The Fight Against Common Core In Wisconsin – A Timeline

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

June 2, 2010

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

May 2, 2013

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

May 22, 2013

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

June 2013

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

August 8, 2013

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

September 25, 2013

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

September 26, 2013

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

October / November 2013

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

November 26, 2013

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

December 12, 2013

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

December 16, 2013

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

January 2014

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

February 18, 2014

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

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

March 6, 2014

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

April 23, 2014

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

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

July 17, 2014

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

July 18, 2014

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

November 2014

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

December 2014

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

January 2015

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

January 17, 2015

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

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

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

February 3, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 20, 2015

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

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

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

April 23, 2015

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

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

May 19, 2015

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

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

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

May 20, 2015

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

May 20, 2015

Scott Walker signs AB78 / SB67 into law.  This act prohibits the Department of Public Instruction from using the results of the 2015 Badger Exam (Smarter Balanced Assessment) to create district and school report cards and districts from using the Badger Exam (Smarter Balance Assessment) results in computing Value Added Measures for teachers.  This act essentially hides the results of how poorly students did on the Badger exam from the public so that there will be no outcry about how poor the Smarter Balanced assessment and the standards on which it is based are.

June 5, 2015

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

Question #1:  Could you point to the actual place (a url) on the DPI website where the “WI State Standards” for ELA, Math, and Science are listed? Could you perhaps also show where the “Model Academic Standards” are listed so that we can determine the difference?
Answer #1:
ELA Standards
Math Standards
Science Standards

This response is very troubling because the ELA Standard page contains a link to the detailed ELA standards: which contains the following text:

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

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

Similarly, the Math Standards page contains a link to the detailed math standards: which contains the following text:

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

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

June 9, 2015

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

July 6, 2015

An Open Letter to Governor Walker: No More Games on Common Core is sent to Governor Walker by 58 leaders representing 56 grassroots groups and local parties from around Wisconsin.  These groups are from across the political spectrum: liberal, conservative, and libertarian… all united in their opposition to the games Governor Walker is playing with Common Core in his biennial budget.

Signers include: United Opt Out, The Wisconsin BATs (Badass Teachers Association), FreedomProjectEducation, Protect Your Child’s Future, Kewaskum Against Common Core, Opt Out Fox Cities, 10 chapters of Young Americans for Liberty, more than 25 patriots groups, chairs and former chairs from 3 Republican county parties and 2 Libertarian county parties.

July 13, 2015

Scott Walker announces he will run for President of the United States.  In his speech entitled Fight and Win for America, he says “We want high standards, but we want them set at the local level. No Common Core. No nation-wide school board.

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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