Education
1:00 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Wisconsin Will Soon Set Its Common Core Direction

Does Common Core equal wise academic standards or federal interference?

We could have a good idea of the direction Wisconsin will head on Common Core.  On Tuesday, members of an Assembly panel drew their conclusions.

Common Core is the new academic standards national study groups recommended for U.S. students. Wisconsin and 44 other states have begun implementing the guidelines in math and English. But some state leaders are challenging Common Core, insisting it usurps local control.

There are eight members of the Assembly Select Committee on Common Core Standards – six Republicans and two Democrats. There had been three Democrats, but Representative Christine Sinicki resigned a few weeks ago. She accused the committee of orchestrating a biased hearings and omitting Milwaukee.

The remaining Democrats say they’re glad the series of hearings cleared up misinformation about Common Core – such as it would result in student retinal scans. The two favor a review of Common Core after seven years, to decipher whether or not it’s boosting student achievement. And they tout its advocates. Rep. Sandy Pope says she counted 162 educators testifying before the panel, and only two oppose Common Core.

“The people implementing Common Core, who will be judged on the work of Common Core, overwhelmingly – almost ridiculously, 160-2, were in support of it. This is not, to me any indication that change needs to be made. I think in the three years it’s been working, according to them, it’s working,” Pope said.

Pope says Common Core underscores what students should know by when but leaves the details of how to get there with state and local education leaders.

The Republican members of the committee say they view the standards as a federally sponsored monopoly. While the federal government did not create Common Core, it does offer financial incentives for meeting its benchmarks. Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt says states such as Wisconsin were corralled into compliance during tight budget times.

“They cease to be state standards when pretty much every state in the country is doing the same thing. That is not a plan that’s reflective of what the Founding Fathers had. They wanted state laboratories for a variety of things and education was one of them. National government was created to be an agent of the states; instead the states have become agents of the national government, kind of looking to D.C. as the federal master,” Thiesfeldt says.

Other Republican representatives questioned the cost of enacting Common Core – for things such as teacher preparation and new classroom materials.

Committee Chair Thiesfeldt says he’ll now huddle with staff to draft recommendations on Common Core. He wants the committee to vote on them by year’s end.