instructional time.
  • Treat important topics unevenly.  This will result in inefficient use of instructional and practice time.
  • Are not well organized at the high school level.  Some important topics are insufficiently covered. The standards are not divided into defined courses.
  • Place emphasis on Standards for Mathematical Practice which supports a constructivist approach. This approach is typical of “reform” math programs to which many parents across the country object.
  • Publishers of reform programs are aligning them with the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice.  The CCSS will not necessarily improve the math programs being used in many schools.
  • Unusual and unproven approach to geometry.

The Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (ELA):

  • Use confusing language in some standards.
  • Are not always clear or measureable on expected student outcomes.
  • Are not always organized in a logical way and are difficult to follow.
  • Treat literary elements inconsistently.
  • Have some writing standards that are general and do not specify what a student should be able to know or do.
  • Focus on skills over content in reading.
  • Do not address or require cursive writing.

So the Common Core is conservative?  Only if being conservative now means to erode local and parental control, ignoring federalism, ignoring that we a Constitutional Republic through bypassing our elected representatives, fiscal mismanagement through increasing spending on dataless reform, eroding school choice and promoting subpar standards.

Stop Common Core Progress Update

commoncore1We are drawing close to the end of the state legislative sessions.  I thought it would be a good time to highlight the progress that has been made in fighting the Common Core.  If you look back just a few months ago you can see how far our movement has come.  Some significant progress was made in just the last five months.

  1. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) then called on the federal defunding of the Common Core State Standards, the assessments and the federal review board for the assessments.  He had eight other Senators join him.
  2. Indiana passed a Common Core Pause bill which brings more transparency for the Common Core implementation in the Hoosier State.  The Indiana State Board of Education is required to hold three public hearings and have a fiscal impact study done before they can continue to implement the Common Core.  Our hope is this will lead to a repeal bill as the facts, not just the propaganda, becomes known.
  3. The Utah GOP passed their own resolution condemning the Common Core State Standards.
  4. The Georgia GOP Resolutions Committee passed their anti-Common Core resolution 11-3 despite major lobbying being done on behalf of Governor Nathan Deal.  The Georgia GOP Convention were not able to take up any resolutions as the convention ran late and they lost their quorum.  This follows four district conventions passing their own anti-Common Core resolutions.  Governor Deal recently ordered 60 days of public comment on the Common Core in response to pressure he has been under.
  5. Oklahoma after seeing their initial bill get derailed had their Speaker of the House do a 180 and is now working to repeal the Common Core in their state.
  6. Iowa put Common Core Assessments on hold and now requires a task force to be formed to study different assessments (not just tie themselves to SBAC) and do a fiscal impact study before the State Legislature will vote on an assessment.  The time frame for assessments were pushed back to the 2016-17 school year.  This is a turn around as the original language in Iowa’s education reform bill gave the State Board of Education the authority to mandate Smarter Balanced Assessments.  So a conference committee stripped that language and inserted the pause.  Also opposition is forming within the State Legislature so look for repeal and defunding bills to be forthcoming next session (their session ended yesterday).
  7. Wisconsin just had a hearing on the Common Core Wednesday, and it sounds like it likely that pause legislation will be introduced in that state.
  8. Legislation has been introduced in Congress by Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL) entitled “Defending State Authority Over Education Act.”  This would “prohibit the federal government from offering grants or policy waivers contingent on a state’s use of certain curricula or assessment policies.”
  9. Pennsylvania is experiencing push-back that led Governor Tom Corbett to sign an executive order delaying the Common Core implementation. (Still need legislative action so this is permanent).
  10. Ohio is having a budget battle over the Common Core State Standards, after the Ohio House stripped funding for PARCC from their budget.
  11. States that have had legislation introduced this year that would either pause or repeal the Common Core State Standards: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota.  States that are still active are mentioned above.  States that had bills die in committee (or in Missouri’s case was halted due to political games prior to a floor vote) we expect will see efforts again next session.
  12. We have seen an explosion of anti-Common Core state-based groups over the last several months.

It is clear that we have momentum in what seemed a year ago to be an impossible uphill battle.

Originally posted at American Principles Project.