What will it be, Governor?  Now is the time to choose.

Scott Walker’s Smarter Balanced Deception

By Jeffrey Horn

If you have been following Common Core in Wisconsin, you know that the fight to repeal Common Core has been a roller coaster ride.  Repeatedly, Governor Walker has indicated that he appreciates legitimate objections to Common Core, giving people in his state hope that he would move to repeal and replace the standards. However, such intimations have turned out to be hollow.  This article lays out proof that:

  • Scott Walker understands that assessments aligned with Common Core are problematic in that they make it very difficult for local districts to choose alternative standards.
  • Scott Walker is moving forward with a school and teacher accountability system that relies heavily on high stakes testing using a new Badger Exam which replaces the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
  • Under Scott Walker, the state is provisioning a new Badger Exam that is to test proficiency against the Common Core standards.

In short, Scott Walker’s actions on Common Core entrench Common Core in Wisconsin and do not match his rhetoric.

It’s worth reviewing some specific comments that Walker has made concerning Common Core:

September 25, 2013 (Wisconsin State Journal): “I’d like to have Wisconsin have its own unique standards that I think can be higher than what’s been established and what’s been talked about at the national level.

July 17, 2014 (Press Release):“Today, I call on the members of the state Legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.

July 18, 2014 (La Crosse Tribune/Associated Press): “Whatever is adopted may not differ significantly from Common Core standards.  It’s one of those where they’ll have to adjust some things, some of the things may very well parallel, other things will be different.

December 18, 2014 (The Blaze): “[My goal is to] remove any mandate that requires a school district to abide by Common Core standards.”

January 17, 2015 (WLUK FOX 11 Green Bay/Appleton): “I also want [the legislature] to make it perfectly clear in the statutes that school districts do not have to use [C]ommon [C]ore, and that we take it a step further and we work with the legislature making sure there aren’t things like the Smarter Balanced test going forward that require the schools to use a test that’s based on the Common Core.” [N.B. The article accompanying the video coverage of this story incorrectly transcribes Governor Walker's statement.  We have corrected the transcription error in the quote above.]

It is clear from just this handful of statements that Walker has vacillated between repealing Common Core, replacing Common Core with better “Wisconsin Standards,” rebranding Common Core as “Wisconsin Standards,” and leaving the decision about Common Core completely up to local school districts.  Its also clear from the last statement that Governor Walker is aware that requiring school districts to use a test based on Common Core is a problem.

The Long Road to Nowhere

The Wisconsin State Legislature held its first informational hearing on the Common Core standards on May 22, 2013—a hearing, incidentally, at which no public comment was permitted.  During the following year and a half, Scott Walker’s position on the issue was, at best, vague and evolving.  The governor has gained a national reputation for bold stands on issues.  Certainly, once he takes a firm stand, Walker has demonstrated his ability to garner strong legislative support that will move the bills he wants to his desk for signature.

It is worth noting, then, that Walker made no such effort to secure anti-Common Core legislation. In fact, one could make precisely the opposite case. It isn’t just that no repeal legislation has been enacted. Any legislative language that could have made a difference was quashed, never making it through committee. It is difficult to believe that the governor didn’t prefer this lack of movement, particularly since investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has revealed that in early 2014 the governor’s office had a direct hand in ensuring that a repeal bill known to have been crafted by a State Senator was re-drafted and ultimately introduced as a far less powerful standards review bill.

What’s more, when a series of four public hearings to investigate and take public comment on Common Core was finally held in Wisconsin in October 2013, the results were negligible. Absolutely nothing was done to stop Common Core in Wisconsin.  In fact, the one item that Walker assiduously pushed for after being re-elected in November 2014 was school accountability. The language of bills introduced in the Assembly and Senate respectively both arguably worked to entrench Common Core and high-stakes testing in Wisconsin, at least to the extent that Common Core-aligned assessments, such as Smarter Balanced assessments are used as the accountability measure.

Keeping “Everybody” Happy

What’s going on here?

It’s actually not so difficult to solve the puzzle.

Key organizations, such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC, the state’s Chamber of Commerce), have publicly endorsed Common Core. A major campaign backer of Governor Walker and other Republicans in state leadership, WMC has significant clout at the State Capitol. This reality goes a long way toward providing a reasonable—though not necessarily excusable—explanation of Walker’s continued fence-riding and inaction on Common Core.  Governor Walker is undoubtedly caught between major corporate donors who favor Common Core and a conservative base that overwhelmingly opposes it.  However, it is hard to avoid the reality that, to date, Walker’s actions (or lack thereof), have best suited the wishes of the big donors.

Let’s Pretend with the Budget

The most recent examples of this reality are tied to language in the governor’s proposed 2015-2017 biennial state budget, which he submitted on February 3, 2015.  In fact, when, in an interview with a major media figure on April 20th, Scott Walker was directly asked if he would sign a repeal of Common Core if it came to his desk, the governor replied that he would “absolutely repeal Common Core in Wisconsin.”  To drive the point home, he added: “Absolutely.  I proposed it in my budget.” 

Ostensibly, the budget does finally seem to do something substantive to remove Common Core in Wisconsin.  It includes a proposal to defund the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessments and pull Wisconsin out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Moreover, it states that “the state superintendent may not give effect to any academic standard developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.”

But for those paying close attention to the issue, the budget also contained indications that Common Core was not actually on its way out. The language related to defunding of SBAC, for example, contained no prohibitions against choosing other Common Core-aligned assessments. Nor were any funds designated for the development of new standards to replace the Common Core standards, which currently remain Wisconsin’s official state standards for English Language Arts and mathematics.

Moreover, significant tracts of language from a standalone accountability bill, which had been offered in the Assembly in early January at the governor’s urging, had been cut and pasted into the budget. With no guarantee that the next assessments selected would not be Common Core aligned, activists in the state were suspicious that a powerful enforcement mechanism for the standards would remain in place.

Accountability: The Key to the Game

And herein we come to another important point.

For some time now, Governor Walker’s principal means of dealing with the base on Common Core has been to say that in a local control state, local districts can do what they like. Technically, the governor is correct: Local districts have the right to set their own standards in Wisconsin. Yet, this right doesn’t play out practically. Measures already in place in the state hold teachers, schools, and districts accountable for student scores on state-mandated standardized assessments by issuing district and school “report cards.”  Efforts to implement a sanctions process on schools and districts that don’t measure up on assessments have been a priority for the Governor.  Such sanctions were the subject of the very first bills offered in the 2015 legislative session: AB1 and SB1.  Due to immense public opposition from both the left and the right, neither bill has made it to a floor vote.  However, on June 18, 2015, Representative Robert Brooks stated at the Ozaukee County Pints and Politics that an accountability bill was likely forthcoming in an attempt to pick up aspects of earlier-proposed accountability bills that had not already been inserted into the budget.  The pieces of previous accountability bills not inserted into the budget would almost certainly be a sanctions process for schools that don’t measure up on standardized assessments.  AB1, for example, contains a sanctions process up to and including state takeover of “underperforming” schools.

Schools and districts would/do, then, face a choice: Either move away from the standards and take a huge risk of doing poorly on the mandated assessments or teach to the test in order better to ensure the kinds of assessment scores the state wants to see.  If the state standardized test is Common Core-aligned, the strong incentive is to teach to Common Core standards.  Only if the state standardized assessments were unpegged from Common Core and/or aligned to different standards would most schools feel the freedom to move away from Common Core. There is a reason that only one school district in the state has thus far taken the riskier road.

It is in relationship to this very point that, regrettably, the budgetary language has turned out to be an elaborate sleight of hand—the governor’s greatest ploy yet to make the base believe that he’s actually attempting to do something about Common Core. It’s so good, in fact, that even most legislators seem to have fallen for it.

Down the Request-for-Bid Rabbit Hole

As soon as the budget was submitted, word began to come back from legislative offices that a new Badger Exam would be commissioned to replace the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessment.  That made sense.  Given the Governor’s inclusion of test-based accountability in his budget, some statewide, standardized test would be needed.  However, rumblings out of legislative offices made it clear that this “new” Badger exam would also be Common Core-aligned and that an imminent Request for Bids for the new Badger exam would contain details and verification.

Finally, on April 23, 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Administration announced a Request for Bid for a new Badger Exam in English Language Arts, Math and Science.  Curiously, the proposal document only referred to “Wisconsin Standards”, leaving vendors to guess as to what, precisely, they would be writing exams to assess.

Clearly needing more information, vendors asked the Department of Administration for clarification in two rounds of formal question and answer.

On May 19, 2015, in DPI’s responses to the first round of questions, some helpful information was finally provided:

Question #53:  Standards- Are the WI Standards mentioned in the RFP different from the WI Model Academic Standards?
Answer #53: These are the WI State Standards available in the DPI webpage. This is the same for Science as the Model Academic standards, but different for ELA and math.

Though this answer was a little better than just referring to “Wisconsin Standards”, it remained unclear whether these standards were in fact the Common Core standards adopted by Wisconsin on June 2, 2010 or something else.  On May 20, 2015, we asked the Department of Administration to include in the second round of Q&A a question that would spell out in detail exactly what standards the new Badger Exam would be written to assess.

On June 5, 2015, DPI’s answers to the second round of questions were released with the following reply to our question:

Question #1:  Could you point to the actual place (a url) on the DPI website where the “WI State Standards” for ELA, Math, and Science are listed? Could you perhaps also show where the “Model Academic Standards” are listed so that we can determine the difference?
Answer #1:
ELA Standards http://ela.dpi.wi.gov/english-language-arts-standards.
Math Standards http://math.dpi.wi.gov/mathematics-standards-page.
Science Standards http://standards.dpi.wi.gov/stn_sciintro.

This response should be troubling to anyone opposed to Common Core—for more than one reason.

The ELA Standards page cited by DPI automatically redirects to a page: http://dpi.wi.gov/ela:


This page does not contain detailed Wisconsin standards, but instead contains a second link [see blue arrow in graphic above] to an ELA standards page: http://dpi.wi.gov/ela/standards:


This page also does not include detailed standards, but it does contain the following text [pointed at by the blue arrow in the graphic above]:

To access a copy of the WI State Standards in English Language Arts, please view the attached document WI State Standards on ELA.

It is only by following an automatic redirect and clicking on this third link that the standards themselves are actually revealed. And what do they turn out to be? [drum roll please...] CCSS-Rebranded-For-WI

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, branded for Wisconsin.

Similarly, the Math Standards page cited by DPI automatically redirects to a page: http://dpi.wi.gov/math

This page does not contain detailed Wisconsin standards, but instead contains a second link [see blue arrow in graphic above] to an mathematics standards page: http://dpi.wi.gov/math/standards

This page also does not include detailed standards, but it does contain the following text [pointed at by the blue arrow in the graphic above]:

The Wisconsin State Standards in Mathematics and additional resources on the standards are on the DPI Common Core homepage.

As with ELAs, it is only by following an automatic redirect and clicking on this third link that the standards themselves are actually revealed. And what do they turn out to be? [drum roll please...]

You guessed it… The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, branded for Wisconsin.

Note that the DPI webpage says “additional resources on the standards are on the DPI Common Core Home Page.“  Note also that that link goes to http://.dpi.wi.gov/common-core (sic) a page that does not load.  However a page without the leading period http://dpi.wi.gov/common-core does still exist on the DPI website, indicating that, contrary to the language in the budget stating that “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards“, said standards are still alive and well in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

Not only, then, is it clear that the new assessments being sought to replace SBAC in Wisconsin will likewise be Common Core-aligned, just as legislative sources hinted shortly after the governor submitted his budget; but it’s clear an effort is being made to at least make it cumbersome to get at that truth.

Keeping up Appearances

Just days after we obtained this confirmation that Wisconsin would be entrenching Common Core in our State with a new Common Core-aligned Badger Exam, Scott Walker was quoted in the press, saying: “Nationwide, we want high standards but we want them set by parents, educators and school board members at the local level. That is why I oppose Common Core.

Scott Walker means for us to believe that, because he is removing the Smarter Balanced assessments via the budget that Common Core will have no effect in Wisconsin.  That’s what his budget says and that’s what he has been saying repeatedly on the presidential campaign trail.  He is clear that Common Core aligned assessments tie school districts’ hands and force them to adopt Common core from his quote on January 17, 2015: “We take it a step further and we work with the legislature making sure there aren’t things like the Smarter Balanced test going forward that require the schools to use a test that’s based on the Common Core.“  Yet, he is simultaneously pushing an accountability scheme that includes the commissioning of a new Badger Exam that assesses performance based on the Common Core standards, thereby further entrenching  Common Core in Wisconsin.

In addition, Scott Walker states that language in his budget gives school districts the right to set their own standards, different from Common Core.  Governor Walker’s statement is disingenuous in at least two ways.

  • First, Wisconsin school districts have had the right to set their own standards since at least 1998, so the Walker budget doesn’t actually grant them any new authority.
  • Second, since the new Badger Exam will be aligned to and measure performance against the Common Core, the Walker accountability scheme thoroughly undercuts any real ability for a school district to move away from Common Core in a meaningful way.   The Walker budget actually ensures that Common Core standards will dominate the Wisconsin educational landscape for years to come.

Cutting to the Chase

Scott Walker can only be seen as saying one thing and doing something quite different.  But he’s nothing if not a consummate politician.  In his run for the presidency, these cunning but deeply misleading moves will likely garner him big support from major corporate interests and the Chamber of Commerce.

The truth is that, despite the pretty language in Governor Walker’s proposed budget, saying that Common Core will have no effect in Wisconsin, Common Core will indeed continue to have an effect in this state. The effect is that the new Badger Exam will assess students’ proficiency against the Common Core standards; that our districts, schools, and teachers will be held accountable to Common Core; and that Wisconsin’s future will be shaped by the standardization and centralized control that Common Core represents and perpetuates.

Scott Walker is playing with our children’s futures for his own political gain. Eventually his maneuvering is going to catch up with him.  If he is to maintain any respect either in Wisconsin or on the presidential campaign trail, he must choose another path, and he must choose it quickly.

What will it be, Governor?  Now is the time to choose.

What will it be, Governor?  Now is the time to choose.

What will it be, Governor? Now is the time to choose.


The Fight Against Common Core In Wisconsin – A Timeline

The fight to Stop Common Core in Wisconsin has been a roller coaster ride.  This article is meant primarily to document the ups and downs with links to all the pertinent details. 

June 2, 2010

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Secretary Tony Evers adopts the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as Wisconsin’s Model Standards.  He does this without asking for any legislative input or approval and with no public comment on the final draft of the Common Core Standards.  In fact, Evers adopts the Common Core Standards mere hours after they are released.

May 2, 2013

28 leaders grassroots leaders representing 28 groups from across Wisconsin signed An Open Letter to Republican State Officials on the Common Core State Standards  outlining their concerns about Common Core and why the Legislature and the Governor should work to stop Common Core in Wisconsin.

May 22, 2013

People from across the state of Wisconsin packed a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly Education Committees in a show of deep concern over this state’s decision to implement the CCSS.

June 2013

Rep. Dean Knudson works in the Joint Finance Committee to insert language in 2013-2015 biennial budget that would ensure three hearings be held by the Joint Education Committee and three hearings held by DPI around the state on Common Core State Standards

August 8, 2013

Senator Luther Olsen and Representative Joan Balweg fail to hold required hearings for over two months since the 2013-2015 biennial budget passes requiring them to do so.  46 grassroots leaders representing 45 grassroots groups from across Wisconsin deliver an Open Letter to State Legislative and Executive Leadership : Common Core State Standards, Honor, and Senator Luther Olsen requesting that hearings be held without delay.

September 25, 2013

Governor Walker speaks for the very first time publicly about CCSS.  When questioned by a reporter asking him about significant opposition to CCSS being mounted by conservative grassroots groups in Wisconsin, Walker replies: “I’d like to have Wisconsin have its own unique standards that I think can be higher than what’s been established and what’s been talked about at the national level.

September 26, 2013

True to form.  Walker talks and Republican leadership listens!  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos names Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt to chair an Assembly Special Select Committee on Common Core.  Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald names Senator Paul Farrow to chair the Senate Special Select Committee on Common Core.

October / November 2013

The two special select committees on Common Corel  conduct a series of four statewide hearings on Common Core. The hearings are held in Madison, Fond du Lac, Eau Claire, and Wausau.  Wisconsin citizens get their first significant opportunity to weigh in on Common Core. A variety of experts – including Sandra Stotsky, R. James Milgram,  Ted Rebarber, Gary Thompson and Ze’ev Wurman – come to Wisconsin to testify, as well, exposing numerous deep problems with the controversial standards.

November 26, 2013

56 leaders representing  53 Wisconsin grassroots groups send Open Letter to Governor Walker on Common Core telling him “You have the ability to be the hero in this story.”  The letter is also signed by national experts Sandra Stotsky, James Milgram, Gary Thompson, Ted Rebarber and Ze’ev Wurman who had testified against Common Core at the recently held hearings.

December 12, 2013

The Assembly Select Committee on Common Core wraps up its work and approves a set of recommendations.

December 16, 2013

Rep. Thiesfeldt questions the failure of the Department of Public Instruction to hold even one of the three statewide hearings they were required to hold by the biennial budget.

January 2014

 A form is submitted to the governor’s office requesting that he declare a “Stop Common Core in Wisconsin” day. A staffer in the governor’s office replies to the individual submitting the request to say that it has been “placed on hold by my boss.

February 18, 2014

State Senator Leah Vukmir, a member of the ad hoc joint legislative committee tasked with investigating and making recommendations on Common Core, is known to be working on bill language for a full repeal of Common Core. When the pro-Common Core chair of the Senate Education Committee, Luther Olsen, makes it clear that he will only give the bill a hearing if he can be involved in shaping the language, Governor Walker’s office steps in. A deal is brokered, transforming the bill’s language from an outright repeal plan to a mere standards review process whereby Common Core might possibly be removed in the future. However, considering whom the bill empowers to appoint members to the proposed review board, the outcome at which the bill supposedly aims remains in serious question.

An open records request by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reveals that Governor Walker’s office supplied the language that transformed (and unquestionably watered down) Vukmir’s bill.

March 6, 2014

Despite Senator Luther Olsen’s involvement in crafting the SB619′s new language, the pro-Common Core committee chair attempts to deep-six the proposed legislation just hours before its scheduled public hearing. He announces to the press that the bill has little or no support among committee members, would not pass out of committee, and that he would thus be unlikely to present t to members for a vote.  Rep. Steve Nass calls out Senator Luther Olsen on his duplicity.

April 23, 2014

Legislative Session ends with no action taken on Common Core – The legislature will not return until January 2015. 45 leaders representing 43 Wisconsin grassroots groups put Governor Walker and the legislature on notice about their inaction on Common Core saying “Congratulations.  You Own It.” in an open letter.

Four bills were offered by representatives on the Assembly Special Select Committee on Common Core.  Only one of those bills – dealing with important aspects of the collection and mining of student data – ever makes it to the Assembly floor for a vote. However, it dies when the Senate fails to take it up.

July 17, 2014

In ramping up his re-election efforts, Governor Walker declares in a written statement: “Today, I call on the members of the state Legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.

July 18, 2014

Just one day after calling for a Common Core repeal bill, Governor Walker went on record as suggesting that whatever standards Wisconsin would develop in place of Common Core might not be significantly different from Common Core. In a spirit of true political-speak, Walker equivocates: “It’s just one of those where they’ll have to adjust some things, some of the things may very well parallel, other things will be different.”

November 2014

Both Governor Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature begin reciting remarkably similar talking points, demonstrating a deeply softened position on Common Core. The important thing, they say, is no longer to repeal Common Core  but to ensure that local districts are able to retain control over the standards they adopt.  Local districts have had this right since at least 1998.

December 2014

 Governor Walker dials back his opposition to Common Core telling the Associated Press that his goal is to remove “any mandate that requires a school district to abide by Common Core standards” (Current Wisconsin law allows school districts to adopt their own standards, and most have maintained Common Core since the statewide tests are based on those standards.)

January 2015

In response to Governor Walker’s demand for an accountability bill, the Assembly and the Senate each fast-track measures. Strikingly, accountability bills AB 1 and SB 1 are the first bills introduced for the new legislative session in their respective chambers. Both plans contain numerous troubling components, including the use of Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced assessments as the primary accountability measure.

January 17, 2015

Only after grassroots on both the Right and the Left pour calls into the governor’s office over several days does Governor Walker make the following statement to the press:

I also want [the legislature] to make it perfectly clear in the statutes that school districts do not have to use [C]ommon [C]ore, and that we take it a step further and we work with the legislature making sure there aren’t things like the Smarter Balanced test going forward that require the schools to use a test that’s based on the Common Core.

[N.B. The article accompanying the video coverage of this story incorrectly transcribes Governor Walker's statement.  We have corrected the transcription error in the quote above.]

February 3, 2015

Governor Walker submits his 2015-2017 biennial budget.  It has the following Common Core-related language:

115.293 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium; Common Core State Standards Initiative; prohibition.

(1) Beginning on the effective date of this subsection …. [LRB inserts date], the state superintendent shall cease all participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

(2) The state superintendent may not give effect to any academic standard developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative and adopted and implemented in this state before the effective date of this subsection …. [LRB inserts date].  The state superintendent may not require any school board to give effect to any such academic standard.

(3) Beginning on the effective date of this subsection …. [LRB inserts date], the state superintendent may not take any action to adopt or implement any academic standard developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and may not direct any school board to adopt or implement any such standard.

This would essentially defund Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced assessments after the 2014-2015 academic year.  The budget also embeds school accountability language that requires a state assessment, leaving the question as to what assessment will be used to hold schools accountable if the Smarter Balanced assessment is off the table.

April 20, 2015

Wisconsin Gov. Scot Walker says on the Glenn Beck radio show that  he would “absolutely” sign a bill repealing Common Core in his state.

Beck said that Governor Walker was “seemingly a little noncommittal on Common Core. Will you sign, if it comes to your desk, a full repeal of Common Core in Wisconsin?

Walker replied: “Absolutely. I proposed it in my budget. Years ago, before I was governor, the previous legislature, previous governor and the superintendent of public instruction, which is an independently elected commissioner, enacted this. It wasn’t something on our radar screen when we first ran in 2010. A few years ago when we heard from parents, we heard from conservative educators, many others like that, raised concerns, we drafted the education to repeal it in the state. Fortunately, at that time the state legislator did bring that up.”

April 23, 2015

The answer to the question “If not the Smarter Balanced assessment, which standardized tests will Wisconsin students take next year?” is answered.  The Wisconsin Department of Administration issues a Bid Announcement for Badger Exam, English Language Arts, Math, and Science

However, the Proposal Document only refers to “Wisconsin Standards” leaving vendors uncertain as to exactly what standards the new Badger Exam would be written to.

May 19, 2015

The first round of vendor questions and answers about the new Badger Exam contains the following:

Question #53:  Standards- Are the WI Standards mentioned in the RFP different from the WI Model Academic Standards?
Answer #53: These are the WI State Standards available in the DPI webpage. This is the same for Science as the Model Academic standards, but different for ELA and math.

The question indicates that the RFP has been written so vaguely as to make vendors uncertain of the standards around which new assessments are meant to be structured

May 20, 2015

Grassroots activists ask the Department of Administration representative Dan Wilson, who is managing the Badger Exam Bid process to ask specifically which standards the new proposed Badger Exam will be written to on the next round of vendor questions.

June 5, 2015

Second round of questions and answers about newly proposed Badger exam is released.  It contains the following:

Question #1:  Could you point to the actual place (a url) on the DPI website where the “WI State Standards” for ELA, Math, and Science are listed? Could you perhaps also show where the “Model Academic Standards” are listed so that we can determine the difference?
Answer #1:
ELA Standards http://ela.dpi.wi.gov/english-language-arts-standards.
Math Standards http://math.dpi.wi.gov/mathematics-standards-page.
Science Standards http://standards.dpi.wi.gov/stn_sciintro.

This response is very troubling because the ELA Standard page contains a link to the detailed ELA standards: http://dpi.wi.gov/ela/standards which contains the following text:

“To access a copy of the WI State Standards in English Language Arts, please view the attached document WI State Standards on ELA

NOTE: The link DPI provides in this reply is to the Common Core standards for ELA.

Similarly, the Math Standards page contains a link to the detailed math standards: http://dpi.wi.gov/math/standards which contains the following text:

“The Wisconsin State Standards in Mathematics and additional resources on the standards are on the DPI Common Core homepage

NOTE: The link DPI provides in this reply is to the Common Core standards for mathematics.

June 9, 2015

Governor Walker writes an Op-Ed in the Des Moines Register saying “Nationwide, we want high standards but we want them set by parents, educators and school board members at the local level. That is why I oppose Common Core.





8 Reasons to Opt Out

Contributed by Dane County OptOut

  1. Currently, the focus on literacy and math Common Core Standards and testing for such standards is squeezing other subjects out of the daily curriculum.​This encourages schools to give less time to social studies, music, art, world languages, physical education, and science. For example, in some schools in Madison, only 150 minutes per week are allotted for science and social studies ​combined​, while in the past​t​hese subjects were allotted 150 minutes each p​er week. Furthermore, the concern of raising test scores is impinging considerably on recess time in many schools, which is a crucial component to children’s social, emotional, and physical well­being and growth.
  2. Thus far the tests have not been shown to be reliable measures of creativity, social justice, critical thinking, and cannot measure alternative understandings of any subjective content. ​They push learning into testable chunks of objective data that don’t allow for complexity or nuance, and certainly do not measure everything our children could or should be learning in school.
  3. Standardized tests continually perpetuate inequalities and have been shown to be particularly detrimental to poor students, students of color, students of differing abilities, and students with limited English proficiency. ​Though many of these tests purport to “illuminate” previously “hidden” achievement gaps between these students and better resourced middle­class and white students, in reality, these tests have never been solidly free of social biases, a​nd it may be that the very culture of this sort of testing is inherently biased against certain groups of children.
  4. Standardized exams are loaded with poorly written, ambiguous questions, and the implementation of these computer­based tests has been fraught with problems all over the country.​  Schools in Colorado, New Jersey, and Florida have reported wide­spread problems with hacking and other issues in using computer­based tests.​These tests are unlike any test your child has ever taken and often result in greater anxiety, thus invalidating the data. Check out sample items at   http://www.smarterbalanced.org/sample­items­and­performance­tasks/
  5. The testing industry is basically the tail that is wagging the dog of the individual teacher.​For­profit companies like Pearson Education are making millions of dollars while Wisconsin public schools are getting hit with massive budget cuts. The tests have a price tag that includes the exam itself, the technology, as well as the scoring of the exam.  This is a national trend: States cut funding to public schools while pouring millions into new computer systems designed for Common Core tests.  Furthermore, collecting data on our children through these computer­based exams has created a “data­palooza” (as one Wisconsin school board member phrased it) for the government and for corporations. ​These companies are profiting on the backs of OUR children and teachers.
  6. In many places throughout the country, these tests are being used to evaluate and even influence teacher pay. ​In spite of the rhetoric of “value­added measures” (i.e., collecting pre and post test data to evaluate “growth” that can allegedly be attributed to teacher effort), ​the statistical extrapolation from test score to teacher effectiveness is a dangerous road to tread. ​Teachers cannot control what students walk into any given exam day facing: homelessness, hunger, heartbreak – all of which can affect a students’ performance on an exam, and hence a teacher’s evaluation.
  7. Parents are leaving public schools for private or charter schools that don’t have the same testing mandates, or because of their belief that public schools are failing.  ​A 2010 Gallup poll showed that Americans continue to believe their local schools are performing well, but the nation’s schools are performing poorly.  77% of public school parents give theIr child’s school an “A” or “B” while 18% of all Americans grade the nation’s public schools that high (http://www.gallup.com/poll/142658/americans­views­public­schools­far­worse­parents.aspx).  ​It’s time to reframe the conversation, support our public schools, and help them to fulfill their promise of education ALL students.

Now is the time to challenge the standardized testing regime.  Corporate driven education “reform” is DE-forming teaching and learning, and threatening the existence of public schools.
From the blog of the venerable Diane Ravitch, educational pundit and self­professed convert from pro­ test­based accountability supporter to anti­standardized testing crusader:

“The Opt Out movement is spreading like wildfire. It is led by parents…Parents understand that the tests are designed to fail most children. They understand that test prep and testing are stealing time from instruction. They aren’t commanded by anyone. They are listening to their children”

… and we would add, to their teachers and a growing number of administrators across the country too!

Constituent Alleges Repeated Deception in Wisconsin

What follows is a well reasoned letter concerning the deception involved with Wisconsin’s embrace of the Common Core, hiding of the results of 2015 Common Core Aligned Smarter Balanced assessments under AB78, and Wisconsin’s march toward test based accountability under AB1.  It should serve as a good example of how to communicate with legislators:

  • Provide reasoned arguments,
  • Crystalize your argument with a single word or phrase (in this case “deception”), and
  • Very clearly asks for action.

Please continue to make calls and emails on AB1 and AB78 to your legislator and members of the Assembly Committee on Education.

Re: AB1 AND AB78

Way to Go!  The Wisconsin Legislature just passed Right to work – after how many decades?  This freedom is truly good news for all of Wisconsin’s workers.

Now workers can choose whether or not to join a union and pay dues, but parents and students do not have a similar choice regarding Common Core and the related tests.  What happened to their freedom to choose?

Common Core was conceived in deception and we know that professional educators did not sign off on Common Core standards.

The deception continued for three years when DPI Superintendent Tony Evers did not disclose to Wisconsin state legislators that he had signed Wisconsin on to Common Core for the entire state’s Public School children.

More deception continued these same three years as DPI and local school districts were busy implementing Common Core to hundreds of thousands of public school children without holding required public hearings.

And now this legislation intends to end LOCAL CONTROL?  The district administrator is hired.  School Board members are elected.   Why this deception?

More deception when districts ask for additional funds through referendums “for the children.”  My husband and I are retired.  Our real estate taxes have gone up considerably due to new technology.  And significant overhead staffing, which I’m sure occurs at many districts statewide.

After the 2012 local referendum passed, the local superintendentreceived a 14.57% pay increase which included a $6,600 car allowance.  There are only three campuses in our district, a total drive of about 40 miles from one end to the other.  The salary survey indicated he was due for a parity raise comparable to income of other district superintendents.   Listed are salary levels.

2013 – 2014    $193,090.95
2014 – 2015    $199,090.95 – 5 weeks vacation – $6000 pay raise
2015 – 2015    $205,090.95 – 6 weeks vacation – another $6000 pay raise

School District Administrators / Superintendents are high-priced talent ($150K – $200K+) and it may take a year for a school district to hire a replacement.  Therefore, many school boards take the advice of the district administrator, which may or may not coincide with the wishes of the local community.

Does this new legislation deceptively make the superintendent accountable to DPI in Madison or will accountability remain with the local school board, parents and community?

Deception again as teachers must teach to the curriculum and are not allowed to voice opposition.  Who can parents and taxpayers believe or trust?  Teachers?  Administrators?  Legislators?   DPI???

It’s almost five years into Common Core for Wisconsin school children. Students have been taught the ‘rigorous’ Common Core standards. Now students are about to be tested according to Common Core with a predicted 40 percent failure rate for students!


Millions of dollars have been taken from the federal government for Common Core, (a bribe???). Now hundreds of thousands of students have been taught according to those rigorous standards. And now the proof of the pudding is the test.

And the legislators and DPI don’t think the results should be publicized?


I am a retired taxpayer without children in Wisconsin public schools.

However, as a parent, I would be furious that the state of Wisconsin legislators and DPI is forcing this test on innocent children. This is tantamount to abuse. With the current legislation under proposal, AB1 and AB78, the students take a horrible test and then the failing results are hidden from the public.


Results must be made public.

Legislators were elected to legislate on behalf of ALL of the citizens in the state. Not just those who are going to profit by this test.  FOLLOW THE MONEY!

  • the curriculum writers
  • the test writers
  • the test givers

But what about the children, the parents, the elected school board members, the highly paid administrators, and the taxpayers who have no children in the district but a substantial financial commitment called real estate taxes?

Drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on research.  However, if the results do not benefit patients (customers) THEY DROP THE RESEARCH!  Money spent – lesson learned – life goes on to something better.

It’s time to pull this legislation and drop it from further consideration.

Shirley Kufeldt
Conover, WI



Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt’s School Accountability Bill has morphed into a LOCAL CONTROL DEATH BILL.

At the hearings back in January, Thiesfeldt promised that modifications would be done to improve this bill, but it appears it HAS ONLY GOTTEN WORSE for our children and our freedom.

I’m sure you’ve all heard politicians talk about how Wisconsin is a “Local Control State”… often time with a wink and a nod. In case you had any doubts, this bill clears it up. Local control in Wisconsin is at best lip-service. It is not respected by our legislature, DPI, or the governor.


From the bill language (emphasis my own):

In addition, the school board or operator of a charter school other than an independent charter school MUST authorize the school district administrator to act, UNILATERALLY and on matters related to the operation and administration of the school that is subject to sanctions, CONTRARY TO policies and procedures adopted by THE SCHOOL BOARD. The substitute amendment PROHIBITS the school board from retaliating against the school district administrator for any lawful actions undertaken pursuant to this authority.

The bill further enables superintendents to SUE school boards should they attempt to fire or discipline their superintendent for carrying out…THE STATE’S WILL. Not the will of LOCAL PARENTS AND TAXPAYERS. Not the will of the SCHOOL BOARDS that represent them. The STATE OF WISCONSIN’S will.


How exactly does such a measure honor local control? School boards are being told they MUST cede their own authority and proper representation of the people that elected them, handing their authority instead to an APPOINTED superintendent who will carry out the will of the State? Moreover, how does this not incentivize superintendents to achieve failure in order to gain powers that supersede their local boards’?


It guarantees that children will spend ever increasing amounts of time in high stakes testing and test preparation. It assures that less and less time will be spent on actual learning and in subjects like shop, home economics, art, music and even science and history.


It reduces teachers to a value added measure based on their students’ performance on Common Core aligned assessments. This objectifies and deprofessionalizes teachers. They will be forced to teach to the standards and teach to the test instead of treating each of their students as a unique, valuable individual.


Let’s be clear on what this is: AB1 is the state putting chains around the wrists and duct tape on the mouths of local citizens and their ELECTED representatives. Are there problems in some school districts? Sure. Is this the way to solve them? ABSOLUTELY NOT.


  1. Unelected, unaccountable boards.
  2. State takeover of schools.
  3. Invalid value added measures correlating several tests in a way absolutely nobody can comprehend.
  4. Top down control of local school districts from the State with threats against any local representative that would intercede for the people.
  5. A timeline to passage that allows no discussion on the matter. (Thiesfeldt says it will be voted on by the full legislature in less than a week)

A legislator that votes for this bill needs to know this is not the last they will hear of accountability. They will each be held accountable at the ballot box. A governor that signs such an overreach into law needs to know he will not get our support!

Call Jeremy Thiesfeldt, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee and tell him that he needs to pull his bill — that it runs contrary to our local control statutes and to the representative system under which we [supposedly] live. Ask him what exactly representative government means to him while you’re at it. Tell him we will not accept the undermining of our local representatives, that it is our job to deal with them if they fail and to ensure that they deal appropriately with the people they appoint on our behalf. PERIOD.

EMAIL: Rep.Thiesfeldt@legis.wisconsin.gov


Call your own assemblyman as well to ensure that they’re not tempted to support this revised bill for even one moment. You can find them by using the “Find My Legislators” here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/


Call each of the members of the assembly education committee:

  • Representative Thiesfeldt (Chair) – (608) 266-3156
  • Representative Kitchens (Vice-Chair) – (608) 266-5350
  • Representative Jagler – (608) 266-9650
  • Representative Knudson – (608) 266-1526
  • Representative Rodriguez – (608) 282-3621
  • Representative R. Brooks – (608) 267-2369
  • Representative Horlacher – (608) 266-5715
  • Representative Murphy – (608) 266-7500
  • Representative Quinn – (608) 266-2519
  • Representative Hutton – (608) 267-9836
  • Representative Pope – (608) 266-3520
  • Representative Sinicki – (608) 266-8588
  • Representative Genrich – (608) 266-0616
  • Representative Barnes – (608) 266-3756
  • Representative Considine – (608) 266-7746



Why Accountability Bill (AB 1) Must Be Stopped


AB 1, otherwise known as the “accountability bill” is being fast-tracked and will have a public hearing at 10am next Wednesday, January 14th.

JUST A FEW of the reasons you should stand firmly against this bill, show up to testify against it, and write and/or call your state legislators to tell them to reject it include:

  1. At the very least, for the next two years, it relies on the Smarter Balanced assessments (SBAC assessments) as a principle measure of accountability; SBAC assessments are, quite simply, the enforcement mechanism for ‪#‎CommonCore‬, meaning that we are actually further entrenching Common Core through this bill.
  2. The SBAC assessments have been exposed as having ZERO validity; if the assessments have no validity, how is it ethical to build an accountability system upon them — one that will be used to hold teachers, schools, and districts accountable.
  3. Moreover, the cut scores for the SBAC assessments have been purposely designed to fail upwards of 60 to 70 percent of the students who take them, meaning that many students, teachers, schools, and districts will be labeled as “failing” when the first round of assessment scores comes back in the spring/fall of this calendar year. It will be a false read, but it will be taken seriously, resulting in deleterious effects to all parties and entities: students, teachers, schools, and districts. REMEMBER: There are REAL PENALTIES tied to this accountability system, up to and including the closing of schools.
  4. The high stakes described above can have no other outcome but “teaching to the test.”
  5. While this bill does provide for the development of alternate assessments by 2017, the manner in which this provision is made and framed suggests that the alternatives will ultimately be no better than SBAC, resulting in a lot of wasted taxpayer money — five flavors of ice cream, and they’re all vanilla.
  6. Even if the resulting alternative assessments ARE appreciably different, which is extremely unlikely, the bill states that any school district opting to administer one of the state developed and approved alternatives will have to pay for it, whereas SBAC will continue to be the “cost-free” option, limiting the number of schools that would actually depart from SBAC.
  7. DPI is given far too much control in this bill.
  8. The bill would create YET ONE MORE UNELECTED, UNACCOUNTABLE BOARD in this state, something we have far too many of already.
  9. The people able to appoint members to this board would largely be those who have already demonstrated that they’re not terribly interested in divesting this state of Common Core; if that’s the case, are we crazy enough to expect anything will change under the plan this bill proposes?
  10. This bill makes school districts increasingly accountable to state government; in a local-control state, that is the wrong direction. We should be pushing for measures that restore greater local control, not solidifying centralization and standardization at the state level. (LOOK BELOW FOR SOLUTIONS.)
  11. This bill reinforces the “grading system” sham that has been foisted on teachers, schools, and school districts. The grading system sounds like a good thing on the surface, but in fact it is not about measuring academic success at all; instead, it’s about measuring compliance to a centralized, standardized model of education. Anything that reinforces it should be rejected out of hand. If we’re going to measure something, it ought to be actual academic knowledge…something that can be measured by well-educated (notice I don’t say “trained”) classroom teachers.
  12. Despite the fact that there is an attempt to frame it otherwise, this bill could have no other effect than to homogenize educational alternatives over time, because it ultimately brings public, charter, and voucher schools all under the same accountability measure. Again, for AT LEAST the next two years, that’s SBAC, the enforcement mechanism for Common Core.

WHEN LEGISLATORS INEVITABLY ASK YOU WHAT THEY SHOULD DO INSTEAD, tell them that there are three things they should aim to do:

  1. Suspend the SBAC tests IMMEDIATELY.
  2. Propose a bill that would give local school districts the freedom to choose from a range of properly validated, reliable, and COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE assessment measures that have no resemblance to or association with SBAC, PARCC, VARC, AIR, PEARSON, or any other outfit that has been part of or demonstrated willingness to play ball with Common Core development and/or advocacy.
  3. Start to figure out a plan to move the bulk of funding for public education back to the local level. Since the Thompson administration, the State of Wisconsin has funded education at about two-thirds. That was the beginning of the end for true local control. Until that funding is restored primarily to the local level, the state will continue to have too much power over local school districts. Tell legislators that we ARE a local control state, and we ought to start behaving like one by restoring REAL authority and funding mechanisms to the local districts.



Congratulations. You Own It.

An Open Letter to Wisconsin State Elected Officials on the Full and Imminent Implementation of Common Core State Standards

April 23, 2014

At the beginning of April, the Wisconsin State Legislature concluded its 2014 floor sessions. Yet, Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—the single most prominent issue of the last year in Wisconsin politics—remains unaddressed. As leadership has announced that the legislature will now take a nine-month hiatus, CCSS is unlikely to see any serious opposition at the state level until at least January of 2015.

With CCSS presently retaining status as official state standards, and Smarter Balanced assessments scheduled to roll out this fall for the 2014-2015 school year, the legislature’s failure to act means that total implementation of CCSS is now imminent in Wisconsin. Smarter Balanced assessments are the enforcement mechanism that will be used to ensure compliance with CCSS and aligned curricula.

Because Smarter Balanced assessments have not been in place in Wisconsin up to now, our state has not yet experienced the full reality of CCSS. This fact has allowed several individuals in key positions on both sides of the aisle to tout the standards’ alleged benefits in a manner that few in Wisconsin currently have the experience or the courage to refute. The haze created by this well funded and heavily marketed campaign of misinformation has resulted in confusion, inaction, and even active pro-CCSS entrenchment on the part of many state legislators, district and school administrators, the business community, and even some parents and teachers. Meanwhile, the informed parents, teachers, and taxpayers who have explored CCSS beyond the superficial talking points have been championed only by a small but dedicated coterie of legislators. Those legislators who did understand and make an effort to jettison or undercut CCSS found themselves effectively sidelined by those with greater influence and higher positions of authority.

Well done, then, to Wisconsin’s state-level CCSS advocates. You’ve won this round. You successfully convinced many that rejection of CCSS was just an issue of the “fringe” Tea Party. Despite the wishes of constituents, you ensured that a true CCSS kill-bill never saw the light of day. You ensured that other legislation that might help to undermine CCSS was watered down, marginalized, or killed outright. CCSS will proceed on schedule. Kudos to you.

But be careful about celebrating this victory.

Everything is about to change.

With the deployment of the Smarter Balanced assessments, the rosy CCSS talking points upon which you have relied are about to be exposed for what they are. CCSS is going to cause pain in this state. And in the blame game that ensues, those who have facilitated CCSS either actively or by their inaction will quickly become vulnerable.

Congratulations. You own it.

What exactly do you now own?

  • You own the unhealthy and as yet unimagined degree of pressure that will shortly be placed on Wisconsin children to perform on an unending stream of standardized assessments with little validity.  http://bit.ly/tests-hurt
  • You own the fact that even students previously considered high achievers are likely to fail the Smarter Balanced assessments in droves, providing a false measure of both performance and underperformance. http://bit.ly/unending-tests
  • You own the inaccurate labeling of “underperforming schools” and the subsequent school closings that CCSS and the Smarter Balanced assessments have, in part, been engineered to ensure.  http://bit.ly/underperforming
  • You own the injudicious use of student performance on Smarter Balanced assessments to judge wrongly and misleadingly the quality of teachers.  http://bit.ly/teacher-quality
  • You own the shredding of the art of teaching—the reduction of teachers to proctors in their own classrooms—by means of extensive embedded pedagogy within CCSS that doesn’t just demand compliance from teachers concerning what to teach but also how to teach it. http://bit.ly/kills-creativity, http://bit.ly/demoralize-teachers
  • You own the convoluted and bizarre teaching methods embedded within CCSS pedagogy and the ways in which they will cripple many students’ ability to understand and learn.  http://bit.ly/cripple-students, http://bit.ly/not-teaching
  • You own the distress of parents as they realize they can no longer assist their children with homework because not even as competent adults can they understand the methods by which their children are now being taught.  http://bit.ly/parents-dont-understand
  • You own the rejection of individualism that is part and parcel of the CCSS mandate to teach the same and yield the same, regardless of the unique character, learning styles, circumstances, and aspirations of each child. http://bit.ly/different-styles
  • You own the vast frustration with learning that CCSS is guaranteed to yield as well as the utter disinterest in learning that will spring from it.  http://bit.ly/ccss-frustration, http://bit.ly/ccss-dropout
  • You own the widget-factory schools that CCSS will create.  http://bit.ly/ccss-widget
  • You own the fact that the for-profit charter schools intended to replace “failing” public schools will likewise be CCSS-based widget factories, enriching no one but the people who collect the tuition.  http://bit.ly/ccss-for-profit
  • You own the fact that, under CCSS, students who want to reach farther will only be prepared for a two-year non-selective college, not a four-year university.  http://bit.ly/non-selective
  • You own the coming anger of local taxpayers who will soon realize that you have essentially pushed them into an unfunded mandate—CCSS infrastructure and training costs that will likely exceed the expectations and budgets of most school districts.  http://bit.ly/ccss-high-cost
  • You own the additional taxpayer anger that will result when they discover that all of the spending you helped to push them into was for an initiative doomed to failure from the outset.  http://bit.ly/ccss-doomed
  • You own the invasion of student and family privacy that CCSS furthers through its data gathering, data storage, and data mining components.  http://bit.ly/ccss-privacy
  • You own this initiative’s disregard of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government no authority over education, as well as the its disregard of at least three federal laws forbidding the federal government from involvement in school standards and curriculum.  http://bit.ly/ccss-unconstitutional
  • You own the undercutting of Wisconsin children’s ability to determine their own unbounded future. http://bit.ly/biz-demands
  • And much, much more…

And the saddest part about this long and troubling list of items you’ve just owned?

It was all avoidable.

Apparently, it is not enough for Wisconsin to learn from the experiences of others. Instead, we must have the full experience—sacrificing the education and mental wellbeing of children, breaking the trust of parents, demoralizing teachers, and picking the pockets of taxpayers.

Even a modicum of honest research should have revealed to you precisely what we and many others have found—that despite the billions spent on marketing spin, CCSS is nothing new. It’s merely a doubling-down on every failed education reform of the past thirty years; truly the lipstick-clad pig.

Just a glance to the east would have revealed that full implementation of CCSS has already been a complete train wreck in states like New York and Kentucky, causing massive public outcry from parents, teachers, and taxpayers alike. Conservatives and progressives are fighting CCSS hand-in-hand in those states and elsewhere, as they increasingly will be here. Are you aware that they’re taking names and working to remove people from office in New York and elsewhere over this “education” fiasco?  Do you think that same thing won’t happen in Wisconsin?  Do you think it hasn’t already begun?

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Common Core State Standards are all yours now.


Eric Shimpach
Wisconsin State Coordinator
Young Americans for Liberty
Morgan Gianola
Young Americans for Liberty – Carthage College
Kenosha, WI
Dustin Hwang
Young Americans for Liberty – Marquette University
Milwaukee, WI
Madelyn Winter
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Green Bay
Green Bay, WI
Savannah Bartel
Young Americans for Liberty – University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI
Charles Hunt
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Oshkosh
Oshkosh, WI
Matt Haase
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Stout
Menomonie, WI
John Linné
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Superior
Superior, WI
Michael Cummins
Dane County Campaign for Liberty
Madison, WI
Alan Scholl
Executive Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Duke Pesta
Academic Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Mary Black
Student Development Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Tina Hollenbeck
The Educational Freedom Coalition
Green Bay, WI
Kristi Lacroix
Kenosha, WI
Tracie Happel
Teacher & Parent
Onalaska, WI
Dan Curran
Eagle Forum of Wisconsin
Dodgeville, WI
Sandi Ruggles
Eagle Forum of Southeast Wisconsin
Menomonee Falls, WI
Jane Carpenter
Suburban Republican Women’s Club
Milwaukee, WI
Charles Brey
United in Freedom
Beaver Dam, WI
Joana Briggs
Greendale Tea Party
Greendale, WI
Kip Ertel
We The People
Sheboygan, WI
Michael Hintze
Tea Party Patriots
Earl Hoffman
Clark County Tea Party
Greenwood, WI
Jackie Johnson
Concerned Citizens of Dane County
Madison, WI
Sidney Johnson
Central Wisconsin Tea Party
Marshfield, WI
James Leist
Manitowoc County TEA Movement
Manitowoc, WI
Andrea Lombard
Sauk County Tea Party
Baraboo, WI
Darin Danelski
Lake Country Area Defenders of Liberty
Oconomowoc, WI
Karl Koenigs
Wisconsin TEA Party Committee on State Sovereignty
Peshtigo, WI
Steve Welcenbach
Separately for each: Conservative Insurgency & Menomonee Falls Taxpayer Association
Menomonee Falls, WI
Ed Willing
Caledonia, WI
Jennifer London
Pete Platt
Columbia County Freedom Coalition
Portage, WI
Ronald Zahn
Northeast Wisconsin Patriots
DePere, WI
Richard Parins
Member of The Brown County Taxpayers Association
Green Bay, WI
James Murphy
Green Bay TEA Party
Green Bay, WI
Greg Luce
The La Crosse Tea Party
La Crosse, WI
Georgia Janisch
Rock County Voter Education Forum
Janesville, WI
David Stertz
Fox Valley Conservative Forum
Appleton, WI
Kim Simac
Northwoods Patriots
Eagle River, WI
Joanne Terry
Ozaukee Patriots
Mequon, WI
Marv Munyon
Rock River Patriots
Fort Atkinson, WI
Kirsten Lombard
The Wisconsin 9/12 Project
Madison, WI
Edward Perkins
Fox Valley Initiative
Appleton, WI
Jeffrey Horn
Prairie Patriots
Sun Prairie, WI




We Continue to Build the Machine

We were all deeply disturbed when we learned last week that JFC voted 8-7 to fund the Statewide Student Information System (SSIS).  At the very same time that the legislature is considering data privacy measures, it is essentially funding the construction of the machine that will make data mining possible.  Though painted as an information resource for parents and teachers, the SSIS has ties into Department of Workforce Development, the University of Wisconsin System, the Technical College System, Department of Health, and many other systems throughout the state.  DPI will warehouse personally identifiable information for all the students in the state and link it to various other state agencies.

While it’s true that many people with access to this system will not be able to personally identify students using the system and will only view statistical information, nonetheless, full, personally identifiable information is retained centrally by the SSIS at DPI.  This is the machine by which data mining can occur.  It would only take a small change the the law, or the interpretation of the law, and data could flow to third parties and the federal government.

Some of those legislators have said not to worry, that bills are being introduced in the assembly will protect our children, ensuring that their data remains private.  Indeed Assembly Bill 618 prohibits contractors, consultants and volunteers from viewing personally identifiable information.  That is important, because recently the United States Department of Education has reinterpreted the FERPA laws to allow such people and even corporations to access personally identifiable information.  AB618 also prohibits sharing data with the Federal Government.  However, AB 618 also supports setting up the linkages between state agencies, DPI, the University and Technical College system, and local school districts to build the SSIS.  So, the we’re essentially building the machine to hold massive amounts of student information centrally.  Any agency which the state sees fit to deem in need of such information, will ultimately be linked into the SSIS or Longitudinal Data system.

Limiting who can see student information and prohibiting sharing of such information with the Federal government is great.  However, building a centralized system to hold all the information and encouraging sharing of such information among many state agencies at the same time is counterproductive.  We should be looking to defund the SSIS and prohibit the sharing of personally identifiable information from school districts with any state agency, including DPI, without explicit parental consent.  There is absolutely no need for the State to get between parents, students and their teachers and any bill that purports to support data privacy should not countenance the building of a system that enables the exploitation of personal data.

Local Control: Districts Have the Right But Not the Ability

standardized-mind After many, many hours of expert and public testimony about Common Core, it now seems that most of our legislators have totally missed the point of those raising concerns about this homogenization of students and almost abusive increases in standardized testing.  There are a few exceptions, Senators Leah Vukmir and Paul Farrow seem to understand that creating standardized minds enforced by ever increasing testing will serve neither Wisconsin, nor our nation well.  However, the bills we have seen put forward after the hearings have not dealt with any of these issues.  None of them deal with the adoption of standards, the onerous testing being inflicted on students, or the de facto loss of local control that Common Core standardization brings.

The bills we have seen offered to date deal with the collection of biometric data on students and the privacy of personally identifiable data collected on students in Wisconsin.  To be sure, there are serious concerns about these issues.  It’s easy to see how parents and students would not want their personally identifiable information shared in a global or national database.  These bills are necessary to protect our privacy from government and corporate exploitation, but they are nowhere near sufficient for stemming the federal and corporate control of the curricula in our local schools.

We have even seen one bill, offered by Rep. Knudson, that would leave the existing Common Core standards and associated Smarter Balanced assessments in place for several years and starting in 2016 would allow a committee appointed by DPI to determine which standards and assessments need to be in place.  This bill allows the legislature to totally ignore by having an unelected committee, hand picked by DPI determine what is best for our children.  Talk about the fox guarding the hen house!  The legislature, our elected representatives, must be the ones that take an active role in setting and vetting any standards used in Wisconsin and they must do it immediately, not several years from now!

I’ve heard many experts, school officials, and legislators claim that Wisconsin is a “local control state.”  Under local control of schools, the Department of Public Instruction has the responsibility to develop baseline standards that each school may enrich.  It is interesting that in choosing Common Core standards to serve as these baseline standards, DPI already falls short of its responsibility.  You see, Common Core Standards are copyrighted by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The copyright itself says that they may only be augmented by fifteen percent and nothing may be deleted from the standards.  As such, Common Core standards are a very poor base for local districts to enrich.  There is already copyright control that handcuffs local districts, limiting what they are able to do.

From the point of view of the Common Core standards authors this is an entirely reasonable thing to put in the copyright.  The whole point of Common Core Standards is to have a standard that is held in COMMON nationwide.  If local school districts are allowed to deviate too much from the standard, they would no longer be common and that would defeat the whole point of having common standards.  By adopting Common Core standards for Wisconsin, DPI is already asserting a value judgement that districts should hold to common standards and deviate as little as possible.  DPI Superintendent Tony Evers adopted these standards immediately after they were first released on June 2, 2010.  There was no leglislative input.  These was little input sought from parents or school districts about their suitability for Wisconsin’s children.  Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of being the very first state in the nation to adopt Common Core!  We have an imperial DPI superintendent and a lack of legislative oversight to thank for that.

But local school districts have the right to use alternative standards, correct?  Well, like so many things, local school districts have the right but not the ability! Tony Evers has said in his testimony on Common Core that it would not be advisable for districts to choose alternative standards or to augment the Common Core standards significantly because that may cause them to do poorly on Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced Assessments.  If they teach too much outside of the standards, they won’t have sufficient time to cover everything in the standards.  That would have dire consequences for school districts and could result in school closings, loss of charters for charter schools, or inability to accept vouchers for voucher schools.

Teachers need to teach to the standards as they are or suffer consequences that could include loss of raises, no promotions or even dismissal.  Teachers are ranked on value added measures that are heavily weighted to reflect their students’ performance on Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced assessments.  Enriching our students beyond the standards is in nobody’s interest… not the teachers’ personal interests, not in the local district’s interest, and not the state’s interest. 

Who have they left out of the equation?  You’ve got it… the student.  The mandated testing enforces the Common Core standards and enriches everyone EXCEPT OUR CHILDREN We have created a ceiling on what our children are expected to learn and it is nobody’s interest to see our students rise above that ceiling.  If a school districts could muster the votes to choose another set of standards, it would be to their and their teachers’ detriment.  Of course it is in our children’s and parents’ interest to see our children rise above any artificial ceiling and fly as high as their imagination, creativity, and hard work will take them.  But those in control of education don’t want that.  The system is rigged to enforce conformity. 

Most school boards in Wisconsin suffer from unanimity disorder.  There are exceptions, but to a large extent school boards in Wisconsin have been rubber stamping initiatives put forward by school district superintendents and administrations with alarming regularity.  They take the input of educational experts on district staff and accept it as gospel.  It is rare to see votes on local school boards that are not unanimous.  District staff is largely beholden to DPI, CESA’s, and the federal Department of Education in determining what is best for students.  Parental, student, and teacher input is given little weight by most school board members when considering policies.  Many school boards openly admit how proud they are about how much they agree with the district superintendent.  Experts rule the day.  The fault for this may lie in the voters themselves for not paying enough attention to who they are electing and for not speaking up with enough regularity so that rubber stamp behavior has been allowed to flourish.  So even though local school boards may have the right to stand up against Common Core standards, they do not truly possess the ability.  Decades of atrophy have set in so that school boards are now unlikely to stand up against district superintendents much less the state DPI superintendent.

This is why we need to legislature to take a stand.  They have funded DPI’s adoption of Common Core standards and the associated Smarter Balanced testing.  The legislature must defund Common Core and all associated testing.  They must demand adoption of standards that school districts actually can build upon.  It will take years to turn over individual school boards so they have people willing to actually be more than rubber stamps for district and state superintendents.  By then, Common Core will be firmly entrenched in our state and our state will already be producing standardized minds.

The legislature must take a stand to roll back Common Core. While it’s necessary that the legislature stand up for privacy on personally identifiable and biometric information for our students, it is far from sufficient.

Don’t be fooled by the legislature taking some action.  If the legislature does not repeal Common Core and pull out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium your children and our state are at risk. We will need to learn to be comfortable in our mediocrity.  We can lay the blame for that at the feet of an imperial DPI superintendent, a fence-sitting governor, and a cowardly legislature, and our own non-involvement over the years.

Wake up and take action today.  Encourage Senators Vukmir and Farrow to draft full repeal legislation.

  • Do not accept anything less than a full repeal.
  • Do not allow the legislature to compound past failures in oversight by continuing with standards that are not suitable for local control and in fact cede control to the federal government and corporations.
  • Do not be placated by token legislation.
  • Do not be fooled by legislation that pushes decisions about what your children will and will not learn years out into the future.



Urgent Request for Action on Common Core – December 18th and 19th


I write you today because your help is needed at this moment to rid Wisconsin of Common Core.  In any issue there are pivotal moments that make all the difference and this is one of them. YOUR HELP WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

On Thursday, December 19th the Senate Republican Caucus will meet to set priorities for the new year.  We need to make sure that ridding Wisconsin of Common Core is FIRST on that list!

I thank you for your help over the past few months.  Your help making calls to date has done miracles for Wisconsin’s children.  I’m going to ask you to dig deep, say a prayer for strength and then dedicate an hour of your time on Wednesday to call each Republican Senator asking them to stand up for the children of Wisconsin and rid Wisconsin of Common Core.

I’ve attached to the bottom of this letter a list of Senators to call, along with their phone numbers and emails.

  • Please call as many of them as you can on Wednesday December 18th.
  • Continue calling during the morning of Thursday, December 19th, especially prior 10 am when the senators are likely to caucus.
  • Start with your senator if they’re on the list and make sure to mention you’re in their district.
  • Next, proceed down the list from top to bottom.
  • Be kind and courteous as you ask each senator’s office to take a firm and immediate stand against Common Core.

Your message might go something like this:

“I know that you will be meeting this week to set legislative priorities for the coming year.  The recent hearings on Common Core showed that we must repeal Common Core, withdraw from Smarter Balanced Assessments, and protect our children’s privacy without delay.  Please, in caucusing with your colleagues, take a stand for our children and against Common Core by speaking up about this deeply important issue as you set priorities. This issue is a priority for me and will affect how I vote, as well as my willingness to volunteer and make campaign contributions.  Please speak up boldly and make sure ridding Wisconsin of Common Core is a top priority for Senate Republicans in 2014.”

Please also forward this message to your email lists and share on social media so that more people can help in this effort!

Together we will rid Wisconsin of Common Core!

List of Senators to call (please call them in the order listed):

Frank Lasee
Caucus Chairperson
Phone: 608-266-3512
Email: Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov

Michael Ellis
President of the Senate
Phone: 608-266-0718
Email: Sen.Ellis@legis.wisconsin.gov

Scott Fitzgerald
Phone: 608-266-5660
Email: Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov

Joseph Leibham
President Pro Tempore
Phone: 608-266-2056
Email: Sen.Leibham@legis.wisconsin.gov

Glenn Grothman
Assistant Leader
Phone: 608-266-7513
Email: Sen.Grothman@legis.wisconsin.gov

Sheila Harsdorf
Caucus Vice Chairperson
Phone: 608-266-7745
Email: Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov

Robert Cowles
Phone: 608-266-0484
Email: Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov

Alberta Darling
Phone: 608-266-5830
Email: Sen.Darling@legis.wisconsin.gov

Paul Farrow
Co-Chair, Committee on Common Core
Phone: 608-266-9174
Email: Sen.Farrow@legis.wisconsin.gov

Richard Gudex
Phone: 608-266-5300
Email: Sen.Gudex@legis.wisconsin.gov

Neal Kedzie
Phone: 608-266-2635
Email: Sen.Kedzie@legis.wisconsin.gov

Mary Lazich
Phone: 608-266-5400
Email: Sen.Lazich@legis.wisconsin.gov

Terry Moulton
Phone: 608-266-7511
Email: Sen.Moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov

Luther Olsen
Phone: 608-266-0751
Email: Sen.Olsen@legis.wisconsin.gov

Jerry Petrowski
Phone: 608-266-2502
Email: Sen.Petrowski@legis.wisconsin.gov

Dale Shultz
Phone: 608-266-0703
Email: Sen.Schultz@legis.wisconsin.gov

Thomas Tiffany
Phone: 608-266-2509
Email: Sen.Tiffany@legis.wisconsin.gov

Leah Vukmir
Phone: 608-266-2512
Email: Sen.Vukmir@legis.wisconsin.gov