Common Core standards are a hot topic lately. At least 40 states have adopted the academic standards for their students, Wisconsin included. But, now there is pressure to back away from Common Core.
Thursday in Madison, lawmakers held a daylong public hearing on the subject.
Governors from across the country and education leaders developed the Common Core Academic Standards, to better prepare students to compete globally during and after high school. The standards are voluntary.
Back in 2010, Wisconsin became one of the first states to adopt the measures in math and English, under Superintendent Tony Evers. He spent more than an hour defending them during Thursday’s hearing.
“They’re rigorous, they’re clear, they’re deeper, they’re benchmarked against the highest U.S. state and international standards to ensure students are ready to succeed in college and career. And they’re aligned to higher expectations of educators and employers,” Evers says.
Evers says before Common Core, Wisconsin’s education standards were too low. He rebuffed critics, who insist the standards override local school district control.
“How schools in districts teach that content through instruction, through curriculum, through textbook adoption, developing media resources are all local decisions made by local school districts,” Evers says.
Evers also insists he did not sign onto Common Core because it may have given Wisconsin an edge in winning federal funding.
“I was not coerced by the federal government to adopt the Common Core, and I didn’t adopt the Common Core in order to qualify for a Race to the Top grant,” Evers says.
During the eight-hour hearing, Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir challenged Evers on whether the federal government applied pressure.
“While it’s grand for representative Pope to say that local districts and for you also to say that local districts are still going to create their own curriculum, we all know that a test drives the curriculum and the federal government has given $350 million to create the test,” Vukmir says.
In response, Evers noted that while the federal government did provide funding, it did not drive the standards. Vukmir wasn’t the only person who expressed concerns, so did Julaine Appling. She’s with the group Wisconsin Family Action. It lobbies on issues affecting traditional-styled families.
“What we do question is whether that solution that has been adopted, the Common Core state standards, was the best solution for our state and for our children. We question whether due diligence was really done in looking at all possible avenues for improvement,” Appling says.
Appling says instead of Wisconsin simply adopting the Common Core standards, it should create its own.
While the measures took a number of hits during Thursday’s hearing, supporters were also on hand. Tim Schell is with the Waunakee School District. It’s among those that have implemented Common Core.
“We continually work on improving our learning outcomes for our students, and at this stage I feel we have made our initial adjustments to the Common Core expectations and would not settle for the lower expectations of the 1998 standards,” Schell says.
Among Common Core’s critics are Tea Party members and Gov. Walker. He says he wants tougher standards.