Scrap Senate bill, not Common Core standards

A PROPOSAL IN THE state Senate would establish a board to set state academic standards, effectively ending the Common Core.

Adopted four years ago by state Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers, the Common Core sets academic standards for public school districts in the state. Wisconsin is one of 45 states that have signed on.

Wisconsin schools are in their second year of teaching a curriculum that meets the rigorous standards for math and reading. Tests are scheduled for fall 2014 to assess the progress (the science and social studies standards have been put on hold as costs are examined).

Now some Republican legislators want to undo what has been in place in classrooms the last two years and the very standards the DPI has been using since 2010 to guide its curriculum and education decisions.

The Common Core standards have had their opponents, both in the Legislature and in the classroom, but it would be unwise and premature to scrap them now. It appears that politics, not education, is the driving force

Gov. Scott Walker has supported the Common Core in the past. In 2012 in the governor’s Read to Lead Task Force report, Walker wrote how the state adopted the Common Core “in response to the need to improve state standards and create a common set of expectations for children across the country.” He called the new standards “more rigorous.”

Since then, it appears he has backed off that claim and now backs this current Senate proposal.

Under SB 619, a 15-member Model Academic Standards Board of educators, parents and people with an education background would be created to draft standards. The DPI superintendent would serve on the board as well as four people he or should would appoint; the governor would name six members; the Senate majority and minority leaders would appoint one each; and the Assembly speaker and the minority leader would each appoint one.

If this is truly to be objective and nonpolitical, why does the governor appoint more members than the DPI chief?

Critics of the Common Core cite the loss of local control and the lowering of standards.

First of all, the Common Core wasn’t required by the federal government. It wasn’t even produced by the federal government. It was developed by a national group of state school officials with leadership from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Plus, it sets a baseline for standards. Schools can exceed the standards if they decide. Also, the schools set the curriculum; the Common Core doesn’t.

Green Bay School District Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld wrote to legislators that the Common Core “closely aligns with the skills our partners in higher education and the business community identify as necessary to ensure college and career readiness” through a “rigorous and relevant curriculum.”

Second, how does the Common Core lower academic standards? By all accounts, the standards are higher. At a hearing on Common Core, West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Nietzke called them “the highest standards I’ve seen.”

Walker has called for “higher and more rigorous” academic standards, without stating what that means. In fact, the standards are more rigorous.

What opponents don’t mention is the cost. Schools in Wisconsin have already spent $25 million to adopt the Common Core standards. Langenfeld’s letter to legislators says that educators here have put in time, energy and resources in “implementing curriculum, instruction and measures aligned to the Common Core.”

If the Common Core were an absolute failure, we’d support changing course. But there’s no evidence of that. What we do see is a minority viewpoint that strikes the popular chord of loss of local control, something we haven’t seen.

These academic standards haven’t even had a time to work, and it would be unwise to scrap them for a more politicized approach in these times of hyper-partisanship. — Green Bay Press-Gazette, Feb. 24

At issue:
State of the county
Bottom line:
Continued fiscal excellence

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