Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Marquette Poll

I had a great day today with work colleagues at the Brewer game. I know there's been a lot of dissection on today's Marquette Poll, and rightfully so. You'd better believe I was looking at it from the tailgating lot.

However, I'm not going to dive into it that far. I'll say this, the numbers speak for themselves and once we hit the end of September, I'll be a lot more interested. As for right now, I just hope people realize that Walker is very vulnerable.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where Votes Matter

I think this tweet summarizes things well as to why Democrats shouldn't completely fret over Gov. Walker's money advantage, what the MULS Poll says tomorrow, and how there is more than one candidate on the Democratic side in the 17th State Senate District.

The map in the background shows what you need to know. It's not working for a majority of Wisconsinites, especially in the north, west and central sands:

Sen. Schlutz isn't a Democrat. But he darn well is someone who understands the challenges we face in Wisconsin.

Walker Doubling Down on Trek Bashing

Governor Walker's campaign released it's 4th negative TV ad of the month today. This time, they are doubling down on their attacks of Trek Bicycle, a company his main competitor, Mary Burke, neither was CEO of nor made decisions about day-to-day operations when it came to where bicycles were produced.

Gov. Walker keeps claiming that his ads are fine because "she owns part of that company" and so attacking the company is just the same as attacking Burke. What's funny though is how when the company attempts do defend itself against political attack, Walker's campaign get's it's undies in a bundle: 
The Wisconsin Republican Party filed a complaint Tuesday with the state elections board over a full-page newspaper ad by Trek Bicycle Corp., saying it amounts to an illegal contribution to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.
I'm sure Trek CEO John Burke (Mary's brother) had no illusions about his sister running for Governor and the attacks the company would take. But not being able to defend itself with statements that are factually true?  I can't believe that.
"Governor Walker's campaign recently ran an inaccurate political ad about Trek," John Burke wrote in the newspaper ad. "This compels me to set the record straight." 
Trek spokeswoman Marina Marich said Monday in reaction to the complaint that the newspaper ad was legal under state law and was constitutionally protected free speech. 
"Trek is disappointed to see yet another attack on it by Governor Walker's campaign," Marich said.
And don't even get me started about how Gov. Walker could very well be barking up the very wrong tree considering his John Doe allegations:
Prosecutors in 2012 began investigating Walker's recall campaign and a host of third party conservative groups for alleged campaign law violations, arguing that issue ads run by Wisconsin Club for Growth and others amounted to illegal in-kind campaign contributions.
Of course, the Republicans think this ad was an in-kind contribution to the Burke campaign, not a company attempting to set the record straight based on attacks it has received from a person who only a few years ago touted them as a Wisconsin success story.

Remember folks, a new Marquette Poll comes out tomorrow. This ad release is either intended to, a) Distract people from those numbers, along with some dismal jobs numbers from the past few months. Or b) Try and hone in on an issue that their polling suggests looks good, and honestly, what Democrat wouldn't pounce on an outsourcing company too? The problem is, Democrats would say it was a company the other candidate ran, not just that they were part-owner of.

Furthermore, attacking someone who went to Harvard Business School from the position of someone who wouldn't hack the final six months at Marquette as an undergrad? I've tried to leave that whole "college drop-out" line down with those who like to play in the mud, but when you're attacking someone who's clearly more qualified than you on a topic, it's hard to not notice. Gov. Walker's feeling the heat people...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt on WFDL's "Between the Lines" - Common Core Craziness

52nd Assembly District Representative, and candidate to become the ranking Republican on the Assembly Education Committee, Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac was on "Between the Lines w/Greg Stensland" this morning to discuss last week's Common Core State Standards political posturing.

Pepto should be kept at the ready for the interview if you wish to listen to it, and that can be done so HERE. 

Remember, Rep. Thiesfeldt was a co-chair of the Select Committee on Common Core State Standards, so naturally his reaction when the governor made his statement was of surprise on timing but not on position. Rep. Thiesfeldt said that he heard there were conversations at the National Governors Association conference (read - Koch marching orders), but ultimately the Cedarburg vote was what forced the Governor's hand in making a statement.

The biggest message, again according to Rep. Thiesfeldt, is that the Governor recognized that "across the country, as a whole, seems to be edging the other direction on this now." (Look at what the Cap Times ran this weekend to see why it appears that way.)

When noted that the legislature didn't take action this past session on the Common Core, and that Sen. Education Chair Luther Olsen is very cold on doing anything with Common Core or local control via school board adoption of the standards, Rep. Thiesfeldt said that it really wouldn't matter because this is only affecting state policy and not local district's adoption of standards. He even readily admits that many districts would likely just stay with the Core. (Which begs to ask why should the state politically posture against the will of local districts?)

However, hilarity soon ensued when the representative noted that the timetable for changes to be made on the Smarter Balanced assessments, the Common Core aligned tests that replace the WKCE, was seriously compacted. (NO KIDDING!) He then has the audacity to say:
"if we would've looked at this this past spring and been able to get a vote in the Senate and a vote in the Assembly, and then signed into law, that would've been a much more measured approach to reevaluating the Common Core Standards than what is being suggested by the governor"
GUESS WHAT! That's not what happened because there were not enough votes! Enough elected people realized that when this was being suggested this past winter/spring it was nuts and decided to put the breaks on it. Now, the people who were trying hard last winter to end the Common Core are trying to scream at the top of their lungs to stop something that has already seen multiple public hearings across the state, debate in select committees, and was decided to not take action on.

The democratic process worked! Rep. Thiesfeldt's just ticked that he didn't get what he wanted.

Remember how the select committees and their options really ended because of the anger over the fact that the legislature would ultimately have had the ability to rewrite whatever standards they were sent by a committee who would've been largely picked by partisan legislatures? Rep. Thiesfeldt's more modest approach then was still too harsh for what the majority of school districts, teachers, principals, and parents wanted. Why would working on a more compact timetable change that or make it more palatable to change the standards or standardized tests that students take?!

And again and again, Rep. Thiesfeldt keeps perpetuating the zombie lie that momentum has shifted nationwide away from Common Core.

When noted that Sen. Fitzgerald, and others, have said that just putting the breaks on this might not be that simple, and that drawing up Wisconsin specific standards is a huge undertaking, Rep. Thiesfeldt can't get out of his head the word Wisconsin.  It's all about Wisconsin having Wisconsin standards for Wisconsin's sake, because Wisconsin is Wisconsin, and that the US Department of Education is all bad and responsible for everything wrong with education today and doesn't understand Wisconsin students. It's almost like On Wisconsin should've been playing in the background.

When asked, "why does Wisconsin need to have it's own standards?" And the example of a student moving into Wisconsin from a different state, the Representative made an amazingly declarative statement:
"Well, that's because that's not how we do things in the United States." 
Oh, well that's good to know. I mean, it's totally 100% awesome that we'll have some states where students learn long division in 3rd grade and other's where it's 5th. No big deal there. Nope, doesn't matter at all that some places only want to hit on some parts of Language Arts, but not others. Oh no, it's just fine, because I'm sure the rest of the damn industrialized world which kicks our butt on all those rankings that we freak out about, I'm sure they think this makes a whole hell of a lot of sense.
"The federal government is only supposed to have, you can look in the Constitution right there, their are 20 powers of the federal government, and education is not one of them." 
He then goes off onto some wicked revisionist history rant about how the states were all set up be to be laboratories of different ways to do things, and the states would then learn from each other, and how it's been highly successful.  (By that logic, didn't the states then just decide that doing individual things in this particular instance didn't make sense? I'll leave that one there...)
"But it's pretty evident that as soon as the federal government's role in education across the country started to take hold, and this goes back to the 50's and just as continued to grow since then, that's when we started to have struggles in our schools nationwide. The federal involvement has hurt schools, it has not helped it, and we need to start going back the other direction"
Is he serious?  He seriously just said that?

So, what happened with federal school policy in the 1950's? Oh, that's right, Brown V. Board of Education, that's what! You know, equal access to schools! Integrated schools where students weren't separated but instead where everyone had an equal right to access! That's what we've been fighting since the 1950's, it's been our nation's policies for the 300 years before that where everyone was separated and not given the same access to information and resources! THAT'S why the federal government stepped into education.

I'm shocked, I'm honestly shocked that he would say such a thing. No more federal Individuals with Disabilities Act protections for people at public schools. Local units of government can decide whether or not something is suitable to themselves! Oh, you move there and don't fit in? Tough.

Oh, hey Free and Appropriate Education laws! Oh, Johnny needs a wheelchair and is severely cognitively disabled? Maybe he shouldn't go to school, because it's too much of a burden on the community to provide him a full time aid. Maybe he should go to a special school in a different city, or your family could educate him at home? Oh, Suzie needs special help for dyslexia? Well, we can't provide that for her, because we locally have decided to not pay for those services because we have so many other students who need a basketball team.

Hungry students? Gee, maybe their parents should've packed them lunches with all that free time they have. Our district doesn't believe in providing meals even though we are a rural district that has 55% poverty rates. Our money needs to go to busing, and because we don't believe in the federal government paying for schools, we don't get any lunch money from them.

I cannot believe that someone who very likely will be in the running and could very easily become the ranking Republican on the Assembly Education Committee next session could say something to blatantly racist, privileged, and unintelligent. I've heard some pretty bad policy statements from Rep. Thiesfeldt over the years, but this one really cuts to my core. Public education is a damn civil right, and that right for too long was denied to many people. That's why the federal government got involved in education.

Greg Stensland, the person doing the interview, quickly moves on. You can almost tell there is shock at hearing what he just heard about public education. The final question deals with where this issue goes from here, and Rep. Thiesfelt pretty much just goes over what we already know in that the legislature's out until January and nothing will likely happen until then. However, the weight of what just happened cannot go unnoticed.

Yes, this is the type of person who could very well be shaping education policy in the Assembly come January. Someone who thinks that the federal government's involvement in guaranteeing equal access to education, and who completely disregards the fact that since the 1940's an ever increasing percentage of students go to school longer than 8th grade regardless of family income, is the reason why public education is failing students. If you're not abhorred by the thought of someone like that making decisions that affect our state's students, you're not paying attention.

Voodoo Economics Endorsement of Gov. Walker

When Dr. Art Laffer is used in a press-release praising Gov. Walker, you know someone like me is going to pounce.

If for no other reason, than I get to use a great Ferris Bueller's Day Off clip.

Jay Bullock Is So Smart - His Take on Common Core

Jay Bullock, my esteemed colleague in MPS, has a way with the written word a lowly hack like myself could only dream. As someone who decided to write Wisconsin Soapbox as a an outlet to vent on the days news, the state of affairs of Wisconsin Politics, and almost as a means to an end of actually taking a closer look at state news, I marvel at Jay's thinking process. The man has a gift.

Jay blogged for years at Folkbum's Rambles and Rants, but (smartly I'd argue) decided to hang that up and actually bat in the big-boy leagues at the Bay View Compass and Jay's so smart he actually can do something I can only imagine - actually provide analysis and deep understanding upon his reader with a voice that doesn't come across as ranting and raving. (Yeah, I'm working on that.)

I truly do appreciate the page views, the comments, the congratulations, the thank-you's that I do get blogging as Wisconsin Soapbox. Even though I constantly remind myself that I'm really doing nothing more than shouting in the echo-chamber with a slightly larger megaphone that others, I'd like to think that sometimes what I write helps educate or triggers thoughts in other's minds.

Reason why I rambled on is because Jay's column at right now is about last weeks Common Core State Standards explosion. I'm lucky enough to get a link in the writing, but that's aside the point. What Jay does here is takes what I've gone on, and on, and on about with endless analyzing on the news stories that have been put out, and boils it down into his own great voice. Jay and I are MPS colleagues and I respect what he says very much. Every time we interact he comes across as someone who's thinking one or two steps ahead and cutting through the noise.

That's exactly what Jay does in his latest post. A few selections:
I'll be clear up front: I think any attempt by this or any state to abandon CCSS is just dumb. I find most of the opposition to CCSS from conservatives, including elected officials, to be based on paranoia and outright myths, not helped by propagandist by right-wing news outlets.
Spot on. Yes, there are liberals who have issues with CCSS, I'm one of them. So is Jay. But our issues are hardly on the level that have come to dominate the discussion about the CCSS's merits or goals.
Where my big concern lies is testing. But America's testing regime is not the fault of the Common Core State Standards, and far predates their adoption, even though no one but me seems to care about that fact. Indeed, this current round of anti-CCSS silliness seems directly precipitated by the Cedarburg School District's resolution asking the state to delay implementation of the CCSS-aligned Smarter Balanced testing, which is supposed to start this coming school year. There are many reasons to delay, from pedagogy to technology, and if we hit the brakes for a year, I'd be okay with that.
I'd be okay with hitting the breaks on Smart Balanced too, but I personally do feel that the headaches that would come with those logistics aren't worth it at this late stage. Schools have been planning for this for two years now, and the desire to abandon the WKCE has been there since I took my methods classes for teaching in 2009. But the testing, the testing is NOT the Common Core, but it's based off of it. If we want to talk about testing, liberals are all ears.
America's testing regime goes back -- not unlike CCSS, and other reform efforts like charter schools and privatization and radical revamps of teacher prep programs -- to the fraud perpetrated on America by Ronald Reagan's education department known as A Nation at Risk. 
That 1983 report assured us that the U.S. was on the verge of losing the global awesome contest to the Soviet Union because our children were not learning the way they used to. (Boy, those Soviets sure showed us!) It has convinced two generations of Americans that our schools are terrible, our teachers are imbeciles, and generally that the sky is falling.
Jay was a lot kinder to the A Nation At Risk report than I would've been. Propaganda is more like it.

Jay then goes on to discuss exactly how the Common Core is more rigorous than what Wisconsin's previous standards from 1998 were like for Math and English. (I still operate under those standards for Social Studies):
In 1998, the state of Wisconsin adopted the standards that preceded CCSS in this state. You can still find them online -- here are math and English, for example -- and you can compare them to Common Core to see what I mean. CCSS standards, in math especially, are far beyond what Wisconsin used to expect of its students. Those claiming that CCSS has "dumbed down" Wisconsin education clearly either don't know what's in CCSS or don't know what CCSS replaced.
Again, people just making claims for making claims sake.

The whole piece is WELL worth the read, and again, from someone who is a teacher in MPS and far smarter than me. I appreciate the kind words people give me when it comes to education related posts. I speak with passion and try to convey the initial reactions I have to news as it relates to education, my students, and my profession. But Jay does it so much better than I could possibly dream. It's why we should all be lucky he shares his gift with us.

Mary Burke's Rural Communities Plan

In the hoopla over Common Core last week, (which worked well on being a distracting issue for Walker), you likely missed that Mary Burke announced her own plan on how to invest and strengthen rural communities.

Her plan is available on her website, located HERE. 

It's lengthy, but important to note that she is the first candidate in the race who is actively setting out with a plan on how to make state government work for our smaller and traditional communities. Boiling her vision statement down, she puts out these three points of focus:

That’s why, as Governor, my priorities for investing in rural Wisconsin communities will be: 
I. Growing our Rural Economy
II. Promoting Excellence and Opportunity in Our Public Schools
III. Ensuring Access to High Quality Health Care
It sounds like such common sense, but as Gov. Walker has shown with 2011 Act 10 and his lack of funding for schools, he's hurting rural communities. (Just ask Waupaca)

Her entire plan is WELL worth a look-over. From talk about common sense use of biofuels and renewables, to addressing rural broadband access, and sustaining family farms, it shows someone who understands what it takes to help people in Wisconsin. Just look at this fun factoid that I wish got more attention:
The Walker Administration turned down a $23 million federal grant to expand broadband to more Wisconsin schools and libraries
I mean, who needs access to the internet in places like Park Falls, Pittsville, or Tippler?

When addressing rural schools, she also shows she's well aware of our states history and how we've arrived where we have with funding. I just read the chapter that dealt with school consolidation in the 1940's and how the basic nexus of our current funding formula came to fruition. Needless to say, it was refreshing to see a candidate who's versed in those topics as well.

She also really hits a solid note that many rural and northern Wisconsinites are passionately against, vouchers:
When our public schools are having to compete for state funding, it is bad policy to redistribute taxpayer funds to private schools. The expansion of vouchers beyond Milwaukee and Racine also negatively impacts rural school districts throughout the state – which are struggling to secure adequate funding. Wisconsin must provide a guarantee – not a lottery – to provide quality education for all Wisconsin children. 

The section on access to health care is long, complex, and something I'm very interested to hear from family members of mine who are nurses, one of them who worked in a rural community, what their thoughts are.

Either way, a nearly 25 page document out lining a plan on how to help our rural communities, which included citations and a works cited? It doesn't take much to understand who the person is in this race with a clear understanding of how to gather information, assess that information, plan, and execute a set of policies to address the needs of people.

It's yet another reason why Mary Burke is a far better choice than Scott Walker for Governor of Wisconsin.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Common Core Statements Continue - Walker Stepped In It This Time

When you think of summer, campaign season, and toxic mixes, education should be pretty darn close to the top of the list.

More statements came out yesterday from legislators and government officials on the Common Core State Standards, and Gov. Walker's call to repeal them and the new standardized tests that are aligned with them. You know it's a hot-button when The Wheeler Report puts it's own heading out for all the articles and releases associated with a topic.

I'm also more and more convinced that as this drags out, it's going to hurt the governor and those associated with running competitive races. But more on that in a minute.

First, the most high profile statement from yesterday was by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers: 
“It’s campaign season in Wisconsin and around the country and, not surprisingly, politics trumps sound policy. Here in Wisconsin, the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin’s K-12 education leaders, as well Wisconsin business and higher education leaders strongly support Wisconsin’s Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards set a higher bar for what students should know and be able to do to succeed in college and the workplace. Wisconsin’s teachers, parents, and children have spent the past four years implementing these
standards, which our educators indisputably agree are more rigorous than our previous standards and still provide districts with the ability to select a local curriculum that fits their needs.
You'll see time and time again people come back to the "it's campaign season" mantra, and it's 100% spot on. This is about throwing red-meat to the conservatives who vote in primaries.
“The notion that Wisconsin could simply repeal our standards or take a two year time out on our assessments not only runs counter to both state and federal law, it jeopardizes important reforms like educator effectiveness and school and district accountability. But most importantly, it brings chaos to our children and our  classrooms. I continue to stand with Wisconsin’s educators who remain focused on doing what’s best for our kids and their education. It’s time to keep politics out of the classroom and remain focused on what’s most important —delivering a college and career ready education to Wisconsin’s students.” 
There's really not a lot I could add to that statement.

Next, we'll turn to Fond du Lac area Assembly Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, one of the likely people to succeed Rep. Steve Kestell as the ranking Republican on the Assembly Education Committee. Yesterday, he issued THIS statement:
“I was pleased to hear that Gov. Walker called on the legislature to pass a bill in January repealing the Common Core Standards (CCS). I look forward to promptly tackling this issue as our first priority in response to the governor’s appeal.  
Notice how he doesn't say "state" standards. That's a VERY specific and important change conservatives are trying to do in "un-localizing" the Common Core STATE Standards.
Wisconsin’s educational standards need to be improved, but Wisconsin students are best served by standards created within our own state.  
I'm not sure how us ascribing benchmark points for students to hit, which will in all likelihood almost virtually mirror the CCSS with only our own name on it, does anything to better serve Wisconsin students. If nothing else, it helps to remove them from the sense of a national identity we have.
Wisconsin students are also best served if standardized tests are a limited, effective
reflection of student growth. I would like to see the legislature go further than a repeal of CCS in January. Wisconsin must remove itself from the CCS-aligned standardized
testing that would be fully implemented next school year. Next year, our students will be tested more than ever before, sacrificing valuable hours of instructional time. 
Wow, lots for me to digest here as a teacher.

I loathe all the standardized testing we are subjecting our students to. I also have some major issues with the fact that 50% of my evaluation as an educator is somehow tied with student growth and test scores. No, it's not as bad as other states, but it's still there. Those models do nothing to encourage me to improve my practice, what it does is encourages me to move to find the best students where I won't have to worry about my job and evaluation because they are good test-takers.

Mr. Thiesfeldt is right on one thing, next year our students will be tested more than ever before and valuable instructional time will be sacrificed. The only problem is that he and other conservatives are constantly breathing down our throats for data, growth, and demonstrating that we are fully capable professionals in our job. If he really wants to help, he'd let us just do our damn jobs for a while.

However, that all being said, there will always have to be some type of normalizing standardized test that students will have to take. Removing those tests not only throws into a whole new dimension what our students will be measured by in national normalizing reports, but also how teachers will be evaluated.
Those supportive of the CCS hoped that the initial failure of SB 619 last spring was the
end of the battle in Wisconsin. Rather than going away, grassroots opposition to the CCS has only intensified. Other states continue to take action against the CCS and our local school boards are beginning to take a closer look as well. When action is taken in
January, it will be the first time the legislature has taken a direct vote on this important issue pivotal to our children’s future. 
He's hell-bent on thinking that the legislature somehow is supposed to have a say over standards and how education is done in Wisconsin. If there is anyone in the Assembly more fixated on bringing education related decisions away from the Superintendent of Public Instruction and more into the legislative branch, I haven't found them yet.
SB 619 was a thoughtful, measured step to take when the chair of the Senate Education
Committee refused to bring the issue to a vote last session. Our time frame for action has been whittled down. The independence of our state’s schools is at stake. Common Core Standards are currently the platform from which future standards will be increasingly driven by the distant Department of Education in Washington DC instead of in our own state. The legislature must act to repeal the CCS.” 
In other words, someone with over a decade of legislative experience on education matters realized this was a #batshitcrazy idea and tried to stop us, but we forged ahead anyway by taking bold action.
In 2010 Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, using his signature alone, committed Wisconsin to the adoption of the untested and unproven CCS. The creation of the standards was financially driven by hundreds of millions of dollars from Bill Gates who stands to possibly make vast profits from sales of related products. The near-unanimous adoption of CCS came from recession cash-strapped states eager for both federal stimulus funds, and a waiver from the heavy hand of No Child Left Behind. The standards created a one-size-fits-all set of educational standards for mathematics and English language arts across the country.
Unproven? How can you lead on an issue when you need something to be proven first? Rationale that Rep. Thiesfeldt uses for some things isn't good for others? He should clarify. I'm also very impressed with how liberal Rep. Thiesfeldt makes himself sound here with the tying in of Bill Gates and NCLB. The problem is that he wishes nothing more than for education in Wisconsin, or more specifically public education, to go back to the time of the normal schools.

Rep. Thiesfeldt was a teacher before being in the Assembly, but he's never been a public school teacher. He may say he understands, but really, he has no idea on so many issues.

Furthermore, CBS 58 from Milwaukee last night had THIS story and video, which says at the very end that Rep. Thiesfeldt is already drafting a bill to introduce in January, doing what the Governor requested.

The other interesting bit out of the CBS piece are further remarks from Gov. Walker after issuing his initial release on Thursday:
"The standards that were adopted before I came in were set by people from outside of the state. I've heard repeatedly from all different sorts of people in the state that they don't want standards set from outside Wisconsin.” Walker said. 
He made that comment while at an event in Appleton Friday. That's the reasoning he gave for why he wants legislators to get rid of Common Core Standards in Wisconsin.
You wanted justification? Sorry, still only limited nothingness. Classic Walker policy statement. More from Gov. Flippy in a bit.

Select Committee On Common Core State Standards member Rep. Diane Hesselbein also issued a statement. Her statement in no uncertain terms lays out what she heard time and time again during the hearings from people across Wisconsin:
As a member of the Assembly Select Committee on Common Core Standards, I had the opportunity to listen to hours of public testimony from school district administrators, teachers, and educational professionals who repeatedly stated that CCSS: 
 - provide the floor, not the ceiling to uniform educational standards; - give districts tools by which they can assess and compare to students from throughout    the state and country to measure their standings vs other students’ readiness to              compete nationally; 
 - is not a specific curriculum; - allow for freedom of teachers to teach using methods successful to their students.
Then of course there were releases from other legislators, including Stevens Point area Rep. Katrina Shankland, State Senator/Lt. Governor candidate John Lehman,  and Democratic Education Committee Rep. Sondy Pope.

Other high-profile legislators never actually issued statements of their own, but instead talked with local media of their choosing. Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin "Boss" Vos went to his de-facto comfort zone of the Racine-Journal Times. Naturally he was a mouthpiece for the Governor:
Vos, R-Rochester, stopped short of saying a repeal of Common Core would be taken up immediately when the state Assembly comes back into session in January — as Walker has called for — but said he looks forward to developing “stronger Wisconsin standards.” 
“The education of our children is too important,” Vos told The Journal Times through a spokeswoman. “We must have higher standards to better prepare students for college and work.”
These people actually do this for a living? They actually get to spew talking-points platitudes that sound good no matter whether or not they actually relate to the topic at hand?

However, the Journal-Times story also indicates something I had a relatively strong suspicion of but haven't come out and actually said - the State Senate, will be this bill's downfall. When asked by members of my union what I thought, I said that this bill isn't going to happen, especially if it's delayed all the way to January. Sen. Luther Olsen, who we'll have comments from in a bit, won't let this happen, and he'll use Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's ability to not want a total gong-show session, to make it not pass.

Sen. Fitzgerald's comments come from a Scott Bauer written Associated Press article:
Conservative Republican's proposal to do away with the standards failed to garner enough support to pass last session, even with the GOP in control.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement that while there may be support for repealing the Common Core, "developing new standards that satisfy everyone's concerns will be much more difficult."
Further clarification and un-redaction of those comments from Sen. Fitzgerald, are found in yet another Journal-Sentinel written piece: 
But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitgerald (R-Juneau), expressed caution Friday. 
"While there may be some support next session for repealing the current standards, developing the new standards that satisfy everyone's concerns will be much more difficult, especially with a superintendent of public instruction that adamantly opposes making any changes," Fitzgerald said in a statement.
The Journal-Sentinel piece, as well as the AP article are also where we have the best consolidated and genuine comments from Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olsen. He's been a vocal supporter of the Common Core and is ever more at odds with his party over their increasingly ideological stances with little desire to heed the call of common sense.
Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a vocal supporter of the standards, said there's actually nothing to "repeal" with Common Core. That's because the standards are not codified in state law; they are voluntary for districts. 
In other words, everyone's pissed that DPI adopted something in 2009 and successfully got local districts to adopt them too. But, now that Republicans are in control and want their finger on everything in education, they're mad.
What is in state law: a mandate that publicly funded schools administer new state exams in reading and math tied to the standards, starting in the upcoming 2014-'15 school year. 
Okay, so there actually are some things in law that relate with the standards. But clearly, the calls to repeal Common Core are not just because "oh, we don't want to do this test." It's because of some non-sensical notion that these were mandated by Obama, and are the downfall of western civilization.
Further, Olsen said that establishing new, state-specific standards could actually shift power away from local school boards to the state, which would seemingly fly in the face of the principle of local control.
DING! DING! DING! We have a winner!

Sen. Olsen also expressed a similar statement in the AP article:
"I believe 90 percent of the schools are going to say, 'Madison you go do what you want to do, we're going to continue with the Common Core,'" Olsen said. "I have to believe people in this state have a lot more faith in their local school board than they do the Legislature in Madison." 
If the Legislature mandated standards too different from Common Core, it would hurt high school students taking college placement tests tied to the standards being used by most states, Olsen said. 
"This is much more serious than this monkey business around saying we can do better," Olsen said.
Monkey business! Ha, I love it. Especially because he's calling a spade a spade! This is politics.

So, can we start speculating right now who's running in 2016 for his seat? You know he's done within the party after this, right? Vote of no-confidence by the 6th Congressional District Convention for his party, condemnation by his state party at their convention, pushing back against voucher expansion, now pushing back on Common Core repeal?

Aside from the CBS piece mentioned above, Gov. Walker has only made a few comments about his now-support for repealing Common Core. That's likely because he's been someone who's ridden the coattails of Common Core when it suited his own desire to show he's holding public schools accountable. Again, from the Journal-Sentinel article:
But in an interview Friday with the Associated Press, Walker spoke about the standards themselves, not the exams. 
"The goal is to have the standards developed by educators, parents, community members and people involved in education in Wisconsin," Walker said. 
But that already happened, according to the state Department of Public Instruction, which has records of participants who helped review and modify the standards, including university professors, curriculum experts, teachers and citizens. 
Whoopsie-doodle... Governor Walker stepped in it.
Also, Walker's statement calling for dumping Common Core comes after he has worked with the state DPI for the past several years on education reform issues that all hinge on successful implementation of the standards. 
But, but what?! Oh, so Gov. Walker was for it before he was against it? (Oh 2004 Kerry campaign.) Seriously, if anyone wanted to know why he wasn't saying much about Common Core before now, this is why - He actually worked with them and utilized them in a lot of what he did with respect to school accountability.
In his 2011-'13 budget veto message to the Assembly, Walker wrote that his budget supported greater accountability and performance in K-12 education by "investing $15 million in the development of a statewide student information system and requiring the Department of Public Instruction to implement new pupil assessment based on mastery of Common Core Standards by 2014-15."
Ohhhh, snap.

So, why is the governor stepping into the fray now? In a word it's already been answered - politics. But, there has to be more than that. Walker's excellent at staying on message and not deviating in the least bit from it. It's one reason why people are so willing to vote for him. So, if he's willing to do a flip-flop on this, something he will be called out for, why do it? Why risk the damage?

The answer I've arrived at, right or wrong, is that he needs something to fire up the base. In other words, he's worried about Mary Burke. Think about it? Three negative TV ads already in June and July? Now going about as hard-right as possible when it comes to Common Core, openly talking about things that leadership people in your party on the legislative side are questioning the feasibility of? He's essentially wading into decisions made by the Cedarbug School Board for crying out loud!

What do his internal polls tell him if he has to appeal to the Cedarburg crowd and draw support from them?!

Gov. Walker I'm sure believes in doing everything imaginable to destroy and stop the implementation of Common Core and while he hoped he could avoid it for obvious reasons, he had to make a statement that was short, brief, and I'm sure he hoped would fly way more under the radar than it has.

Ultimately the gubernatorial election won't be decided simply on the fate of Walker's Common Core statements. The election will hinge on the economy, not be a referendum on Common Core. Besides, I thought we had an election on Common Core between Tony Evers and Don Pridemore? Didn't Common Core win that one?

Just sayin'.

Friday, July 18, 2014

New Mary Burke TV Ad Strikes Back At Walker Claim

Mary Burke's campaign took the gloves off today with regards to Trek Bicycle shipping jobs overseas:

More On The Common Core

Turns out repealing state education standards, calling for a test that has been in the development phase for almost five years, and initiating what would be a pretty radical departure from education norms around the country, gets people talking.

This will serve as a follow-up to yesterday's post on Gov. Walker calling for the repeal of the Common Core State Standards.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel again updated their story, this time with political reporter Patrick Marley adding information. That included more on the national move to revisit or repeal Common Core:
As of the end of June, three states — Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina — had officially dropped out of the Common Core. 
But Indiana, the first to officially dump the standards with a call to create "state-specific" ones instead, came back with a new set of academic guidelines that looked almost exactly like the Common Core. 
"If you put a bunch of capable people together in a room to rewrite these standards, they're going to look a lot like the Common Core," said Kestell, the Republican chair of the Assembly Education Committee. 
In Wisconsin, Walker has long said he thought the state should set its own standards but has never provided specifics.
Again, Rep. Kestell being the voice of common sense. I'm sure lots of former political types on the left are spinning in their political graves right now.

There was also comment from every one's favorite likely new ranking Republican on the Education Committee in the Assembly, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac. (Heaven save us if this is the case):
Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) who wrote a bill to repeal Common Core last session but couldn't get it passed, said Walker's comments will add momentum next session. 
"I think it's huge," he said.
Really adding to the discourse there.

Also, State Sup. Tony Evers:
"It may work well for the political end of things, but it's sending messages to our kids that our system is chaotic, and it's not," state Superintendent Tony Evers said late Thursday. 
The governor and his party always talk about giving "certainty" to businesses and the business climate. Why in the heck don't they think that logic works with education and schools too?
Evers said he thinks the most strident critics are fairly small in number, but their vote might be determined by a politician's stance on Common Core alone. 
"It's all about getting your people to the polls," he said. 
Which echo's much of what we saw yesterday from Rep. Kestell's comments.

There were also other press-releases put out as well by lawmakers. This morning we have the full comments from Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson: 
“From business leaders to school officials across our state, there is solid agreement that Common Core is common sense for our children, our classrooms, and our communities.  
“The fact that Walker is pitting himself against standards that are so universally accepted and highly regarded shows that he is alarmingly out-of-touch.”
Short, simple, and too the point.

For some inane reason, Van Wanggard, the former State Senator from the Racine area who is running again, issued a statement. I don't give it the time of day here.

I once again would like to point out that when the issue of stopping Common Core came up this past winter there was almost a mild stroke that occurred with superintendents and education officials across the state. They were very concerned with the lack of understanding on the amount of work that has already been put in to these standards and sheer amount of time it would take to develop a Wisconsin specific test and set of standards. The last people I want to have organizing the educational standards of my students or that I need to execute my curriculum through are the governor or legislature.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Really, We're Going to Have This Fight AGAIN? Gov. Walker Now Calls For CCSS Repeal

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. In Wisconsin, press-releases and issues aren't given trial-balloon's without actually blowing up. Today, the Common Core State Standards blew-up politically in Wisconsin again.

First, it started with THIS joint statement from the Neo-Stalwart Education Caucus of the Wisconsin State Senate - Sen. Leah Vukmir, and Sen. Paul Farrow. It called for a delay of the "Smarter Balanced" assessments that students are going to be taking this coming March as a replacement for the WKCE tests, which have been repeatedly been described as outdated.

“There has been a momentum shift at all levels; local, state and national, as more and more school districts, teachers, and parents are expressing concerns over Common Core, specifically the newly developed Smarter Balanced Assessments,” said Vukmir. “We introduced Senate Bill 619 last spring in an effort to prevent Wisconsin from having an average set of standards. We can’t allow Wisconsin to lag behind other states as they improve their educational standards and move away from this flawed assessment.” 
Perfect conservative logic here. Teachers and those in education are questioning some aspects of the tests, so ultimately that means it can be co-opted to mean that teachers are adamantly opposed to the Common Core Standards themselves. It couldn't be further from the truth. I also once again fail to understand why Tea-Party types keep coming back to this notion that the CCSS are somehow only "average" and that if states magically set higher standards it means everyone will score better on tests.

Then again, logic is something that's been known to escape these legislators from time to time. The CCSS are nothing more than a benchmark, that's it. Teachers are always encouraged to go beyond the CCSS, which aren't viewed as a goal, but rather a bottom level threshold to meet when talking about skills to try and teach students.

Well, never one to try and deflect form another political blunder (Trek Bicycle slamming Walker's claims in his latest ad), Gov. Walker decided to pull another classic move of his and speak as if he's already won the November election with THIS 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. 
Wow... real explanation and affirmation given with that statement.

However, with that statement, the story was then picked-up by the Wisconsin State Journal: 
The future of the Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin was further muddied Thursday after Gov. Scott Walker called on legislators to pass a bill in January to repeal the state's adoption of Common Core and to replace them with "standards set by people in Wisconsin." 
You know, that whole thing the Common Core was supposed to try and eliminate. Not have 50 different sets of benchmarks, but a single one which meant students could more easily be compared across states.
Walker released a short statement Thursday afternoon, hours after Republican senators Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, issued a joint news release calling for a delay in using new standardized tests in Wisconsin that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards in a news release. 
Walker's explicit statement emphasizes his support for a bill his office helped draft earlier this year, and one that Farrow and Vukmir previously led an effort to pass. The bill would create a state board that would begin a process that would replace the Common Core standards that were adopted in 2010 with standards the board created. 
And essentially delay upwards of 8 years of planning that have gone into the current place we are at with having standards now updated and implemented across Wisconsin.
The bill ultimately did not garner support of the two chairmen of the legislature's education committees, and no vote was called on the proposal before session ended.  
Yeah,  because both Rep. Steve Kestell and Sen. Luther Olsen tried to repeatedly tell people that this was an insane idea and not feasible.
To delay the tests, state law must be changed, said Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy. DPI is statutorily obligated to begin using the tests this school year, and the legislature won't be back in session until January. 
"You would need to change a lot of statutes in a very short amount of time," he said.
Jason Rostan, spokesman for Vukmir, said earlier Thursday that he did not know whether that would be enough time to alter the timeline before the tests are set to begin statewide in March.
If there's one thing the Neo-Stalwart conservatives are willing to do, it's change a lot of statutes in a very short amount of time. (2011 Act 10 anyone?)
The releases were sent the day after the Cedarburg School Board voted to ask the legislators to delay the testing for at least two years.  
Farrow and Vukmir's press release sent to media Thursday afternoon pointed to the reduced number of states that remain in the consortia of states using two new Web-based tests that are aligned to the Common Core, and to Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina -- states which have abandoned the standards.  
Wisconsin plans to use the Smarter Balanced Assessments beginning this school year.
Wisconsin is one of now 42 states and Washington D.C. that have adopted the Common Core standards covering what students learn in language arts and math. 
Wisconsin schools have spent an estimated $25 million linking their curriculum to Common Core since 2010, when the standards were adopted without much fanfare, in anticipation of new tests during the 2014-15 school year tied to those standards. 
Of course, the Burke campaign had to chime in:
Joe Zepecki, campaign spokesman for gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, former executive of Trek Bicycle Corp. and a Madison School Board member, said Thursday's release "is a desperate election year move by a career politician to shore up his extreme right wing base." 
When they say extreme right wing base, they mean it. Seriously, moderates are well aware that the CCSS aren't some radical idea that was magically sprung upon us. It's been discussed for quite some time now.
"The transparency of the political nature of this move could not be clearer. The legislature isn't in session. He offers zero explanation for why wants to undermine efforts to improve our educational standards from 38th in the country and zero plan for moving forward. Why the sudden change of course after 3 years of DPI working on implementing these standards?," Zepecki said in an emailed statement. 
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel also posted a story that would be updated throughout the evening on the day's news. It has some additional information on the Common Core and fallout from today's statements.
The sudden declaration comes after months of virtually no public discussion on the standards, prompting one Republican representative to characterize Walker's move as politically motivated.
Woah? Who could that be?
"The idea that they'd just be able to replace the standards at the beginning of the Legislative session is absurd," said Steve Kestell, (R-Elkhart Lake) the chair of the Assembly's Education Committee. "We're in an election season. People desperate to be re-elected will say anything."
Steve Kestell would hardly be described as a moderate by anyone associated with Wisconsin politics. In fact, only a few short years ago, he was seen as one of the more conservative members of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Even in education issues he was conservative in his thought, but even this is a bridge too far for Rep. Kestell, who as I've said before, is a realist when it comes to implementing education policy.
Wisconsin and most other states signed on to the effort to develop a set of common academic expectations in 2009. The goal was to improve the rigor of American K-12 schooling, by defining what children should know and be able to do at the end of each grade in core academic subjects. 
Developing the standards went on quietly for years, but became controversial particularly within the past year, with criticism coming from different groups for different reasons. 
Walker spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said Thursday the governor issued his statement because he wanted to make his position clear after the Cedarburg School Board voted Wednesday to urge the state to delay new state tests tied to the standards.
Really going after that all important Washington Co. vote, eh Governor? Hey, what's your thoughts on the Cardinal Columns controversy up on Fond du Lac and what their school board is doing?
The Legislature approved rolling out the new tests tied to the new standards in the 2014-'15 school year, which means delaying the tests — or rewriting the standards — would require Legislative action. 
"Governor Walker will work with the Legislature to repeal Common Core and replace it with strong Wisconsin-specific standards developed by Wisconsin teachers, administrators, and parents," Webster said in an email.
In other words, people they specifically like. You'll have a hell of a hard time finding Superintendents who are going to be giddy to come on board with this. Ohhh... Germantown and Cedarburg... Real representative of the majority of Wisconsin, huh Governor?
Walker suddenly delving into Common Core issues comes as other state governors have recently supported a rewrite of the nationally aligned standards, which most states agreed to adopt starting in 2009.
Welcome to Walker's 2016 platform.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, signed legislation this week that will trigger a review and possible revision of the standards for the 2016-'17 school year. Also this week, North Carolina's Legislature passed a bill calling for rewriting the Common Core standards, and Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, indicated he would sign it. 
As of the end of June, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina had officially dropped out of the Common Core. 
The agitation over Common Core in Wisconsin took center stage in the last legislative session. Some Republicans supported a bill that would have undone the standards, pitting them against other leading Republicans on education matters, as well as educators and school superintendents, who defended the standards at a hearing at the state Capitol.
That was AB 619. I covered it in SEVERAL blog postings on this blog, and I recommend using the "search" feature to find them.
Walker has long said he thought Wisconsin should set its own standards, but has never provided specifics and has come short of calling for the outright repeal of the Common Core State Standards.
Because he's always about never providing specifics and just abstract statements. When he provides specifics, people call him out for how nuts the ideas are.
His statement did not explain how lawmakers could develop their own education standards just days or weeks into the legislative session. A new Legislature will be seated in January, just after the Nov. 4 elections.
Pshhh, who needs time to come up with what students should know?!
Some of Walker's fellow Republicans wanted to drop out of the education standards during the last legislative session, but Walker did not openly embrace the idea and those lawmakers made little headway with their effort. 
Walker's comments come as he finds himself in a tight race with Democrat and former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive Mary Burke, a Democrat. 
Burke, who sits on the Madison School Board, has said she backs the Common Core standards.
Say what you want about Mary Burke, but one place where she'll be able to clean-up shop in a debate with Gov. Walker will be on local school issues. She's well aware of how school boards work and have to work within what the state tells them.
"This is a desperate election year move by a career politician to shore up his extreme right-wing base," said a statement from Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki. 
He noted Walker made his call at a time when the Legislature isn't in session and asked why Walker hasn't offered a specific plan on what standards to put in place. The standards have the support of an array of groups, including business lobbyists Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the state teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
Did we forget the WMC endorsed Common Core?  There's why Walker decided to not wade into this debate too far until now.
"Why the sudden change of course after three years of (the state Department of Public Instruction) working on implementing these standards?" Zepecki said.

Once the news-wires picked up on the story, other's chimed in with their own views on this Thursday news-dump.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards put out their own statement HERE. It reads:
The WASB is disappointed by the governor's statement, which goes much further than calls to simply delay the implementation of state achievement tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. School districts around state have spent years and millions of dollars revising curriculum to meet the higher standards. That effort will have been wasted if the standards are repealed. 
Very, very wasted. Plus, you're not going to have a whole lot of buy-in from teachers who already feel like they have gotten the short end of the stick up the rear under Gov. Walker. (No worries, I'm sure he'll introduce some pay-for-performance scheme to his ultimate proposal.)
In January, delegates from school boards across the state adopted a resolution in support of the Common Core State Standards at the State Education Convention. As a part of that resolution, delegates directed that the standards not be so specific that they dictate local curricula, but instead give students, parents, teachers, and local policymakers clear, high expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. 
Which is exactly what the CCSS are.
In addition, earlier this year, more than 100 school superintendents from around the state appeared in Madison to voice their support for the standards.
Remember that? When the Superintendents came to Madison to tell Sen. Vukmir and Sen. Farrow that their idea was #batshitcrazy. These aren't flaming liberals either.
By state law, students in ninth-grade will be required to take tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards this fall. 
The Common Core State Standards are a set of specific expectations about what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. The Common Core State Standards set student learning goals for two subject areas--English language arts and mathematics--only. 
The Common Core State Standards were developed jointly by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to address the hodgepodge of uneven academic expectations (e.g., different tests, different definitions of student proficiency, different cut scores, etc.) that existed among different states. The patchwork quilt of different standards and measures of student achievement that existed before the Common Core State Standards made comparisons of educational progress among states difficult, at best, and unreliable. 
Most states, including Wisconsin, voluntarily signed on to the standards in 2010. The idea behind the Common Core State Standards was to try to make the academic standards used from state to state uniformly more rigorous. There is widespread consensus that the Common Core State Standards are more rigorous than the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards they replaced.
Democratic legislative leaders also put out statements on Gov. Walker's comments.

From Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca: 
“I am stunned that Governor Walker is so out of touch with our state’s educators that he wants to repeal these widely-supported education standards. I have never before seen such an outpouring of support from educators, who stood up in unison to back Common Core standards when they were last threatened by Wisconsin Republicans. At the time, it was made very clear that making dramatic changes would be very costly and challenging.

“By calling for the repeal of Common Core, Governor Walker is clearly playing to extreme elements in his party.

“We should not politicize our education standards to cater to extreme political viewpoints. Our future depends on our students’ ability to succeed in higher education and their careers in this 21st Century economy. We need to make sure that each and every student has the tools to succeed and compete against our neighboring states and the world. 
“This move is just another step by Governor Walker to make our educators’ jobs more difficult.”
While Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson did not put out a specific statement, he did have comments picked up by WBAY-TV in Green Bay:
Then again, there's always the wit-and-wisdom of Sen. Alberta Darling:
"I support Governor Walker's call for an end to federal Common Core standards in our state. I know there is support on both sides of the aisle to end Common Core and develop new standards that challenge and prepare our students for the real world of work." 
#ragestroke. Real world of work? As opposed to the unreal world of work? The Common Core State Standards have nothing to do with preparing students for "work" specifically. It has to deal with making them educated citizens who can be productive members of society, no matter what they do! Good god...

This is what I deal with as a teacher. Today I stopped in to my school, chatted with my Principal, got some things together for our school website and forwarded them to our IT person, and then worked on curriculum for my geography courses. (Needless to say, the day's world news played an impact.) This is what I'm doing with my summer. The last thing I need to worry about is that my sophomores are going to possibly not be taking a test this coming year we've been prepping for and that I'm designing my class for at this very moment.

Do these people not realize what they do when they meddle constantly with education? Have they no clue how it tries the mind and stresses the body? Have they no idea what they are doing?!

More On Common Core State Standards

Cedarbug just last night became one of the few district, along with Germantown, to delay implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Their reason? Well, judge for yourself. From yesterday's Journal-Sentinel: 
Come spring, new state exams in reading and math tied to those higher standards will be administered for the first time, and there are big questions about whether schools and kids are ready. Ready for the tests themselves, which will be taken online for the first time, and ready for the results, which will most likely look worse.
They will look worse. But the questions about whether schools and kids are ready are 100% true. The students themselves are never going to be truly "ready." Teachers and school infrastructure on the other had is another issue all together.
One school district — Cedarburg — is voting this week on whether to ask the state to delay implementation of the new tests. Other leaders say lack of technology or training in some schools, such as those in rural areas or in small private voucher schools, could make administering the new tests difficult.

"We could be in trouble," said Donald Childs, administrator of the Unified School District of Antigo, in north central Wisconsin. "We haven't had an opportunity to test rural schools that just got wireless access to see if there is adequate bandwidth to administer the exams during the state testing window."
This is a VERY real issue. People love to make the assumption that it's great and easy doing everything online. However, when you're in a rural school in the northwoods with limited bandwidth and computer access, it's hard to get whole schools tested. When your in Milwaukee like me, it's difficult to have access to computers to get the tests taken and also get your entire student population tested. People who aren't in MPS have absolutely no idea how ridiculously difficult it is to get 95% of your school population tested in a month's time.

So, what's happening around the country with CCSS?
And while the debate about the standards themselves has been quiet lately in Wisconsin, that's not true across the country. In the past few months, the governors of Oklahoma, Indiana and South Carolina have signed laws formally withdrawing from the standards, or from one of two types of high-stakes tests aligned to them, the development of which had been supported with federal funds.
The other day I wrote about the Common Core and what standards are from my perspective. Here's what the article from the Journal says about them:
The Common Core standards are commonly agreed-upon goals for what students should know by the end of each grade in math and English/language arts, from kindergarten through senior year.

Creating the standards was part of a voluntary, bipartisan initiative to increase the rigor of American schooling. The idea was to bring some unity to the expectations for children in every state. The new common tests aligned to the standards, in turn, would make it easier to compare how a third-grader in Wisconsin was doing to peer in Alaska.
No liberal conspiracy in those two sections of the article, just fact. However, they are facts that many conservative Republicans fail to acknowledge or blatantly disagree with like it's somehow untrue.
The standards and the new tests aligned to them aim to emphasize critical thinking and reasoning, rather than memorization. Many educators, as well as many Wisconsin superintendents, say that's a good thing.
I'd be among those who think it's a good thing to test critical thinking and reasoning, but as a history and social studies teacher, I believe a certain amount of memorization of baseline information is a good thing too. I should be able to ask the question, "What are the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution called?" and high school students should be able to answer it. Analyzing the Bill of Rights is much needed and very valid, but students need to know what the Bill of Rights are in the first place.
Opposition comes from different groups, for different reasons. Tea party-aligned Republicans perceive the standards and tests have been influenced too much by the federal government. Some teachers are wary about the emphasis on more testing, and the fact that those scores will be used in some states to evaluate their performance.
Adapting instruction.
Some teachers? We all worry about it, especially when factors 100% outside our control influence the students whose scores could determine our job future.
In Wisconsin, most school districts are in various stages of changing day-to-day instruction to meet the expectations of the new standards. And some have taken practice versions of the new tests.

But hurdles remain.

As of yet, no agency has been commissioned to format the new test, including new free-response portions, though the state issued a call for proposals recently, according to John Johnson, spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction.
Sigh. Again, one of the things that makes teachers throw up their hands. It's not that I don't think DPI works hard and is trying to do everything in their power to carry out what they are handed by the governor, the legislature, and the Department of Education. It's just that we're already in the "go-live" year and don't have the problem solved that gives me a frustrating feeling.
"The big question is: Are the kids ready for this type of testing?" said Carol Hughes, an educational technology consultant and the former manager of information technology in Oak Creek Franklin Joint School District, which took the new Common Core aligned practice tests.

"It's way different than fill in A, B, C or D," she said. "Some terminology is different, like instead of saying 'select' something, the question says 'highlight.' And questions go deeper into a text passage than before. You couldn't just guess the answer."
Don't even get me started about how my largely black inner-city students have never heard of some terminology. I teach high school students who's reading levels are on average at a 5th grade comprehension level, and the word "highlight" means highlight not "write about the most important parts.
In Cedarburg, one of the state's most prosperous and high-scoring school districts, public concern over the new tests has prompted a School Board resolution to urge Gov. Scott Walker and the state Legislature to delay implementation of the exams for at least two years.
Public concern over the wording and what the scores will look like? Or what? Here's where the details are important and why there's a difference between recognizing issues and working to change them, and simply saying "to heck with it."
That would require a change in state law, which mandated the time line of the exams. The results from them eventually will be tied to performance evaluations for public-school teachers, and report card scores for schools.
Don't even get me started on this. Thanks a lot legislature... Really trying to encourage the "best and brightest" into the schools with the most difficult to educate with those tests tied to performance evaluations.
According to Rick Leach, a Cedarburg School Board member and author of the resolution, the tests take away local control of curriculum. Experts say that's not true; districts are still in charge of the curriculum used to teach children.

"When local control is being taken away at the state level, I don't think that's what's best for my children," Leach said.
The $@%! This again? More of these conservative talking points the 55th AD candidates know so well?
The full board will vote Wednesday on whether to endorse the plan.

Last year, Germantown became the first school district in the state to officially distance itself from the standards. The School Board voted to create its own standards — ones it envisions as even more rigorous, according to Jeff Holmes, Germantown School Board president.

"The direction of our school district is to move to more personalized learning opportunities for students. A one-size-fits-all standardization doesn't necessarily fit well into that equation," Holmes said.
In other words, anything that involves everyone working together must be some form of collectivization and socialism. Personalized learning is a good thing, but moving 100% in that direction does nothing to prepare students to work together and live in a society where we are all in it together. But hey, what do I know? I'm only the social studies history teacher who teaches students about past cycles like this in history...
The standards in Wisconsin withstood major pushback at the Capitol earlier this year. In March, Republican lawmakers seeking to rewrite the state standards were confronted by nearly a quarter of the state's school district superintendents, who stood up in the chamber in support of the Common Core.

The anti-Common Core platform was officially adopted by the Republican National Committee in 2013, yet state Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), the chairs of the Senate and Assembly education committees, defended the standards and sided with the superintendents.
Mostly because as crazy as Rep. Kestell was in years past with educational issues, he's got some common sense and understands the intricate working machine that education is.
But nationwide, support for the Common Core has gotten shaky.

Some state leaders, especially conservatives, are questioning whether a common set of standards for all states is necessary.
Because having individual state standards worked SOOOOOOO well.
And now, teachers unions that initially championed the standards alongside President Barack Obama are rethinking their support.

The two main national teachers unions have been debating whether to support the standards in recent weeks, but the Wisconsin chapters of those unions both are maintaining support of Common Core.
What the union's rubs are against the Common Core are with just how damn test-crazy every one's gone. The actual amount of time we have to just go ahead an teach is severely limited and lower now, mostly because districts want to do testing three times a year, the state requires at least two or three  additional tests for some students, and everybody gets burnt out. Having a common set of goals and benchmarks are hardly the reason why the unions are against the standards. It's how politicized they have become.
More than 52,000 Wisconsin students have already taken experimental versions of the new Smarter Balanced tests, the Common Core-aligned exams, though the results were not made available.

Kari Flitz, chief academic officer at Milwaukee College Prep's network of charter schools, said sixth- and seventh-graders had difficulty with the pilot versions of the tests.

"They completely struggled," Flitz said. "They couldn't identify what they were supposed to do, where the question was in the problem."
Sounds about right.
Milwaukee College Prep responded by implementing a new math curriculum and delivering professional development to its teachers beginning last year.

The school also purchased an online testing program that is aligned to the Common Core standards and worked with students on their keyboarding skills, according to Flitz.
Don't for a minute think that the keyboarding skills are going to be a major hurdle and disadvantage for students who don't have access keyboarding classes at younger ages or don't grow up with wide-scale access to computers at home. Again, inner-city and rural students at a disadvantage. Most of my students use their phone for internet, not a computer, so their typing skills are considerably limited when it comes to speed.

But hey... What do I know? I'm only a teacher.
They'll continue to do whatever they can to prepare for whatever test the state mandates, Flitz said.

"There's always going to be state accountability, we just have to do what we need to prepare our students for the transition."
And that's what we're going to do, keep preparing them for the transition. But let's make it clear, the Common Core State Standards themselves aren't the issue. What's at issue is HOW those standards are being used and what state legislatures are doing to them. Politics and education, what are ya gonna' do?