Category Archives: Pushed By Big Government

CCSS Is Pushed by Big Government

Dear Speaker Ryan


Speaker Ryan,

I wanted to talk to you for a moment about the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Thanks in advance for your time.

I had such high hopes for you, sir, newly installed as speaker and from my own state as well. It seems like it was just last month when you first set forth your agenda. It was exciting and bold. I felt refreshed! Actually, it was just last month. Time flies!

You invoked the Founders in your plan for representing your constituents and protecting their sovereignty from our House in DC. I’m shaking my head here, Mr. Ryan. Shaking my damned head. Only thirty days later and you’re making those men you named, even Hamilton, roll over in their graves.

You said that you’d find common ground with Democrats, without surrender, yet surrender you have. You’ve surrendered us! You’ve sacrificed our very children’s schooling on the altar of political expedience. November seems to have rolled over you like a freight train of inevitability.

You said that you wanted to pay more than just lip service to the words Transparency and Accountability yet thirty days later you’re pulling levers like Oz the Great and Powerful!

You promised to slow, stop and reverse the bureaucracy, the freight train that you didn’t call Leviathan. You said you’d repay the debt that the Grand Old Party owes to its long suffering adherents and lead them back to the promised land of the Founders.

You keep using these words, but I don’t think they mean what you think they mean. That freight train has the letters ESSA blazoned on its flanks and, in less time than it took you to disappoint me, you threw all of us under it. You didn’t stop it in its tracks, y’know, like you promised. Just thirty days ago.

By the time you read this it’ll be a fait accompli but I need to know, Mr. Ryan, from the moment that the 1,059 pages of the ESSA was made public (Oh! The Transparency!) on November 30th until the day you brought it to a vote on December 2nd, did you think for one moment, “What Would James Madison Do?” If you had a time traveling Delorean you could ask him but I think you know how he’d respond. He’d shake his damned head at you! He’d tell you to ignore fads and magic bureaucratic bullets.

With the Delorean, you could visit Congress in 1958 and observe how one magic bullet, the National Defense Education Act was cooked up, greased through Congress and signed into law on the back of Sputnik. Would you have pushed that legislation through under the cover of holidays and distractions, like you did with ESSA? Would you parrot Rahm, “Never let a good crisis go to waste?” You know how that act failed to fulfill its promise but you’d have pushed it through anyway.

Come back to 1965 now, Mr. Ryan, to the signing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the ESEA, and tell me, in those turbulent years, would you have let LBJ’s “War on Poverty” rhetoric veil your eyes and co-opt the principles that you’ve stood upon? That’s not transparency. Another magic bullet fired and another miss. The fact that we have reauthorized it is testament to the fact of the ESEA’s failure to achieve its goals. Even in hindsight, you’d still sign it, wouldn’t you? So much for reversing course and defending the ideals of republican governance and federalism.

Fast forward to 2001 and the No Child Left Behind Act. Same magic gun. Another magic bullet. Another miss. Put away the Delorean; of this Act we know what you think. You said, “Despite spending nearly $2 trillion on this initiative, there have been few demonstrable improvements to educational outcomes.” Yet, here we are, ready to double down.

Under the cover of the holidays, with but two days to review one-thousand-plus pages of the most mind-numbing jargon and opaque references, you’ve let fly yet another bullet right at the hearts of our most vulnerable charges, our students. The magic isn’t real Speaker Ryan. You should’ve stopped the train. You’re in DC, in the Speaker’s Chair, to stop the bloody train. It’s. For. The. Children.

You have children and I have children and we want the same things for them, especially when it comes to their schooling. We’re both men who believe you must pay more than lip-service to great ideals. You must take action. Your mandate is to take just action to protect our children from Leviathan. My action is to make change at the local level to leverage that which you protect. ESSA only pays lip service to just action while erasing our most basic rights. What happened here, Speaker Ryan?

Jeremy Thiesfeldt’s Bill to Silence School Boards, Principals, and Administrators


If man is going to rescue himself from a future intolerable existence, he must first see where his unmindful escalation is leading him.” - Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle (1969)

Rising to the Level of His Incompetence

It pains me deeply to say this, but Jeremy Thiesfeldt, since his appointment as chairman of the Assembly Committee on Education, has become one of the Wisconsin State Legislature’s clearest illustrations of the Peter Principle, often summed up as “rising to the level of one’s incompetence.” Having jettisoned any shred of backbone that he had previously demonstrated, Thiesfeldt has now become little more than a shill, doing the bidding of education deformers in state government and their federal and corporate buddies.

The first major sign that Thiesfeldt had ejected his own backbone was his “authorship” and advancement of a deeply flawed accountability bill early this year. His defense of the bill before his own newly minted committee was nothing short of embarrassing. It was clear to everyone watching that he had little understanding of what was in his own bill, much less the mechanics or validity of what it proposed. He demonstrated even less comprehension of the bill’s detrimental implications.

His most recent actions, however, should cause more than alarm in parents, school board members, and others. To be frank, they should spark outright revolt.

AB 239, a bill Thiesfeldt introduced last spring–and which passed in the Assembly on October 27th in a troublingly amended form also submitted by Thiesfeldt–contains language that directly prohibits school board members, principals, administrators, and others from advising parents to opt their children out of standardized assessments.

Here’s the language. See for yourself…

Section 4. 118.30 (2) (b) 8. of the statutes is created to read: 118.30 (2) (b) 8. No school board, school district administrator, principal of a public school, operator of a charter school…or governing body of a private school participating in the [voucher] program may encourage or counsel a parent or guardian to make a request…to excuse a pupil from taking an examination.

“Helping Parents” by Gagging Their Local Representation

AB 239 (and its identical companion, SB 193, helpfully introduced by Senator Duey Stroebel) ostensibly began as a means of protecting parental rights. It was drafted last spring, after a Fond du Lac mother was told that she would not be permitted to opt her child out of Common Core-aligned assessments. Based on outdated and poorly worded language in state statutes, school officials insisted that only parents of children in certain grade levels had the right to say no to the assessments.

Thiesfeldt leapt to the rescue, drafting legislation that expanded the number of grades covered in statute. Yet, despite abundant evidence that children are being assessed at younger and younger ages, the proposed language failed to protect K-2 students and their parents.

While I would not call Thiesfeldt’s solution exactly damaging, neither was it particularly strong or valuable. In fact, it left room for precisely the same difficulties that had prompted Thiesfeldt to act in the first place. Moreover, it continued to frame opting out as a privilege granted by the state. Quite simply, opting out is a parental right. Thus, a far better approach would have been for Thiesfeldt to propose striking the problematic language altogether, replacing it with, if anything, a passage affirming the right of parents to opt their child out of any assessment at any grade level–at any time and for any reason.

In June, after Thiesfeldt’s bill had already been introduced and widely touted as a protection of parental rights (which, as I’ve already explained, it really wasn’t), Thiesfeldt quietly offered a substitute amendment. For those not familiar with that terminology, substitute amendments are significantly re-drafted bill language. They replace in full a bill’s original language.

The language cited above magically appeared in Thiesfeldt’s substitute amendment. Its effects are manifold, but none of them are positive. In fact, the language is the height of hypocrisy several times over.

Kicking Parents and Local Control in the Teeth

For starters, the bill claims to protect parental rights while simultaneously curtailing the rights of the very people elected to represent parents at the local level–their school board members. So, while Thiesfeldt claims to champion local control and parental rights, his language would actually deal a serious blow to both. It amounts to a state edict, prohibiting local school board members from achieving key aspects of what they were elected to do: consider and represent the best interests of local parents and taxpayers.

School boards aren’t a one-way street. They are a local manifestation of representative government. At least, that’s what they’re supposed to be. Not only are school boards elected to represent the will of parents and taxpayers, they have an ethical and fiduciary duty to communicate with those constituents when they have reason to believe that policies or initiatives would cause harm to a district’s students or to their educational opportunities and experience. Yet, Thiesfeldt’s language would curtail this necessary and ethical communication of school boards should it contravene or become inconvenient to the state’s desire to keep the assessment machine running and the stream of personally identifiable student data flowing. It’s one more example of the degree to which local control has become an utter fiction in Wisconsin and that its death has been shepherded not just by Democrats but with the full assistance and initiative of Republicans.

Moreover, the administrative staff of any given district are–in theory, if not current practice–supposed to be directly accountable to the local school board. If local administrative staff feel that opt-out is in the best interests of their students, teachers, and school/s, then they should absolutely be in communication with the school board and working with them to formulate a plan for responsibly advising parents. Should the school board disagree with those administrators, it should remain a matter to be hammered out locally. The state has exactly zero purview to enforce a gag order on any of these people.

Or are we now living in a soviet?

Are local school boards and administrators really just supposed to be consensus-building apparatchiks for a central authority?

Sure seems like that’s what Thiesfeldt’s legislation aims toward.

But fear not, I’m sure the state will do a far better job at graciously, wisely, and benevolently managing school boards, directing administrators, and representing parents…if they just all prostrate themselves low enough and beg quietly and politely enough.

Kicking the 1st Amendment in the Teeth

Thiesfeldt’s language is likewise a stark violation of First Amendment rights. What business does the state have telling anyone what they can and can’t say–much less what school board members, in particular, can say in the course of executing their responsibilities to a local electorate?

The managerialist impulse is clearly alive and well in Madison, and Thiesfeldt has quickly become one of its eager architects.

Kicking Germantown in the Teeth

And then there’s Germantown…the remarkable breakout school district that legislators, such as Representative Thiesfeldt and many of the Republican co-sponsors of his bill, have claimed to admire.

Germantown remains the only school district in the state to reject the Common Core in order to pursue the creation of its own higher, more developmentally appropriate, non-aligned standards. That stance would be admirable enough on its own, but the school board–yes, the SCHOOL BOARD–took the additional courageous step this past spring of sending a letter to parents, recommending that they opt their children out of Common Core-aligned assessments. That direct communication with parents resulted in the achievement of a district opt-out rate of 81 percent.

Under No Child Left Behind, a mere 5 percent opt-out rate invalidates assessment results and prohibits sanctions from being levied against the any school, district, or state where such invalidation occurs. An 81 percent opt-out rate in even one district–resulting from simple, honest, effective communication between school board members and parents–has unquestionably terrified the state’s education centralizers and standardizers. Why? Because it signals that local control could actually come back from the grave in which many state officials have so assiduously attempted to bury it over the years.

In fact, Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction attempted to deliver a smackdown to Germantown last summer, claiming that the school board had violated…wait for it…federal law. That’s hogwash, of course, designed to scare the district back into compliance. There is a seven or eight step sanctions process that would have to ensue before even a dime of federal funding would be lost by any state or local entity. In fact, to date, not one school, district, or state nationwide has experienced a loss of its funding. But the threat certainly gets waved around a lot to scare people into line.

DPI further insisted that Germantown take corrective action to get its assessment participation numbers back up. So far, thank goodness, Germantown continues to tell DPI it’s done nothing wrong and has no need to take any corrective action.

But let’s face it: this language is designed to discourage stories like Germantown’s and has the effect of pointing a gun at that district’s school board and administrators–even if the gun isn’t yet loaded. It signals to school districts across the state that Wisconsin is not interested in maintaining local control–or, indeed, any real, significant, or constitutional separation of powers.

Trading Principle for Status: The Sad Co-Option of a State Legislator

The transformation in Jeremy Thiesfeldt over the past year has been stunning to watch for those engaged in the fight for true education in Wisconsin.

An early champion of those pressing to safeguard what remains of local control and substantive learning in an increasingly top-down, standardized education environment, Thiesfeldt helped to press for and subsequently co-led 2013 legislative efforts to examine so-called education reform in Wisconsin.

Appointed chair of the Assembly’s Select Committee for the Investigation of the Common Core Standards, Jeremy earned true appreciation from many for his efforts to ensure that average citizens and a wide range of informed experts alike would have a chance to contribute to a crucial dialogue on how Wisconsin educates its children. Republican leadership had, in fact, only yielded on public hearings under massive public pressure; it was clear to anyone watching that they would have preferred to continue marginalizing and ignoring the matter. Nevertheless, Thiesfeldt lent a quiet dignity and determination to the investigative process, even though there were clear attempts to undermine his work and that of his fellow committee members.

So where did that Jeremy Thiesfeldt go?

What happened…?

Jeremy rose in rank. That’s what.

He was offered the plum of a standing-committee chairmanship. And in picking up that plum, he appears to have traded his spine, another couple of valuable-but-unnamed body parts, his principles, and his interest in true representative government, all in exchange for rather less noble aspirations and trappings.

I can’t see into Jeremy’s mind. Only he can know why he’s sold out to such a profoundly disappointing degree. But if I were to lay odds, I would bet that he is motivated by a fear of losing the status he’s now attained. He is likely attempting to avoid being relegated to the outer reaches of legislative space by Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos, whose coercive tactics in controlling his caucus have become one of the worst-kept secrets in Wisconsin politics. All too many politicians have whispered to me about those tactics behind closed doors, always ending their alarming tales with, “But you can’t tell anyone I said this. I can’t afford to have it get out that I told you.”

There’s good reason to suspect, then, that the moment he accepted his Education Committee chairmanship, a few key folks started to tell Jeremy exactly what he’d have to do to keep it. In accepting a role he likely thought would enable him to assist people, he unwittingly donned his own choke chain.

If you think I’m going to let him off the hook and ask you to feel sorry for him, guess again.

Time to Grow a Set, Jeremy

When Jeremy Thiesfeldt was elected to office, he undertook constitutional and ethical duties to represent the interests of the constituents of his district. The people who voted for him did so in the belief that he would take difficult but principled positions on the issues. They trusted him to stand tall and represent, not cave in to bullying, not cower in a corner, and certainly not to sell out by doing other people’s bidding.

In these respects, “Representative” Thiesfeldt currently appears to have reached his level of incompetence. In any event, there’s no doubt that he’s failing. He is proving himself utterly unable to stand firm on principle. Quite bluntly, he is proving himself completely incapable of standing at all. The only thing he seems to be good at these days is serving false masters from a prone position.

As a measure of tough love and in a spirit of hope that he can turn himself around and get back on the right path, I would remind Jeremy Thiesfeldt that he wasn’t elected to serve Robin Vos. He wasn’t elected to serve Scott Walker (whose bullying tactics, usually via his legislative liaisons, are also an open secret). He wasn’t elected to serve Tony Evers. When it comes to education, he definitely shouldn’t be serving the pubic-private aims of special interests such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Moreover, despite the messages that he’s undoubtedly received from leadership, the Republican caucus is not his family. He owes his caucus ZERO allegiance. The only people to whom he owes any loyalty whatsoever are his constituents and, in relationship to this specific bill, the parents and children of Wisconsin–all of whom he’s currently betraying.

The question is, will Jeremy find his courage? Will he finally remember his duty to higher ideals and principles such as local control, ethical representation, true education, parental rights, and free speech?

Or will he choose instead to continue his all-too-rapid descent into the bowels of a corrupt political machine?

Here’s the thing, Jeremy, if you are indeed reading this…

Bullies and manipulators don’t go away when you cower. They will continue to pull your strings and levers until you say, “No more.”

Even if it means losing a chairmanship, getting kicked off a committee, or having your bills blocked, isn’t it better to take those knocks while remaining true to your principles and the people you were elected to serve? When leadership starts dealing those blows, we will see you standing strong. Your principles will contrast sharply with the corrupt machinations of others…and they’ll matter. You’ll matter. True success isn’t about clinging to power. It’s about speaking truth to power. Often, it’s about being a monkey wrench in the machinery of power. When you stand up, when you resist, when we see you do it, it’s the start of something bigger. It lights a spark. It feeds a movement. There are plenty of examples out there–including some in your own back yard.

Right now, you’re part of the problem, not the solution. You look like leadership’s broken slave, not a confident champion of the people who’s willing to use his wits to buck a corrupt system.

What matters more to you, Jeremy? Is it your credibility and honor in the eyes of the people you were actually elected to serve? Or the tenuous figurehead status cynically given to you by people who are determined always to jerk you into their preferred line.

What’s it gonna be, Jeremy?

We’re watching, and our patience for the evils to which you are now contributing has run out.

Is Scott Walker a Helpless Victim of the All-Powerful Tony Evers???

Is Scott Walker a helpless victim of an all-powerful DPI superintendent???

Is Scott Walker a helpless victim of an all-powerful DPI superintendent???

There have been quite a few people claiming the Scott Walker and the legislature have done everything possible to repeal Common Core in Wisconsin.  They claim that the governor and legislature are helpless victims of an “all-powerful” DPI superintendent and that their hands are tied with respect to repealing Common Core.  This article will show that nothing could be further from the truth.
The state superintendent is not a god.  He is not all-powerful.  This continued insistence on the part of the governor and the state legislature that they are “victims” of Tony Evers and the DPI is utter nonsense. And, respectfully, no one in Wisconsin should be facilitating such excuse-making.
The state legislature is fully in a position of being able to set parameters around the authority of the state superintendent. It’s abundantly clear in Article X:
“Superintendent of public instruction. Section 1. [As amended Nov. 1902 and Nov. 1982] The supervision of public instruction shall be vested in a state superintendent and such other officers as the legislature shall direct; and their qualifications, powers, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.”
The state legislature makes the laws. If they wanted to take Tony Evers authority down to nothing, they could do that. The only thing they CANNOT do, as determined by case law, is to establish another education office of equal or greater authority. From the annotations to section 1:
This section confers no more authority upon school officers than that delineated by statute. Arbitration Between West Salem & Fortney, 108 Wis. 2d 167, 321 N.W.2d 225(1982).

The legislature may not give any “other officer” authority equal or superior to that of the state superintendent. Thompson v. Craney, 199 Wis. 2d 674, 546 N.W.2d 123 (1996), 95-2168.

The legislature has the authority to give, to not give, or to take away the state superintendent’s supervisory powers, including rulemaking power. What the legislature may not do is give the the state superintendent a supervisory power relating to education and then fail to maintain the state superintendent’s supremacy with respect to that power. Coyne v. Walker, 2015 WI App 21, 361 Wis. 2d 225, 862 N.W.2d 606, 13-0416.”

We know—in fact, we have repeatedly seen—that when Governor Walker wants something out of the legislature, he gets it, including some incredibly sketchy policy. Take automatic collection of DNA on arrest, for example, in the last biennial budget. That passed with only one concerned comment on the floor from a Republican. Undermining constitutional and civil liberties was giving him heartburn, he said, but he voted for it anyway…right along with almost everyone else.
Or how about putting Wisconsin taxpayers on the hook for $250 million in that Bucks arena deal—a venture in which two of his major political contributors stand to gain, one of whom is now high up in his campaign staff.
Never mind his recent “leadership” on attempting utterly to gut open records law in this state. No denying, at this point, that the Governor’s Office led on that little maneuver. Every single Republican member of the Joint Finance Committee rallied to help him out with what can only be described as insidious language, quietly tucked into the 999 motion to the budget.
Scott Walker knows how to whip votes for whatever he wants to get done, not to mention anything he wants to stop dead in its tracks.  People don’t like crossing him much. I’m hearing stories from legislators right now regarding recently introduced legislation—stories that would curl your hair.  The governor outright bullies legislators when it serves him—usually sending his legislative liaisons to do his dirty work for him.  Yes, he can get plenty done when he likes, however troubling his methods may be to me and others.
So, Governor Walker needs to cut the crocodile tears. And everyone else should stop believing them. If he’s so bothered by Tony Evers’ authority, he could absolutely ask his Republican friends in the legislature to draft a bill altering Evers’ authority over certain matters.  He has done no such thing, and he will not.  Evers is a convenient excuse and whipping boy for Walker. No more, no less.  And why would legislators not act on their own to draft and pass such a bill?  Because they know the governor wouldn’t sign it if they did.
The bottom line is that Governor Walker is a supporter of P-20 systems.  Everything he has done since he got into office tells us that.
  • He ensured money to fund the Statewide Student Information System (Legislators on Joint Finance have been directly quoted as saying they voted for the funding in the last biennial budget “because it was what the governor wanted”).
  • He has ensured $1.1 million per annum in the last biennial budget and in this one to ensure that 6th-graders will all be writing “academic and career plans.”
  • He funded ACT WorkKeys in this biennial budget.
  • He insisted on having an “accountability” bill on his desk by the start of the new year, a task Republicans in the Assembly and Senate leapt to perform, despite the fact that  “accountability,” then as now, was all tied to Common Core.  When he couldn’t get the bills through on their own, he made sure much of the language from one of them was transferred into the budget, where it passed.
  • He has already signed several School-to-Work-related bills during his tenure in office.
  • He has expanded school vouchers, ensuring that greater numbers of private schools will fall under state “accountability” systems.
  • He placed language in the budget that essentially weakens state homeschooling laws, opening loopholes that begin the process of making that community vulnerable to the same dangers as private schools. (For those who doubt me on this reality, one Wisconsin senator has basically told concerned constituents that the changes in homeschool law are being plainly discussed by those around him as a useful way to edge homeschoolers into a greater position of accountability to the state. So, I’m not simply conjecturing.)
  • He has openly stated in at least one video-recorded interview that we should be more like Germany and other European nations in our approach to workforce development.
  • His administration has continued to pursue Common Core-aligned tests  despite defunding SBAC. In fact, we now know that language related to assessment mandates, which he vetoed in the budget, just somehow magically appeared during the budget process. It was not in there originally. No one seems to know where it came from. Walker’s vetoing of that language has made it look to many as though he did something that he actually didn’t….and that has caused dangerous confusion regarding his record on the matter.
We can go on, but we’ll leave it there.
Governor Walker is not interested in getting rid of Common Core. Governor Walker NEEDS Common Core as an integral piece of data collection and career-tracking.  He is strongly committed to workforce development/P-20–if for no other reason because the campaign donors with whom he chooses to run want it.  He is most definitely tight with the U.S. Chamber/Wisconsin Manufacturersand Commerce crowd.
If you wish to buy Governor Walker’s “victim” line, by all means, that is your right.  But there is precious little evidence to support such a claim.

Confirmed: Badger Exam to be Common Core Aligned


Did Scott Walker, by vetoing language in the Wisconsin Budget, ensure that Wisconsin’s annual assessment of students, the Badger Exam, would not be Common Core aligned?  Unfortunately, the answer is “NO”.  What follows is confirmation of that fact.

Many are claiming that the line item veto on page 473 of the Wisconsin Biennial Budget actually ended Common Core aligned testing in Wisconsin.  The Governor vetoed section 3248c requiring DPI to make sure summative testing followed certain parameters.  That section reads as follows:

118.19.  SECTION 3248b.  
118.30 (1) of the statutes is renumbered 118.30 (1) (a) and amended to read:

118.30 (1) (a) The state superintendent shall adopt or approve examinations designed to measure pupil attainment of knowledge and concepts in the 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grades.  Beginning in the 2015−16 school year, the state superintendent may not adopt or approve assessments developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

SECTION 3248c.  118.30 (1) (b) of the statutes is created to read:

118.30 (1) (b) The state superintendent shall review and adopt or approve a summative examination system consisting of examinations to be administered beginning in the 2015−16 school year to pupils in each of the grades 3 through 10 and in each of the subject areas of English, reading, writing, science, and mathematics.  Beginning in the 2015−16 school year , the state superintendent shall replace the examinations adopted or approved under par.  (a) for grades 4 and 8 in each of the subject areas of English, reading, writing, science, and mathematics with the examinations adopted or approved under this paragraph.  The state superintendent shall either replace the examinations adopted or approved under par.  (a) for grades 9 and 10 and in any of the subject areas identified under this paragraph with the examinations adopted or approved for those grades under this paragraph or use the examinations adopted or approved under par. (a) for grades 9 and 10 and in any of those subject areas to satisfy the requirements under this paragraph. The state superintendent shall:
1.  Ensure that each examination adopted or approved under the summative examination system satisfies the assessment and accountability requirements under federal law.
2.  Ensure that the summative examination system adopted or approved under this paragraph satisfies the following criteria:

a.  The system is vertically scaled and standards−based.
b.  The system documents pupil progress toward national college and career readiness benchmarks derived from empirical research and state academic standards.
c.  The system measures individual pupil performance in the subject areas of English, reading, writing, science, and mathematics.
d.  The system provides for the administration of examinations primarily in a computer−based format but permits examinations to be administered with pencil and paper in certain limited circumstances.
e.  Pupil performance on examinations adopted or approved under the system serves as a predictive measure of pupil performance on college readiness assessments used by institutions of higher education.

Again, the above section was line item vetoed by Governor Walker. The question many have is, given Governor Walker vetoed this language, will Wisconsin will no longer have a Common Core aligned Badger exam in upcoming years?

We asked Jeff Pertl, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, some questions to help us understand just which standards, if any, Wisconsin’s statewide assessment, the Badger Exam, will be aligned to.

Question: I wonder if given the Governor’s line item veto on page 473 of Act 55 (The Wisconsin Biennial Budget),  partially vetoing section 3248c putting parameters on summative testing whether the Request for Bid, PA160613 – Replacement Badger Exam, is still going forward? Will DPI be pursuing a new Badger Exam in English and Mathematics for next year?  Given that the governor has vetoed the mandate that DPI create a college and career ready assessment and defunded the Smarter Balanced exam, will Wisconsin be doing annual assessments of students?  If not, does this give Wisconsin problems with the federal government with respect to No Child Left Behind waivers or grants we’ve received?

Jeff Pertl (DPI): Both federal and state law still require annual summative testing in grades 3-8 and high school.
As you know, the Governor’s budget proposed to prohibit Wisconsin from being part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, effectively requiring the State Superintendent to adopt a new test for next school year. To meet this requirement, the DPI issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a new assessment in English Language Arts, Reading, Mathematics and Science as well as a separate RFP for social studies.
During the state budget process, the Joint Finance Committee added statutory parameters that would govern the test and RFP (i.e that the test is vertically-scaled, measures college and career readiness, etc.).
The Governor’s veto removed the JFC parameters. The prohibition on using the Smarter Balanced test remains in the statute (as well as the state and federal requirements around annual assessment) and the RFP will continue to move forward. A new assessment will be in place for the next school year.

Question: I understand from the Q&A for the RFP process that the new assessment was to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  In light of this veto, will the new Badger Exam still be aligned to the Common Core?

Jeff Pertl (DPI): Federal law requires the assessment be aligned to the state standards.

Question: So the language in the budget that “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards“ is actually trumped by federal law precisely because the Secretary has declared the state standards to be Common Core.  Is that correct?

Jeff Pertl (DPI): The current RFP is based on the state budget language and is in compliance with state and federal law.

Question: I’m just trying to understand the compliance.  Even though the state budget says “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards“, it does not go so far as to stop Common Core standards from being the Wisconsin state standards which Dr. Evers put in place on June 2, 2010.    Correct?

Jeff Pertl (DPI): It does not change the state’s current model academic standards. Local schools districts can adopt whatever standards they wish.

Question: So federal law, by requiring assessments to align with state standards, essentially requires Wisconsin’s assessments (Badger Exam) to be aligned with the Common Core.  Correct?

Jeff Pertl (DPI):

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
Section 1111. State Plans

(A) IN GENERAL-Each State plan shall demonstrate that the State educational agency, in consultation with local educational agencies, has implemented a set of high-quality, yearly student academic assessments that include, at a minimum, academic assessments in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science that will be used as the primary means of determining the yearly performance of the State and of each local educational agency and school in the State in enabling all children to meet the State’s challenging student academic achievement standards, except that no State shall be required to meet the requirements of this part relating to science assessments until the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year.
(B) USE OF ASSESSMENTS- Each State educational agency may incorporate the data from the assessments under this paragraph into a State-developed longitudinal data system that links student test scores, length of enrollment, and graduation records over time.
(C) REQUIREMENTS- Such assessments shall–
(i) be the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all children;
(ii) be aligned with the State’s challenging academic content and student academic achievement standards, and provide coherent information about student attainment of such standards;

Click here for the full text

Addendum: Jeff Pertl wrote back to clarify on 7/31/2015, saying: “NCLB pre-dates the Common Core and does not require a specific set of standards, but rather alignment between the state assessment and state standards (whatever they happen to be).”

So there you have it.  This is confirmation from DPI that even after the 2015-2017 Biennial Budget (Act 55) is passed and signed into law by Governor Walker, even with his partial line item vetoes, Wisconsin will, in fact, continue to have a state assessment that is aligned to the common core.  This is because NCLB requires states to administer assessments aligned with their state standards and essentially nothing has been done by the legislature in the budget or elsewhere to change Wisconsin’s standards.

For all the bluster about Scott Walker’s budget language stating that “The state superintendent may not give effect to any academic standard developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative,” it seems that the state superintendent really can give effect to the Common Core standards.  The effect is precisely this: the Department of Public Instruction is aligning the Badger Exam to the Common Core State Standards. 

As Bill Gates has mentioned: “When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well.”  That will prove to be even more true in a state, like Wisconsin under Governor Scott Walker, where Accountability is a priority.

No matter what sort of Common Core talking points you hear from Scott Walker, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, or Republican state legislators, one thing is clear: Scott Walker absolutely did not ensure that the Badger Exam would not be Common Core aligned.  The proof is that DPI is moving forward on aligning the Badger Exam to the Common Core.

An Open Letter to Governor Walker: No More Games on Common Core

Delivered by hand to the Governor’s Office
July 6, 2015

Governor Walker,

It is time for some hard questions…and the truth.

On April 20th of this year, you were directly asked during a major media interview if you would repeal Common Core should such a bill land on your desk. You replied affirmatively, adding, “Absolutely! I proposed it in my budget.”

Yet, contrary to claims you stand against the Common Core standards, you are effectively entrenching those standards in Wisconsin via Common Core-aligned, high-stakes assessments.

For months, you have justified taking no definitive action against Common Core, insisting that local school districts have the power to decide for themselves what standards they will use.

However, in a statement to the press on January 17th of this year, you demonstrated clear understanding that Common Core-aligned assessments effectively coerce school districts into retaining the standards.

For this reason, many of us were initially encouraged when you indicated that you would defund Wisconsin’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) via your proposed 2015-2017 biennial budget. We hoped for substantive movement, at long last, on an issue that affects most children, parents, and teachers in Wisconsin. However, as we read the actual budget language, we became troubled. Despite the defunding of SBAC, nothing in the budget language prohibits the selection or implementation of another Common Core-aligned assessment. Nor does it propose any fiscal plan for the creation or adoption of non-Common Core standards.

As it turns out, we were right to be skeptical.

On April 23rd, the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DoA) issued a Request for Bids (RFB) to replace the SBAC assessments that your proposed budget would ostensibly defund. The RFB was so vague as to which academic standards bidders should use to construct the new assessments that it took two rounds of questions to pin down a definitive answer. On June 5th the truth was irrefutably revealed: For mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA), the State of Wisconsin is telling bidders to write assessments based on the Common Core. Even then, there was clearly an effort to make it difficult to get to the truth. The links provided to the math and ELA standards did not directly contain the standards. Bidders and interested citizens, such as us, had to chase a rabbit trail of links and pages finally to arrive at PDF documents that contained the standards—clearly labeled as Common Core.

Please tell us, then, Governor Walker, how you can say you are doing anything to rid this state of the false reform initiative that is Common Core?

Please also share with us how you can say, as you did to a national radio audience, that you have proposed repealing Common Core in your budget?

Moreover, please explain to us how the language “the state superintendent may not give effect to any academic standard developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative” can possibly be true in light of the new Common Core-aligned assessments your administration is now pursuing?

Even most legislators were sadly fooled by this gambit. Experience has taught us to be far more measured.

We’re tired, Governor Walker. We’re tired of excuses and half-truths. We’re tired of misleading and hollow rhetoric that repeatedly amounts to nothing more than political loopholes and broken promises. And most of all we’re tired of watching while the education of the children of Wisconsin takes a backseat.

To whom are you listening on this issue, Governor? It certainly isn’t people who actually care about the individual lives of Wisconsin children, the rights of parents, the livelihoods and freedom of teachers, or the proper authority of the average citizen over education.

Here are some measures that would make a true difference, Governor, in dispensing with Common Core—items that remain completely unaddressed in this state:

  • Ÿ  Prevent the wholesale collection, mining, storage, and sharing of personally identifiable student data.
  • Ÿ  Prohibit the Common Core initiative, anything based on it, and any standardized assessments aligned to it.
  • Ÿ  Provide for the immediate adoption of temporary model standards completely unaligned to Common Core.
  • Ÿ  Propose an operational plan, budget, and timeline for Wisconsin to create its own standards and assessments, with direct input from classroom teachers and university professors possessing both actual subject-matter and instructional expertise.
  • Ÿ  Ensure that high-stakes, standardized assessments—the results of which have long been known to correlate to little more than ZIP code—can no longer be leveraged as a principal means of gauging teacher, school, or district accountability.
  • Ÿ  Reduce the fiscal role and oversight of the state in education, so that citizens in a local district once again become the principal agents of accountability and may more truly be masters of their own affairs.

We’re not going away.

We are waiting and watching, Governor…and with your ambitions for higher political office on full display, so is the rest of the nation.

Will you finally lead on this issue? Or is that up to someone else?


The undersigned

Brian Medved
Protect Your Child’s Future
Dr. Timothy D. Slekar
Co-Founder United Opt Out & Creator of
Madison, WI
Jeffrey Horn
Prairie Patriots
Sun Prairie, WI
Debra Kadon
Wisconsin Administrator
Badass Teachers Association (BATs)
Green Bay, WI
Kirsten Lombard
Wisconsin 9/12 Project
Common Ground on Common Core
Madison, WI
Dr. Duke Pesta
Academic Director
FreeedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Sara Lehman
Opt Out Fox Cities
Appleton, WI
Wendy Muckerheide
Kewaskum Against Common Core
Kewaskum, WI
Alan Scholl
Executive Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Ken Van Doren
Education Coordinator
Wisconsin Campaign For Liberty
Mauston, WI
Todd Welch
Wisconsin Campaign For Liberty
Menomonie, WI
Mary Black
Student Development Director
FreedomProject Education
Appleton, WI
Eric Shimpach
Wisconsin Coordinator
Young Americans for Liberty
Baraboo, WI
Tracie Happel
Parent & Educator
Onalaska, WI
Kristi LaCroix
Kenosha, WI
Savannah Bartel
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Madison
Madison, WI
Ryan McMorrow
Young Americans for Liberty – UW La Crosse
La Crosse, WI
Brad Hanson
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Eau Claire
Eau Claire, WI
Shane Otten
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Whitewater
Whitewater, WI
Levi Broadnax
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Oshkosh
Oshkosh, WI
Eric Hodkiewicz
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Stevens Point
Stevens Point, WI
Matt Sama
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI
Cassidy Sather
Young Americans for Liberty – UW Superior
Superior, WI
Dexter Robson
Young Americans for Liberty – Carthage College
Kenosha, WI
Andrea Lombard
Sauk County Tea Party
Baraboo, WI
Greg Luce
La Crosse Tea Party
La Crosse, WI
Kody Guden
Young Americans for Liberty – UW River Falls
River Falls, WI
James Murphy
Green Bay TEA Party
Green Bay, WI
Arlene Frelk
Merrilan TEA Party
Merrilan, WI
Ronald Zahn
Northeast Wisconsin Patriots
De Pere, WI
James Leist
Manitowoc TEA Movement
Manitowoc, WI
Ed Willing
Caledonia, WI
Nathan Dietsche
Western Wisconsin TEA Party
Altoona, WI
Joana Briggs
Greendale Tea Party
Greendale, WI
Earl Hoffman
Clark County Tea Party
Greenwood, WI
Cynthia Narance
Christians United in Truth
Green Bay, WI
Steve Welcenbach
Conservative Insurgency & Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association
Menomonee Falls, WI
Karl Koenigs
Wisconsin TEA Party Committee on State Sovereignty
Peshtigo, WI
Paul Lembrich
Southern Wisconsin Alliance of Taxpayers
Beloit, WI & Rock County Patriots
Janesville, WI
Shirley Kufeldt
Northwoods Patriots
Eagle River, WI
Oriannah Paul
Sheboygan Liberty Coalition
Sheboygan, WI
Marv Munyon
Rock River Patriots
Fort Atkinson, WI
Edward Perkins
Fox Valley Initiative
Appleton, WI
David Stertz
Fox Valley Conservative Forum
Appleton, WI
Michael Hintze
Wisconsin State Coordinator
Tea Party Patriots
Brookfield, WI
Georgia Janisch
Rock County Voter Education Forum
Janesville, WI
Mike Zoril
Rock County Voter Education Forum
Janesville, WI
Darin Danelski
Lake Country Defenders of Liberty
Oconomowoc, WI
Joanne Terry
Ozaukee Patriots
Mequon, WI
Dan Curran
Eagle Forum of Wisconsin & Concerned Citizens of Iowa County
Dodgeville, WI
Sandi Ruggles
Chapter President
Eagle Forum of  Southeast Wisconsin
Menomonee Falls, WI
Andy Craig
Libertarian Party of Milwaukee County
Milwaukee, WI
Phillip Anderson
Libertarian Party of Dane County
Madison, WI
Michael Murphy
Wisconsin Liberty Movement
Milwaukee, WI
Matt Augustine
Former Chairman
Republican Party of Kenosha County, WI
Kenosha, WI
Andrew Kolberg
Republican Party of Columbia County, WI
Portage, WI
Richard Church
Republican Party of Adams County, WI
Friendship, WI
Jackie Johnson
Republican Liberty Caucus – Wisconsin Chapter
Madison, WI
    Press Contact:Jeffrey Horn


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
Math Standards
Science Standards

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:


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:


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:

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:

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 (sic) a page that does not load.  However a page without the leading period 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.


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 at­items­and­performance­tasks/
  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 (­views­public­schools­far­worse­parents.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!



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.



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:


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.


Who Wins With Common Core State Standards?

„Just who wins if Common Core State Standards are adopted?

Those developing material and technology for use with CCSS

  • „Longitudinal Database Systems
  • „Touchpad Test Taking Devices
  • „Textbook Publishers
  • „Professional Development Training for Administrators and Teachers
  • „Testing Companies

„Big Business

  • „The players behind Common Core are large corporations aiming to massively grow profits by getting all students on the exact same new learning schedule. You could rename this Corporate Core.

„Big Government

  • „Cradle to Grave Tracking of Students
  • „End of Federalism and Local Control
  • Rise of Regionalization/Nationalization