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.

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About Jeffrey Horn

Jeffrey D. Horn is a father of four children, a grassroots activist, and a data scientist. He is the author of the essay "LEARNING WITH LEVIATHAN: OBJECTIFICATION, SURVEILLANCE, AND CONTROL IN A CONCEALED COMMAND ECONOMY" in the book "Common Ground on Common Core: Voices from across the Political Spectrum Expose the Realities of the Common Core State Standards." Earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he also holds a master’s degree in mathematics and a Ph. D. in computer science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. A professional programmer, he works daily to build infrastructure that can be used to leverage Big Data in improving advertising, medical decisions, investing, and more. Very conscious of the tension that exists between technology and personal freedom, he has been educating and advocating against Common Core and high-stakes testing in Wisconsin for several years. Over the course of 2013 and 2014, he spearheaded an initiative to unite a variety of organizations and individuals on Common Core related issues for the purpose of sending several open letters to state-level public officials in Wisconsin. The letters ultimately helped to ensure a series of public hearings on Common Core at locations around the state in late 2013. You can contact Jeff via email at or via Twitter: @jeffreydhorn