We The primary election for Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction Superintendent is Tuesday, February 21st. It is important that you vote in this election because the visions for Wisconsin’s children held by the primary candidates are very, very different.
Tony Evers – Worst Possible Choice
First, if you are against Common Core State Standards, forced high stakes testing, and judging teachers, schools, and districts by so called “Value Added Measures” you simply must vote against current superintendent Tony Evers! Tony Evers made Wisconsin the very first state in the union to adopt Common Core State Standards in 2010. He declared by edict that Common Core State Standards would serve as Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards in June 2010. He has remained an strong proponent of Common Core and its associated high stakes testing regime and intensive data collecting apparatus. If the standardization of minds and destruction of data privacy ushered in my Common Core is important to you, Tony Evers simply must not be your vote this Tuesday!
John Humphries – Problematic At Best
John Humphries platform and campaign team seem to have been put together by committee. Though he touts his endorsements by Republican Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt along with Democrat state Rep. Jason Fields as “[leading] this nonpartisan campaign with a focus on improving statewide outcomes,” we must point out that these representatives have been strident supporters of so called “education reform”, “accountability”, and school-to-work initiatives that are underpinned by Common Core State Standards and high stakes testing. Though Thiesfeldt pushed for hearings on Common Core Standards in 2013, he offered no bills that tried to reign in data collection, testing, or the standards themselves. Since then Thiesfeldt has been a good soldier for Republican leadership in the effort to erect a centralized education accountability apparatus. Since becoming Education Committe chair, he has seen to it that no repeal of Common Core has seen the light of day. Thiesfeldt is seen as a Robin Vos-Scott Walker puppet and many believe that Humphries himself is being pushed by the Walker-Vos machine to grease the skids for full on centralized, cradle to grave workforce development plans that rely on Common Core and digital badging. Like Thiesfeldt and Fields, Humphries seems to be totally on board with slotting children for jobs at earlier and earlier ages through testing. He has called for tougher standards and tougher district report cards which means more testing and centralized control of schools.
Most problematic is that Humphries testified at Thiesfeldt’s Common Core committee meetings in 2013 heavily IN FAVOR OF COMMON CORE, but now says that he’s against Common Core because “in the years since the adoption of Common Core, good intentions have given way to inadequate communication and poor implementation.” This position almost seems to have been created by a focus group to allow Humphries to garner votes from both sides of the Common Core debate. This sort of doublespeak has been used nationwide by candidates who are generally in favor of the goals of Common Core and just want to attack the poor implementation and PR campaign. Humphries has touted himself as a conservative choice in an effort to contrast himself with Tony Evers, but he has signed the Scott Walker recall petition and also states he voted for Obama and Hillary Clinton. We would note that Scott Walker seems on board with Common Core (despite his stated opposition) and Obama and Clinton are unabashed Common Core proponents. Whatever, your position on Walker, Obama, or Clinton, you must find Humphries’ tendency to want to ride both sides of the fence on important issues like Common Core standards and high stakes testing troubling.
In terms of Common Core, Humphries is problematic. He does not seem to possess actual deep commitment on this issue and seems to spend most of his time with his finger in the air. Being against Common Core, but for increased Accountability of districts to the State is inconsistent. A vote for Humphries is at best a crap-shoot… it is very likely a vote for the status quo, which in Wisconsin is a dismal possibility.
Lowell Holtz – Hope Springs Eternal
Dr. Lowell Holtz shows some signs of actually removing Common Core as Wisconsin’s model academic standards. In communications with Stop Common Core in Wisconsin, he has mentioned that he would remove Common Core, effectively repealing the standards. He has stated that he would give districts wide latitude in adopting their own standards and also provide an avenue for district to avoid Common Core aligned Wisconsin Forward examinations. This would effectively move control over academic standards and testing to the school district, restoring more local control. We want to see more details and believe he should tout these platforms to more effectively differentiate himself from Common Core champion, Tony Evers. We do have some concern for his statement of support for Donald Trump’s secretary of education Betsy DeVos, however, his disdain for Common Core, high stakes testing, and student data collection seems genuine. Questions abound as to whether he could actually prevail in a general election against Evers in April, but we feel that Holtz is the only choice for DPI superintendent that has any hope of starving the data beast, restoring local control of education, and truly repealing Common Core. Holtz is our recommendation for your vote in the Feburary 21st primary.
WHEREAS Paul Ryan, shortly after becoming Speaker of the House, fostered almost complete federal control of education through the quick advancement of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); and
WHEREAS ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind as the current reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, one of the principal policy mechanism through which the federal government has achieved, expanded, and cemented its unconstitutional role in education; and
WHEREAS parents, teachers, principled education advocates and experts, and other concerned citizens had little to no substantive input into ESSA and implored Speaker Ryan and his colleagues in leadership to at least slow down any floor vote on the bill so that it could be properly evaluated by the people and their elected representatives;  and
WHEREAS Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, ignored the concerns and requests of an engaged citizenry and scheduled ESSA for a vote on December 2, 2015, just three days after it was published on November 30th; and
WHEREAS Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, allowed an inadequate three days to evaluate ESSA, an 1,160-page bill, bearing on multiple pieces of prior legislation; and
WHEREAS House leadership, including Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House, circulated or permitted to be circulated misleading and deceptive talking points concerning ESSA’s content ; and
WHEREAS Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, facilitated the dissemination of false information to his caucus through misleading and deceptive talking points; and
WHEREAS ESSA’s language actually:
Entrenches unconstitutional federal control of education at the expense of local control;
Expands one-size-fits-all, factory-style education by requiring what ESSA refers to as “challenging State academic standards”;
Implicitly requires, by means of a review and approval committee selected by the U.S. Department of Education, that all states use a version of Common Core’s weak English Language Arts and mathematics standards as well as weak science standards based on Achieve, Inc.’s Next Generation Science Standards;
Views parents as mere “partners” with government in their own children’s upbringing and education ;
Reduces the ability of teachers to exercise professional judgment in practicing their craft and provide appropriate instruction to meet the needs of individual students;
Makes state departments of education the enforcers for federal mandates;
Maintains excessive and unwarranted standardized assessment at the expense of actual learning time for all children, especially low-income children; and
Facilitates unprecedented collection and exploitation of personally identifiable student data at the hands of government and third parties, including corporations ;
WHEREAS Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, has also failed to schedule a congressional hearing on the ways in which state departments of education have deceived state legislators who are trying to remove inferior standards and assessments from their public schools ; and
WHEREAS Paul Ryan’s unqualified support of ESSA demonstrates that he is more committed to the expansion of federal control over education—and to the campaign donations tied to the collection and mining of personally identifiable student data—than to the precepts of limited government or the interests of the people he was elected to represent; and
WHEREAS Paul Ryan nevertheless continues to claim that he is for parental authority, local control of education, improved education, and educational freedom, all within the context of a more limited government; and
WHEREAS the unconstitutional influence and control of the federal government, corporations, and private foundations on education is likely to continue under Paul Ryan’s leadership, therefore be it
RESOLVED that the undersigned see Paul Ryan’s removal from federal office as a pressing priority in relationship to the restoration of true education and local control; and be it further
RESOLVED that the undersigned encourage voters in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District to vote for Paul Nehlen as the best hope of ensuring Paul Ryan’s prompt removal from federal office.
Voters in the Wisconsin 1st Congressional District have an important choice to make in the August 9th open primary. Speaker Ryan has had a large impact on current education policy. Education is a major issue for our readers in the 1st Congressional District, so we put together this summary of education positions taken from Paul Ryan’s congressional website and voting record as well as Paul Nehlen’s campaign website. It should be noted that Paul Ryan does not have educational positions on his campaign website.
“Keep government as limited as possible in order to keep us free.”Work to have government safeguard our rights, not control our lives and those of our children.
Federal Control of Education
Ryan-backed ESSA “prohibits“ U.S. Secretary of Education from imposing standards or tests. But, with no enforcement mechanism and multiple other mandates, that prohibition is meaningless.Moreover, the secretary has veto power over federally mandated state plans.
Enforce the 10th Amendment, which does not allow federal control of education because it is not an enumerated power in the Constitution.
Cementing Common Core
ESSA cements the academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, and psychologically manipulative Common Core, rebranded as state-derived standards.Ryan ignored the parents who warned this would happen.
Nehlen rejects Common Core and wants to:
Halt centrally planned, assembly-line education
Match federal education policy to the reality of children’s individuality
Restore and boost local control of education.
Reducing Education to Workforce Training
Ryan holds a utilitarian view that encouragess reduction of education to mere workforce training: “A well-educated workforce is one of the key drivers of strong economic growth.”
Nehlen sees education as a path to personal growth and freedom: “Kids should be who they are and learn in the way that best suits them…[A]s they grow and mature…each child’s individual life experiences suggest and inspire the pathways that will allow them to choose and build a future of their own making.”
Ryan-backed ESSA resulted in:
8-fold+ increase in standardized assessment since just prior to No Child Left Behind
New assessments with no demonstrated validity, rigged to fail 70% of our children
Coercion of teachers to enforce Common Core at risk of losing tenure, merit pay, or even their jobs.
“The testing madness has to stop. Teachers want to teach. We ought to let them.”
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?
“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?
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.
Scott Walker Sentences Wisconsin Students to Ten Years on Common Core
We have reported here that, even though Scott Walker’s biennial budget contained language that says “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards,” the Wisconsin Department of Administration bidding process on the new Badger Exam made very clear that the new state assessments in mathematics and English language arts will indeed be Common Core aligned.
On September 10, 2015 the Department of Administration announced that a panel consisting of four Department of Public Instruction officials and one “other person” had chosen Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) as the winner of the bidding process on the new state assessment, now renamed the Wisconsin Forward Assessment. DRC had beaten at least two other companies, Pearson Education and ACT, Inc. and is in the process of negotiating a ten year contract valued at a reported $63 million with the state of Wisconsin.
Data Recognition Corporation – A Major Common Core Player
Though not as well known as some of the major players in the Common Core area, DRC collaborated with American Institute for Research (AIR) to develop the test delivery system for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Yes, this is the same test delivery system that ran into so many technical problems in the 2014-2015 school year that the Badger Exam needed to be scaled back and the results effectively ignored. From the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consotium press release:
“The test delivery system encompasses test registration, presenting the assessment items to students, and delivering the data from the test to reporting systems. Under this contract, AIR, in collaboration with Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), will modify its existing test delivery system to meet Smarter Balanced specifications for the Pilot Test of the assessment system in early 2013 and the Field Test in early 2014. AIR’s system is used by several states to deliver statewide online assessments. It is compatible with the range of technology in schools, including computers, laptops, and tablets—requiring only a secure Internet browser for administration. The system will be optimized for release in its open source version in fall 2014.“
DRC describes its role in developing the Smarter Balanced Assessments:
“Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), a leading provider of educational assessment, survey, and document services, today announced that it is part of a team selected by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) to develop the first set of nearly 10,000 student test questions for the new Common Core Assessments.
DRC will work collaboratively with five partners to develop the test items for the Smarter Balanced assessment system. DRC’s partners include the prime contractor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, The American Institutes for Research, The Council for Aid to Education, HumRRO, and The College Board.
“DRC is delighted to be part of this innovative partnership of six unique organizations dedicated to delivering Smarter Balanced’s next generation performance assessments and technology-enhanced items,” said DRC Chief Executive Officer and President Susan Engeleiter. “We will all work together to ensure Smarter Balanced’s vision for the next generation of student assessments is achieved.””
On June 30, 2015, DRC acquired the CTB assessment business from major Common Core player McGraw-Hill. CTB is the creator of the Common Core aligned Terra Nova Common Core Tests and Assessments. CTB has an 85 year track record in standardized testing. With the addition of CTB, DRC has significantly deepened its commitment to Common Core. Many of the key players at CTB are now working for DRC.
DRC’s own website touts the company’s expertise in implementing Common Core:
“DRC is a leader in helping states transition to new standards or to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In this role, we have been instrumental in helping our state clients implement a variety of transition strategies ranging from helping them design a new assessment system to helping them increase the rigor of an existing system.
Our tasks have ranged from serving as national content experts providing support to alignment of the common core to existing state standards to working with a given state’s educators to develop a new set of career- and college-readiness standards. DRC’s work through the years in developing items and tests for numerous state testing programs and in conducting over 300 alignment studies has uniquely prepared our team to provide this support to states in transition.“
The bottom line is that DRC has been a major player in developing the Smarter Balanced assessment, collaborating with other major players like CTB McGraw-Hill, the Student Board (creators of the SAT), and AIR. With the acquisition of CTB from McGraw-Hill, DRC has doubled down on its commitment to Common Core. They are heavily invested in getting states to transition to Common Core standards.
Ten Year Sentence
Now, we already knew that, despite Governor Walker’s claims to the contrary, defunding the Smarter Balanced assessment in Wisconsin did not prevent Wisconsin from implementing a Common Core aligned state assessment. In fact, the three bids entertained by the Department of Administration were all by major players in Common Core assessment: Pearson Education, ACT, Inc., and Digital Recognition Corporation. It has come to light that the Department of Administration will be negotiating a ten year contract with the winner of the bid process, DRC, for a reported $63 million. This effectively locks down the Wisconsin state assessments to be Common Core aligned for the next ten years!
Bill Gates, whose foundation is a major funder of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, has said:
“When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.“
Many agree that the assessments drive curriculum, especially when coupled with high stakes accountability measures like we are implementing in Wisconsin. So, we have effectively sentenced Wisconsin students to ten years of Common Core curriculum. Quite a contrast from the claims in Scott Walker’s budget that say “no effect shall be given to Common Core standards.” There is indeed an effect – A TEN YEAR EFFECT!
The Walker Effect
Why has Governor Walker said he is against Common Core and claimed he stopped Common Core in Wisconsin and yet failed to actually prevent the state from locking in a Common Core curriculum for ten years? It might have a little to do with Walker’s campaign donors… well, it might have a LOT to do with Walker’s campaign donors.
Almost as soon as DRC was announced as the winner of the bidding process for the Wisconsin Forward Exam, it was revealed that DRC President Susan Engeleiter had donated $10,000 to the Scott Walker campaign during Walker’s recall election. A spokeswoman for Susan Engeleiter of Data Recognition Corp. said the donation occurred months before the state issued its request for proposals and that DRC staff had no discussions with the governor or his aides about a potential contract. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel posits:
“Engeleiter contributed $10,000 to the Republican governor’s 2014 re-election campaign, her largest political contribution in nearly two decades, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Before the Walker donation, Engeleiter had contributed $100 to $200 to legislative candidates and $500 to Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers’ 2013 campaign.“
This makes one wonder whether Ms. Engeleiter’s $10,000 contribution to the Governor’s campaign had anything to do with DRC securing the $63 million contract to produce the Wisconsin Forward Exam. (It should be noted that Ms. Engeleiter also contributed $500 to Department of Public Instruction Secretary Tony Evers’ 2013 campaign. That surely didn’t hurt DRC’s chances to secure this contract.)
Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, said neither the governor, nor his staff, was involved in the procurement process and that the selection was made by the Department of Public Instruction. That may be, but the contribution may well have had an effect on the Governor’s clever wording of his budget proposals that made things appear he was against Common Core but left the door open for Common Core aligned state assessments.
However, there may be more going on here than just Susan Engeleiter’s $10,000 contribution…
Deeper Connections Between DRC’s Engeleiter and Scott Walker
Susan Engeleiter’s father, Arthur W. Shannon, ran a Milwaukee-area flooring business. He was a well-known Republican fundraiser, rising to the ranks of State GOP Finance Chair in the 1970s. He had four children, Michael, Thomas, Dan, and Susan.
Thomas M. Shannon is an investor in several WI businesses (more on that later) and has contributed a more modest $16,500 to Walker’s state campaigns. However, he and his wife Sue did show up to Scott Walker’s Presidential campaign kickoff event with the federal maximum $5,400 in hand. (Not for nothing, this 7/13 fundraiser would have been during the bidding process for the new state exams.)
Dan Shannon is a Senior Vice President at FIS Global (formerly Metavante, formerly the division of M&I Bank responsible for Wisconsinites referring to ATMs as “Tyme Machines”). He and his wife Lynn have contributed $3,450 to Walker’s state campaigns. They also attended Walker’s Presidential kickoff gala, contributing $1,000.
Of course this comes back around to WEDC…
With all this campaign cash flying around, you knew there would be some awards coming back the other way from Scott Walker’s slush-fund “job-creation” outfit, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
Thomas M. Shannon has a personal ownership stake in at least four companies that have so far received $3.6M from WEDC:
Aver Informatics Inc 10/05/11 $525,000 Tax Credit
Okanjo Partners, Inc. 09/01/11 $2,000,000 Tax Credit
Shamrock Energy Corporation 06/05/13 $150,000 Loan
It’s an interesting setup. BrightStar solicits tax-deductible donations from wealthy people and foundations and then they hand that capital to technology start-ups in WI. Despite the nonprofit label and philanthropic language, they do take ownership stakes in the businesses they fund. The hope is that somewhere down the line a few of these start-ups will have massive IPOs, and they’ll then be able to re-invest their profit in even more start-ups. I’ll leave it to the reader to ponder what happens if their investment success ever outpaces their ability to find new viable start-ups in WI.
Beekeeper labs, Inc. 10/16/14 $1,000,000 Tax Credit
Emopti, Inc. 03/13/15 $175,000 Tax Credit
Fishidy, Inc. 07/23/12 $1,000,000 Tax Credit
Forward Health Group, Inc 06/30/14 $2,000,000 Tax Credit
Modern Movement, Inc. 03/27/15 $125,000 Tax Credit
Okanjo Partners, Inc. 09/01/11 $2,000,000 Tax Credit
Pinpoint Softwares, Inc. 02/01/12 $1,000,000 Tax Credit
Protein Foundry, LLC 06/23/14 $1,000,000 Tax Credit
Quietyme, Inc. 07/15/13 $1,000,000 Tax Credit
SHINE Medical Technologies, Inc. 05/19/14 $2,000,000 Tax Credit
SHINE Medical Technologies, Inc. 12/12/13 $4,000,000 Loan
Swallow Solutions, LLC 02/02/12 $135,000 Loan
The Good Jobs, Inc. 11/07/12 $1,000,000 Tax Credit
The Good Jobs, Inc. 12/11/14 $70,000 Loan
WholeTrees, LLC 06/19/12 $1,000,000 Tax Credit
WholeTrees, LLC 06/11/14 $170,000 Loan
All totalled, Engeleiter and her siblings donated over $1.4 million to Scott Walker’s advancement. The family is enmeshed in Republican politics for generations and heavily involved with Scott Walker’s WEDC.
Data Recognition Corporation in Need of Help
It should be pointed out that Data Recognition Corporation did considerable downsizing just one year ago (September, 2014) due to “revenue impacts from uncertainty in K-12 education, including test changes and ‘political battles’ at state education departments.”
It is certainly not beyond belief that the Governor left the door open to having the Wisconsin Forward Exam being produced by a company with ties to a powerful Wisconsin political family that had contributed very, very generously to his past and current campaigns. Could this be why he called for the defunding of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and for ending the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Wisconsin, but stopped just short of demanding that Wisconsin not have a Common Core aligned assessment. This Governor and his Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation have moved heaven and earth for much smaller donations.
One has to ask whether or not Scott Walker came to the aid of a company run by a member of a family that contributed heavily to his political success.
Locked Into Common Core
It is now confirmed that the new Wisconsin State Assessment, the Wisconsin Forward Exam, will be Common Core aligned, produced by a Common Core powerhouse, and, with the Governor’s emphasis on accountability, curriculum will also necessarily become Common Core aligned. Money has flowed into the Governor’s coffers and now money has flowed back to companies owned by contributors via the WEDC and now through a lucrative DPI contract. Everyone wins, except the children. Students are locked into Common Core curriculum and high stakes testing for ten years.
Long after the checks are cashed and politics has run its course the children growing up under the cronyism and deception exhibited by Governor Walker will be left lamenting their education. Selfish decisions made today will impact our children’s futures dramatically. Scott Walker’s legacy will not be one of reforming education for the better. Instead, Scott Walker is leaving a legacy of shameless self promotion, deception, trickery, and unabashed cronyism.
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.
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
( 3) ACADEMIC ASSESSMENTS- (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;
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.
Delivered by hand to the Governor’s Office
July 6, 2015
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:
Prevent the wholesale collection, mining, storage, and sharing of personally identifiable student data.
Prohibit the Common Core initiative, anything based on it, and any standardized assessments aligned to it.
Provide for the immediate adoption of temporary model standards completely unaligned to Common Core.
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.
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.
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?
Brian Medved President Protect Your Child’s Future Wisconsin
Dr. Timothy D. Slekar Co-Founder United Opt Out & Creator of BustEDpencils.com
Jeffrey Horn Organizer Prairie Patriots Sun Prairie, WI
Debra Kadon Wisconsin Administrator Badass Teachers Association (BATs) Green Bay, WI
Kirsten Lombard Organizer Wisconsin 9/12 Project
Editor Common Ground on Common Core Madison, WI
Dr. Duke Pesta
Academic Director FreeedomProject Education Appleton, WI
Sara Lehman Leader Opt Out Fox Cities Appleton, WI
Wendy Muckerheide Leader 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
Kristi LaCroix Parent
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 Leader Young Americans for Liberty – UW Whitewater Whitewater, WI
Levi Broadnax Leader Young Americans for Liberty – UW Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
Eric Hodkiewicz Leader Young Americans for Liberty – UW Stevens Point Stevens Point, WI
Matt Sama Leader Young Americans for Liberty – UW Milwaukee Milwaukee, WI
Cassidy Sather Leader Young Americans for Liberty – UW Superior Superior, WI
Dexter Robson Leader Young Americans for Liberty – Carthage College Kenosha, WI
Andrea Lombard Leader Sauk County Tea Party Baraboo, WI
Greg Luce Leader La Crosse Tea Party La Crosse, WI
Kody Guden Leader Young Americans for Liberty – UW River Falls River Falls, WI
James Murphy Treasurer Green Bay TEA Party Green Bay, WI
Arlene Frelk Organizer Merrilan TEA Party Merrilan, WI
Ronald Zahn Leader Northeast WisconsinPatriots De Pere, WI
James Leist Leader Manitowoc TEA Movement Manitowoc, WI
Ed Willing FoundersIntent.ORG Caledonia, WI
Nathan Dietsche Leader Western Wisconsin TEA Party Altoona, WI
Joana Briggs Leader Greendale Tea Party
Earl Hoffman Leader Clark County Tea Party Greenwood, WI
Cynthia Narance Leader Christians United in Truth Green Bay, WI
Steve Welcenbach Leader Conservative Insurgency & Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association Menomonee Falls, WI
Karl Koenigs Leader Wisconsin TEA Party Committee on State Sovereignty Peshtigo, WI
Paul Lembrich Leader Southern Wisconsin Alliance of Taxpayers Beloit, WI & Rock County Patriots Janesville, WI
Shirley Kufeldt Secretary Northwoods Patriots Eagle River, WI
Oriannah Paul Leader Sheboygan Liberty Coalition Sheboygan, WI
Marv Munyon Leader Rock River Patriots Fort Atkinson, WI
Edward Perkins Leader Fox Valley Initiative Appleton, WI
David Stertz Organizer Fox Valley Conservative Forum Appleton, WI
Michael Hintze Wisconsin State Coordinator Tea Party Patriots
Georgia Janisch Facilitator Rock County Voter Education Forum Janesville, WI
Mike Zoril Facilitator Rock County Voter Education Forum Janesville, WI
Darin Danelski Leader Lake Country Defenders of Liberty Oconomowoc, WI
Joanne Terry Leader Ozaukee Patriots Mequon, WI
Dan Curran Leader 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 Chair Libertarian Party of Milwaukee County Milwaukee, WI
Phillip Anderson President Libertarian Party of Dane County Madison, WI
Michael Murphy Treasurer Wisconsin Liberty Movement Milwaukee, WI
Matt Augustine Former Chairman Republican Party of Kenosha County, WI Kenosha, WI
Andrew Kolberg Chairman Republican Party of Columbia County, WI Portage, WI
Richard Church Chairman Republican Party of Adams County, WI Friendship, WI
Jackie Johnson Chairman Republican Liberty Caucus – Wisconsin Chapter Madison, WI
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 Sentinelhas 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.
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.
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.