Gov. Walker jolted quite a few Wisconsin school districts last week when he proposed scrapping Common Core standards that have been in the works for years.
Walker commented a bit further about his proposal at an appearance in Milwaukee on Monday.
He said there’s a growing chorus of parents, educators and taxpayers who want Wisconsin to abandon the Common Core benchmarks for student learning and develop its own.
“We want to have high standards," Walker says. "I want to have higher standards than other states. I just don’t think these are the right things for us to have things that are set by people outside of the state."
Five years ago, Wisconsin, along with most other states, agreed to develop common standards for students across the country, in hopes of raising overall achievement.
School districts are free to modify the standards as they see fit, but students will be tested on measures that align with the Common Core curriculum.
Walker says that’s one of his main objections – a test for Wisconsin students that was developed elsewhere.
He’d like state educators, parents and others to design Wisconsin’s entire system.
“Part of this repeal would be the repeal the existing test and have something that would parallel the standards that would be Wisconsin-specific in the future,” Walker says.
The governor says schools will be just fine with the last-minute change, but some educators disagree.
Betsy Kippers is president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy to move forward with an effort people said we needed to do, and now we’re going to create chaos weeks before school begins and say, let’s think about throwing this away,” Kippers says.
Kippers says teachers have been preparing for two years to help students reach the new Common Core standards in math and English starting this fall. Teachers have undergone extensive training and put new lesson plans together. And Kippers says most are on board with Common Core.
“We’re just beginning to roll it out, give us time to see what’s good, what’s not, what might need to change, instead just throwing them out,” Kippers says.
Whereas Gov. Walker’s problem with the Common Core test is its origin, Kippers wishes there was less focus on testing in general. She doesn’t think year’s test in math and English will do students justice.
“There’s so much more to a student than those two subject areas that we keep testing and holding schools accountable for and punishing schools for,” Kippers says.
Throughout the country, Republican governors are increasing coming out against Common Core. Walker is the latest, and he’s considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
“I think for the most part, this is his national ambition speaking,” says Dennis Riley, a political science professor at UW-Stevens Point. “In certain key Republican primary states, Common Core is a big deal. So if you want to be a viable national candidate it’s probably better to be opposed to it than not."
But Riley says there’s not as much Common Core controversy here in Wisconsin, and even Walker’s fellow Republicans in the Legislature are divided.
“When they took power in 2010, they did an awful lot of stuff – Act 10, they cut all kinds of things and they may just not want to get that far out ahead right now on something else that is identified with Tea Party constituencies and that sort of thing,” Riley says.
Since Walker announced his interest in repealing Common Core last Thursday, several GOP state senators have expressed doubts.
Sen. Luther Olsen, a Republican and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said there’s nothing to repeal because Common Core is not actually written in state law. The standards are voluntary for school districts, and most developed theirs using input from educators and citizens – the same mix Gov. Walker suggests create replacement standards.