When a University Embraces the Workforce Development Model of Education

University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point faces a $4.5 million deficit over the next two years because of declining enrollment and lower tuition revenues. They proposed earlier this month to add or expand 16 programs in areas with high-demand career paths as a way to maintain and increase enrollment.

They said in order to fund this investment “resources would be shifted from programs with lower enrollment, primarily in the traditional humanities and social sciences. Although some majors are proposed to be eliminated, courses would continue to be taught in these fields, and minors or certificates will be offered.”

Here are the programs they propose expanding:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Conservation Law Enforcement
  • Finance
  • Fire Science
  • Graphic Design
  • Management
  • Marketing

In addition, new bachelor’s (or advanced) degree programs are proposed in:

  • Aquaculture/Aquaponics
  • Captive Wildlife
  • Ecosystem Design and Remediation
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Geographic Information Science
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Natural Resources
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy

I understand adding some of the majors and expanding some programs, colleges do prepare students for careers. But Aquaculture/Aquaponics?

Here are the subjects they plan to eliminate as a major.

  • American Studies
  • Art – Graphic Design will continue as a distinct major
  • English – English for teacher certification will continue
  • French
  • Geography
  • Geoscience
  • German
  • History – Social Science for teacher certification will continue
  • Music Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Sociology — Social Work major will continue
  • Spanish

You can see what their current majors and minors are here.

Now we can certainly argue about the value of a degree in history or English, generally, if you plan on majoring in those subjects you plan to teach and go on for additional graduate work.

Here is a thought. If additional colleges and universities adopted this particular business model who will, down the road, be available to teach these subjects?

We’ve already seen classical education jettisoned in favor of workforce development at the K-12 level. Now workforce development goes to college.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually see these classes eliminated entirely.

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.

Wisconsin’s Draft Science Standards Are Up For Public Comment

Dr. Robert Lattimer with Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) contacted me to inform me that Wisconsin’s draft science standards are up for public comment and review. The current Wisconsin standards are the oldest in the nation, dating back to 1998.  The draft standards can be found here. You can submit feedback here. The comment period closes on August 12. Participants in the review do NOT need to be Wisconsin residents.

Lattimer writes:

The draft standards are based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). While many of the performance standards are taken from NGSS (some have been modified), a lot of the content was developed in-state. In particular, there are sections with “Wisconsin contexts” that address issues specific to the state. Also, there are numerous standards dealing with science inquiry and engineering design.

The Wisconsin standards (like NGSS) are based on the doctrine of methodological naturalism (MN), which requires that all explanations in science be materialistic – i.e., based on natural laws and chance. MN is not justifiable in historical origins science (the study of the origin of the universe, of life, and of life’s diversity).

The standards on cosmic and biological evolution are based solely on materialistic causation. The possibility of teleological explanations (purposeful design) is not mentioned. There are numerous standards in environmental science. Many are reasonable, but others reflect an activist environmental agenda. Specifically, anthropogenic global warming and the negative effects of human activities are extensively covered.

If you would like to receive comments about specific Wisconsin standards you can email Robert at rplattimer@gmail.com.

Wisconsin Group Seeks Qualified State Superintendent of Schools Candidate

former State Representative Don Pridemore

former State Representative Don Pridemore

A group of Wisconsin citizens led by retired state representative Don Pridemore has created WINNER, Inc. missioned with finding and identifying a qualified candidate for State Superintendent of Schools. The State Superintendent is the head of Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction. This supposedly non-partisan position is one of the most powerful in the state.

Many Wisconsinites believe the current DPI has overreached its bounds by imposing Common Core Standards upon local districts and undermining state laws regarding local control of schools. These citizens have been looking for a solution to an overreaching DPI. 

WINNER, Inc. President Don Pridemore explains that the Governor and legislative bodies should have little control over educational policies adopted by districts in a local-control state. The power is in the hands of the public. Pridemore explains, “The legislature moves slowly and usually waits for strong grassroots support to do anything.” One important step the grassroots need to take is to elect a State Superintendent who respects state statutes governing local control of schools, a leader who will require that local districts involve citizens in decision making. 

Representative Pridemore explained, “If we want true local control, we have to fight to keep it.” Pridemore is trying to discourage those who are demanding that state government take more power. When citizens insist that the governor and legislative bodies dictate educational policy like repealing Common Core, those citizens are surrendering their rights to the state government. He asks them to fight for and to support strengthening the state statutes governing local control of schools. One step in accomplishing this goal is to find a DPI candidate who will commit to following local-control laws. 

Pridemore does recommend that the legislature use its power to write the job description for the DPI to define insubordination as any attempt to make it financially difficult for schools to select alternative policies to those recommended by the DPI. This change would make it easier for the legislature to impeach a partisan DPI. Currently, the only remedies for incompetence or manipulation of the office are impeachment, recall, auditing the DPI, and electing a new State Superintendent of Schools. All of these remedies are time consuming, costly, and often very contentious. Being able to identify a breach of contract would make impeachment easier. 

Demanding an audit of the DPI will, according to Pridemore, expose the DPI’s manipulation of funding to harass local districts. The findings in the audit would be made public, thereby heightening citizen awareness and encouraging the electorate to become more involved in the election of the DPI and in actions taken by local school boards. 

Pridemore explained, “Regardless of what is written on paper, government is only as good as the people we elect. Due diligence is required. If we get lazy, they take control.” Therefore, while the legislature may adjust the job description to tighten control of the DPI, those new requirements can be ignored and manipulated, too. It takes the efforts of the electorate to stop these efforts to take freedoms and rights away from the people. We must be vigilant whether we live in a local-control state or in a state with powerful state control of the educational process.

Pridemore’s group intends to educate the public regarding the power the state DPI has when shaping educational policy and to encourage citizens to get out and vote in the off year election held to select the State Superintendent. If the public elects a leader who respects state statutes governing local control of schools, the public will have an easier time exercising local control of their school districts.

Over 8,000 Wisconsin Students Opt-Out of Smarter Balanced

wisconsin-state-flag8,104 Wisconsin students opted out of Smarter Balanced this school year including 7% of Madison elementary and middle schoolers.  While these are not close to the numbers that say New York recorded it is a noticeable uptick from last year.   The Madison State Journal reports:

About 7 percent of elementary and middle school students in Madison and 2 percent of public school students statewide this spring opted out of taking a new test aligned to the Common Core academic standards — up from one-tenth of 1 percent of students who opted out of the state test last year.

More than 700 students in the Madison School District opted out, part of the 8,104 public school students who opted out statewide, a substantial increase from the 87 and 583 students, respectively, who opted out last year, state and school district data show….

…The Madison School District says 737 students opted out of taking the English and math tests this spring, which represents a surge from recent years. Just five years ago, 17 Madison students opted out of state tests. For other tests given this school year, 1 percent of students opted out of taking them, according to a district report.

The increase comes as lawmakers move to get rid of the Badger Exam, Wisconsin’s version of the Smarter Balanced exam that was developed using questions from a consortium of states aligned to the controversial Common Core academic standards that state Superintendent Tony Evers adopted in 2010.

The rollout of the test in Wisconsin schools this spring included several delays, and technical glitches forced schools to use a scaled-back exam that did not adapt to students’ abilities as intended.

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.

Bill Requiring Wisconsin Schools to Inform Parents of Opt-Out Rights Filed

wisconsin-state-flagLegislation has been filed by Wisconsin lawmakers that requires school districts in the state to inform parents of their opt-out rights, it will require district to publish and distribute an inventory of tests for parents.  School districts will also be required to provide parents with information about how many hours are spent on test prep and administration.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Wisconsin school districts would have to more explicitly inform parents of the rights they’ve always had to opt their children out of state-mandated tests, under a new Assembly bill introduced Thursday.

The bill from Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), the chair of the Assembly Education Committee, would make it clear that any parent could opt his or her child out of statewide testing in third through 12th grade. It would also require districts to publish and distribute to parents an inventory of all tests they administer, including details of how long it takes to prepare for and administer the exams.

A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate by newly seated Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg), according to Thiesfeldt’s office.

State law already allows parents to opt their children out of testing automatically in some grades, and at the school board’s discretion at other grade levels. This spring an increasing number of parents statewide opted their children out of the new state achievement test with little pushback from principals or school boards.

Thiesfeldt said the new measure aims to clarify any confusion in state law over opting out and will make schools have to “sell” to parents why the testing is necessary.

Many tests are actually required by law. Schools must administer an annual standardized achievement test to students in third through eighth grade and once in high school. That’s a federal requirement. The GOP-controlled Legislature in recent years also started requiring Wisconsin districts to administer assessments in the youngest grades to monitor reading readiness.

Most districts administer smaller, quicker tests a few times a year to monitor growth. That’s not required by state law, but many districts say it provides good feedback for teachers.

It should be noted that federal and state law requires schools to administer certain tests.  The law does not require students to take them.

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 CaffeinatedThoughts.com.  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.

Smarter Balanced Roll Out Has Been a Disaster

Smarter Balanced has been plagued with technical glitches that have led to Montana telling its schools that the assessment was voluntary for it’s local schools.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week:

A series of technological difficulties prompted Montana officials on Wednesday to declare that statewide Common Core-aligned tests will be voluntary this year—the latest blow to the rollout of such tests across the country.

“We were listening to the field [of school leaders], and the field is very frustrated with the glitches happening,” said Denise Juneau,superintendent of the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

While she said she isn’t against testing in general, she added that she found this year’s snafus to be disruptive to learning. “We really want to make sure the business of schools gets done,” she said.

With about 145,000 students in its elementary and secondary systems, Montana had planned this spring to test about 77,000 students in grades three through eight, as well as in 11th grade, with exams from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Montana uses Measured Progress as the testing vendor.  North Dakota and Nevada also use this company and they have experienced problems as well.

Fox News reported yesterday a week out they are still experiencing problems:

Nevada resumed full testing after its first notable success with Friday’s limited testing, but system-generated error messages appeared Monday.

Clark County School District said it suspended testing after the system crashed at 9:30 a.m.

All three states have announced plans for school districts that say they can’t finish the test.

The U.S. Department of Education maintains there are no exceptions to the mandate to test 95 percent of all students, which is linked to funding.

The Nevada Department of Public Instruction said that no schools will be punished if they don’t finish the test.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga says schools experiencing errors can make two more attempts to take the test again before the end of the school year.

The schools can also request a paper version. No schools will be punished if the test isn’t completed.

If you think the problems are just linked to Measured Progress, think again, three other states have experienced problems as well.  Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri all have experienced technical glitches according to Smarter Balanced officials, the Wall Street Journal reports.

To say this has been disruptive to classroom instruction is putting it mildly.

Well, I can’t say I’m surprised, a roll out with computer adaptive tests this big is pretty unprecedented.  Hopefully states like Iowa who are still considering what assessment they will use will see this disaster.  I’m not going to hold my breath though as anything resembling common sense appears to be lacking when educrats are concerned.

Common Core Fights Brewing in Statehouses Across the Country

West Virginia State Capitol Building - Charleston, WV Photo credit: O Palsson (CC-By-2.0)

West Virginia State Capitol Building – Charleston, WV
Photo credit: O Palsson (CC-By-2.0)

The Washington Post gives a preview of state house fights over Common Core that are on the horizon after the GOP wave.

Strategists involved in the state-by-state fight against the national K-12 math and reading benchmarks say conservative legislators will introduce or have introduced legislation in dozens of states that will target individual components of Common Core standards, rather than single bills aimed at dismantling the whole program all at once.

In Maine, conservative legislators are crafting legislation likely to be filed next week that will attack Common Core in three chunks: One would formally withdraw the state from the national standards. A second would change testing requirements imposed by an earlier legislature. Another would prevent the state from sharing education data with federal statisticians. Similar bite-sized measures are likely to appear elsewhere….

…(Utah Gov.) Herbert is one of the governors who will be playing defense on Common Core this year. Conservatives in the Utah legislature, and in states like Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia and Maine, are likely to try to repeal all or part of the standards. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) both said they expect to see conservatives try their own repeal bills.

Republicans who support the tougher standards have been taken aback by the response from conservatives both nationally and in their own states.

Read the rest.  We’ll be tracking bills as we become aware of them.  You will be able to find that information in a series of posts using the tag “2015 Bills.”  You can let us know about new bills by email us at info@truthinamericaneducation.com.