Saturday, January 31, 2015

An Impassioned Plea For the UW Colleges

Most people probably forget, but after Gov. Walker "Dropped the Bomb" on Friday February 11th, 2011, the seeds of protests that would begin the following week were already in motion.

Monday, February 14th was a planned day of action for the TA's at UW-Madison where they were going to deliver a valentine card to Gov. Walker proclaiming, "Don't Break Our Heart." Negative aspects of the budget repair bill, and state budget that was going to need to be introduced anyway, were filtering though the media when Walker truly dropped the bomb that Friday. But the TA's were already well into organization for their jobs and the UW System.

Somehow, those college people always seem to be ahead of the curve...

Well, it's that time again. The UW System is under violent assault.

I very proudly am a graduate of UW-Fond du Lac, one of the 13 "UW Colleges." The time I spent at UW-Fond du Lac is very memorable, and a place where I had some of the most challenging coursework of my collegiate undergraduate career. I developed lifelong friendships with professors, had the chance at a wonderful overseas trip during spring break, and apparently asked a question that inspired one professor to dedicate their book to me.

My professors steadfastly defended their institution against people who decried it as just a "community college" or that it was somehow not of the same level that the UW four year schools were. I maintain that one of the best life decisions I ever made was not trying to run the rat-race to get into another university, but attend my local UW two year school. Along with the UW Extension, which operates in every county in the state, and provides outreach to areas of the state with less of a connection to a UW campus, the UW Colleges are the heart of what it truly means to practice the "Wisconsin Idea."

I famously (well, within my own family circle anyway) held up a sign on the Ed Show in Feb. 2011 that proclaimed "The Wisconsin Idea: 1911-2011."

And yes, the Wisconsin Idea of good governance, the will of the people being the law of the land, and battling against the barons of industry (be it lumber, railroads or Diane Hendricks) certainly took a massive blow. In that biennium, in the last one, and most certainly, in the one we have just entered.

However, the other Wisconsin Idea, the one that is almost ingrained in professors when they enter the UW System, is the one where "the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state." To understand that philosophic notion, is to understand why the UW System as a whole works, why we are constantly held up as one of the premier university systems in the world, and why so many people are flipping out at the Republican leadership's crass and quite frankly, ignorant remarks.

The second time I ever publicly testified to a group of legislators (and first time it was officially in a record) was to the Joint Finance Committee last biennium in lobbying for a $150 per-pupil increase in K-12 funding. I have no fear that others, like me, will again support much needed aid increases to our students, but also sadly know that it's not likely to happen. I'm going to let them shoulder that burden this time around. While also fighting for my own job and the prospects of a "Recovery Zone" in Milwaukee, I want to fight for the jobs of so many professors and friends I've developed over the years.

I urge you, I implore you, and I beg of you, support the UW Colleges and the two year schools.

They are not highly paid ivory tower liberals. One professor of mine posted that his W2 stated he grossed $47,000 last year. And that is almost 15 years into his time as a professor within the system. He has written two books now, done numerous different classes, and provided countless opportunities for students outside the classroom. The man has his doctorate, supposedly the mark in our society of being officially designated an expert in a subject.

He works in a room that has lack of heat in the winter, a computer that most times makes his job more frustrating than easy, and juggles classes at all hours of the day/evening. He commutes across the state due to his wife having a new career, but after years of doing classes at multiple campuses, he finally has stability at one. This is not a mystical, magical career in the style of Good Will Hunting. It's life in 2015.

The assault on the UW System as a whole is deplorable, but the 13 two-year schools have already been squeezed to the point where they are being held together by shoestring, silly puddy, and paper-clips. Should such a massive cut to the system as a whole be implemented, it will devastate many programs at the four year schools, but will eviscerate the UW Colleges. The threat of closing campuses is very real. The threat of not offering courses and having to make people's college time more expensive and longer is very real. The lack of any activities for students to do outside of simply showing up for class is very real.

President Obama just suggested offering two years of community college free to everyone. The UW Colleges are not true "community colleges," they are universities. But they are the rung above the UW Extensions in how Wisconsin for over 100 years has provided to every person, in every corner of the state, access to world class resources held in Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Stout, Eau Claire, Stevens Point, Green Bay, Parkside, Whitewater, Platteville, La Cross, Superior, and Stout.

Please, please help spread the word and save the UW Colleges.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Trampled Friday

I needed a night off, and I won't be around this evening either partaking in some Badger hockey with the family

The Stones just seem so appropriate these days...

 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rural Schools Funding Increase? Maybe? Ish?

While I'm wholeheartedly an advocate for better and completely funding inner-city schools in Wisconsin (because I teach at a north-side MPS high school and see how woefully inadequete it is), I also realize that the rural schools are getting the screws put to them.

I also have close family who works at an elementary school  in a very rural district north of Madison. Trust me, it's scary how similar issues are between inner-city and rural schools are. Apparently the Governor is proposing SOME relief for those rural schools.

From WLUK-TV Fox 11 in Green Bay:We will still just have to wait until next Tuesday...

I Know Where We Go From SB 1! To Individual Legislation Against Milwaukee!

Ever since the 2013-14 SB 286 school "accountability" bill was introduced, I've been talking about the worry that legislators would look at making MPS a "Recovery Zone" or "Recovery District."

Today, Brookfield Republican Rep. Dale Kooyenga and River Hills Republican Sen. Alberta Darling released their plan for inner-city Milwaukee. (You know, because living in McMansions and REAL mansions give the perfect vantage point of what it's like on 20th and Center.)

You can read their full plan HERE. 

The first section is striking, as it relates to education and multiple proposals that do nothing short of systematically destroy my employer - The Milwaukee Public Schools.

I'm not going to go over all of the flowery language they use about co-opting liberal beliefs about education being a civil rights issue, and grossly twisting it to mean that because public K-12 is horribly underfunded, we want to open the market to private businesses...

Instead, I'll leave you with this:
According to the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) has 47 schools that earn the distinction of “Fails to Meet Expectations” for the 2013-14 school year. Also in 2013, only 60.6 percent of MPS seniors graduated high school. It is even worse for African-American students at 58.3 percent and Hispanic students at 56.4 percent.4 The system needs to reform now. 
Sigh...

Except, for three of those schools have already been closed.

And that 60.6% graduation rate is only a four year graduation rate, and when upwards of 40% of our students are new to MPS in 9th grade, and they come to high school reading at 5th grade or lower reading levels, it's almost impossible to NOT have a 60% four year graduation rate!

Yes, I teach high school. YES, I teach at a persistently "low" performing school. YES I have to make decisions about student grades. YES... You can bet you bottom dollar when you touch on these numbers you are going to set me off.

Back to the policy plan:
Reform: Allow high-performing charter schools to replicate without the approval of a charter school authorizer. 
The criteria for replication is one where a charter school is required to achieve test scores in both math and reading that exceed the test scores of the local public school by ten percent in the two preceding school years.
The local public school? Local as in attendance area? Local as in district? What is "local'? In Milwaukee, charter schools can pull from all over the city. (Similarly, MPS schools have attendance areas, but also bussing areas and others pull from across the city as well.)

So, when you are able to skim the top, it lets them expand to continue skimming until there no longer is anyone to skim?
The threshold creates a goal of excellence, which rewards an outstanding school with greater autonomy and a license to continue their successful model in other parts of the city. The privilege of being able to replicate without an authorizer will also provide an attractive incentive for the school’s professionals to motivate their team.
No it won't. It just makes it easier for political corruption where schools will want to replicate and clamor at the ability to replicate and bypass any authorizer, or seek and authorizer who won't question them or let them use the most generous metrics. Again, this is ripe for exploiting students, the taxpayers, EVERYONE.

After this, there is some mention made of New Orleans and Tennessee where current "Recovery Districts" are used. It then officially proposes such a district for Milwaukee:
The turnaround school model in Milwaukee would operate outside of the traditional bureaucracy that stymies reform. Drastic changes are needed to reenergize staff and change a culture at the failing schools that are not producing effective results. A turnaround school model is a new proven model to address the underperforming schools in MPS. 
Reform: Create a board who will oversee a turnaround school initiative for all schools that fail to meet expectations in the targeted zone. The board will entertain proposals from charter school operators and will award a 5-year charter school authorization to the authorizers that present the most compelling plan.
"Traditional bureaucracy" would be a publicly elected school board.

I'll be the first person to admit that there are changes needed within the Vliet St. offices of MPS. However, I think Dr. Darienne Driver is working on doing that, and in her few short months on the job, I'm excited still for the future. But it should be known, MPS isn't the dysfunctional monolith so many people think it is.

Reenergizing staff and changing the culture of failing schools isn't firing the teachers (like me) who've dedicated themselves to serving these students! It's actually listening to us and making us feel like we are being heard with what we know would help our students! Don't believe their "proven" line. Nothing "proven" on how New Orleans was turned around. Just as Baton Rouge and Houston, TX about how their scores were impacted when all of the poor were bussed there and never left after Hurricane Katrina.

It's poverty people. It's not schools...

And don't even get me started on the illegal nature of this board, who even gets to sit on a charter board, or where the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Wisconsin falls in this whole scenario. This is NOTHING more than trying to open up "other people's kids" (because you know River Hills and Brookfield are nowhere near close having to deal with these issues) to profit vultures.

There is so much that I could go on, and on, and on about with this whole system, but I'll have to wait until I can actually read a bill that contains (or doesn't) many of the details that will outline how my employer will be obliterated.

Erin Richards of the Journal-Sentinel also wrote about the proposal when it was released: 
Two influential Republican lawmakers proposed a plan Wednesday to fight poverty in Milwaukee's inner city by pushing big changes in the state's schools, tax code and regulations. 
Many of the proposals are controversial, including creating urban zones without corporate taxes, typical union rules and state markup requirements on retail sales, and a plan to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into independent charter schools answering to a new board. 
Ahh the union rules. Because, poor people should just be happy they have a job apparent...
Others hold bipartisan potential, including allowing so-called "low-profit" companies for social entrepreneurs and providing state incentives for private contractors to transform lives through steps such as keeping newly released prisoners from returning to crime and incarceration. 
"People all over the place are hurting, but particularly in these neighborhoods, people are hurting," Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) said as he introduced the proposals."It's trying to invite new people to the table and try new approaches," Kooyenga said of the agenda he put forward with Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). 
Have you ever driven through River Hills? I have, plenty of times in my life, especially when traveling to University School for hockey games as a child all the way through my time as a coach with the high school team in Fond du Lac. Ever been on Teutonia and Center in Milwaukee? I have! That's where North Division High School is located, and the "New Teacher Education Center."

Can you guess how much someone who lives there can relate to people who live in River Hills?

Then again, can you imagine how well someone living in River Hills can relate to the person living on Center St?
But Democratic lawmakers who represent Milwaukee are skeptical or outright opposed to many of the proposals, saying the Republicans from two of Greater Milwaukee's most prosperous districts put the ideas forward without consulting them. Even some other Republicans may be skeptical. 
Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee) said she hadn't heard of the proposals until they were discussed publicly Wednesday and was still trying to learn about them.But she immediately opposed those that would favor charter schools over public schools in the city that are not meeting expectations. 
"I don't understand how two suburban legislators can tell Milwaukee what they need without talking to Milwaukee legislators," she said. "It's really hurtful."
And should probably tell you all you want to know about just how interested these two are in hearing about what the wants and desires are of people who actually LIVE where these proposals are going to affect.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, also immediately dismissed the idea of dropping aspects of current union law in urban zones, but said he looked forward to meeting Kooyenga and Darling on other specific bills within their agenda. 
The mayor said he was particularly interested with the idea of providing state incentives for investors and private groups that seek to deliver a social good that might also save the state money over the long term. One possibility would be offering the incentives to groups that keep newly released inmates from ending up back behind bars. 
"I'm very intrigued with the concept," Barrett said.
This is stuff we could've done for a long while now.
Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that he had not yet had a chance to review the proposals.
I call BS.
Under the proposal, select MPS schools with failing grades would become independent charter schools that do not employ unionized teachers or answer to the Milwaukee School Board.
"Select MPS schools?" What the hell does that mean?!
Instead, those schools would be overseen by a new local board that would entertain proposals from charter-school operators and award five-year contracts to operators that present the most compelling plans, according to the proposal. 
Darling characterized the measure as a partnership with MPS, and said she hopes to get some School Board members and potentially even MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver on the new board. 
But Driver said Wednesday during an "On the Issues" interview at the Marquette University Law School that she was not a fan of so-called "recovery districts." 
"To think you can close a school as a traditional school and reopen it as a charter tomorrow and get these great results is really misguided," Driver told Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy. 
"I have 85% of my students living in poverty, we're 86% students of color and 10% are English language learners," Driver said. "There are a number of other things we have to consider in terms of the programs, resources and the teachers that go into those schools besides just whether it's a traditional school or a charter school."
I don't just say this because I write this blog, I say it because it's true, I LOVE the tone my new boss has. Dr. Driver, please let me know what I can do to help!
School Board Member Larry Miller said the proposals are an attempt to seize schools and flood the market with charters in Milwaukee.
DING! DING! DING!
"This diversion is coming from the same people who blocked high speed rail (proposals) that would have created jobs and gotten people from the inner city to jobs (in the suburbs)," he said. 
Miller added it was "incredibly arrogant" that the proposals to fight poverty in the city were coming from lawmakers representing two of Milwaukee's wealthiest suburbs.
Have I also mentioned how I love Dir. Miller's ability to just say what he thinks and call a spade a spade?
Economic development 
The economic development proposals would: 
■ Eliminate the corporate income tax for companies locating in needy urban zones. The tax cut would apply only if the business is from an industry not already represented in Wisconsin by existing companies, such as auto manufacturing.
Hmmm... Interesting. Except for, how exactly are we going to poach these businesses?
■ Establish zones in which labor unions and private employers would not be able to reach agreements that require workers to pay union dues. Some Republicans are already pushing to make this so-called "right-to-work" approach the law statewide.
I call MAJOR BS! So, people who live in low-income and needy neighborhoods aren't allowed to have a say in the jobs that are there? Nor work for living wages? They're just supposed to be happy that they have a job, even though it may not actually pay for basic needs?

Opponents of the proposal question whether the state would have the authority under federal law to implement right-to-work in some parts of Wisconsin but not others.
You know, because, why should black people get to have unions? Let's be honest, that's what this is.
■Eliminate in those zones the so-called "minimum markup" law, which prevents retailers from selling their products at a loss. The markup requirement would still apply to fuel sales. 
■ Allow the formation of for-profit limited liability companies that could operate more like nonprofits. The companies would not be tax-exempt, but they would not be obliged to pursue only profits for their shareholders, leaving them more legal flexibility to work on behalf of their communities. 
Other education proposals from Darling and Kooyenga include: 
■ Streamlining the process for allowing high-performing charter schools to open additional schools.
They mean, not having any oversight over over schools, or having companies who operate charter schools that donate enough money are then able to replicate.
Allowing high-performing charter schools run by MPS or non-MPS entities to automatically add new schools without official approval, if their students' average reading and math test score results beat the district average for two years in a row.
Don't kid yourself, this has a local connection too. Carmen HS (which doesn't even have that stellar of DPI Report Card scores) is almost always held up as an example of a high-performing charter school. They started rattling MPS's cage about taking over the building where Bradley Tech HS is, mostly because it's a very nice and relatively new building.

This proposal is EXACTLY meant to help them do this.
■ Convert the approximately $40 million MPS receives each year for school integration efforts within the system to a block grant with no state mandates.
Which sounds interesting, but what exactly is the point of this?

CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THEY THINK CHATER SCHOOLS ARE THE END ALL BE ALL?!?!

I want to scream...

This is the "Recovery Zone" proposal folks. This is it, right here, and now you have legislators openly calling for it and saying that this will come out either as part of the state budget or as stand alone bills.

And people wonder why I'm applying to graduate school. (But that whole $300 Million cut to UW is certainly making me nervous too.)

Seems like no matter what I do, my state government is trying to push me to leave this state I love...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SB 1 Public Hearing: Who Knows Where We Go From Here

Today's public hearing on "SB 1," a the Senate's School "Accountability" bill was markedly more smooth than the banana-republic hearing held in the Assembly on January 14th.

That, makes today an improvement for the stability of our Republic in general.

However, the whole tone of the meeting was considerably different than AB 1, and that goes right down to the school-related officials testifying on the bill.

You can watch the hearing, all 8 hours of it, via Wisconsin-Eye HERE. 

One of the more interesting things from today is how members of the school community were decidedly warmer on this version of the bill than AB 1. That is a source of some contention in the education-community as well, because as better than AB 1 as this is, it's still not really all that good of a bill.

The first person to testify, as is normal, was the bills' author, Sen. Paul Farrow. Remember, he is the chair of the "Committee on Education Reform and Government Operations," which was designed specifically to bypass Sen. Olsen's "Education Committee" should he try and block an accountability bill. So far, he's on-board as a co-sponsor, which is huge in reading the tea-leaves of where this sits in the Senate.

As is usual, Twitter was a great place to get a replay of the action.
The reason why Sen. Farrow gives for his answer is that the voucher schools are already held accountable by the oversight of the voucher program as is. (Which is stronger than many states, but certainly not as strong as it is in the public schools.)

Also during his testimony in questioning from Sen. Nikiya Dodd, Sen. Farrow notes that he will be sitting down with Rep. Thiesfeldt and discussing areas with both bills where agreement can be found. However, it certainly sounds like there is a lot to work to be done to bridge this gap.

Next up was DPI's Jeff Pertl, who unlike AB 1 (and in a pattern that would be repeated many times over the day), was speaking "For Information Only" and not "Against" this accountability bill. Much of what he talked about was similar to what he said in the Assembly hearing, but there were a few things.

After DPI, and relative few questions, committee member, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout testified against the bill.
I also wanted to touch on someone whom I've covered on the Soapbox before, and someone whom I've seen as an exemplary classroom teacher - North Fond du Lac Superintendent Aaron Sadoff.

Mr. Sadoff was a teacher at Fond du Lac High School when I was a student. He then moved to being Principal in North Fond du Lac (as one of the first signs that the Fondy School District didn't like movers-and-shakers who didn't fall in line), and quickly moved to the level of Superintendent. Mr. Sadoff is far from a bleeding heart liberal, but the man is a quality educator who FULLY believes in public education, which is why he's a huge barometer to me about education policy.

I mean nothing ill against my current employer and bosses, but I only wish I was so blessed to work for someone of his capabilities.

THAT is something he has talked about before, and I have written about him HERE, HERE, HERE, and two years ago on voucher expansion HERE.

In one bit of appropriateness as opposed to the Assembly hearing, Milwaukee Public School's Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver and School Board President Dr. Michael Bonds went AHEAD of the voucher lobby.  Also unlike last time, they testified "For Information Only."

As someone who I would like to think is a relatively bright high achiever, who has something to offer MPS as a fully licensed educator that decided to accept the challenge of urban education, it does hurt.

The last people I'll focus on are "Click and Clack" Jim Bender and Scott Jensen, the voucher lobby...
I really can't go on with those two after what I saw in the flesh on January 14th...

Now that we've done some blow-by-blow, it's good to get a sense of what the media's take-away was from today. You can read the Journal-Sentinel's Erin Richards take on today's hearing HERE:
A school accountability bill backed by Senate Republicans got a warmer reception from educators Tuesday than an Assembly accountability bill that calls for shutting down chronically low-performing public schools. 
But it appears much work lies ahead to get the competing accountability bills in a place where the GOP-led Legislature can pass something seen as meaningful and fair. 
And that is where we will shift the focus to now that the Senate hearing has been held. Still no word on when the Assembly will have it's Executive Session, a substitute amendment will be introduced, or a fiscal estimate will even be introduced for the bill that's already been presented. In other words, it's a cluster. However, with Feb. 3rd quickly approaching, all signs are pointing to this issue being pushed back until after the budget address.
Most public school staff and advocates told the Senate Committee on Education Reform and Government Operations during a hearing on the Senate bill Tuesday that they supported the provisions calling for all publicly funded schools to take the same annual state achievement test, and to continue rating schools each year based on how well they're meeting expectations. 
"Parents deserve objective information, and the only way to get that comparison is to use one single statewide assessment," said John Humphries, director of pupil services in the Dodgeville School District and president of the Wisconsin School Psychologists Association. 
I think all of us in education do. We need to be measured, we all agree on that, and want feedback that is useful.
The Senate accountability bill calls for creating two new state boards: one housed at the Department of Public Instruction to oversee public schools and one housed at the Department of Administration to oversee private voucher schools. Chronically underperforming public schools would get help implementing improvement plans. 
Chronically underperforming private voucher schools would not be able to accept new students. 
"Help" being a very loose term and not tied to funds that would actually fund things schools like the one I teach at desperately need.
The Assembly bill is more contentious — a hearing on it two weeks ago went for 12 hours. That bill would allow taxpayer-funded private schools to take a different state test from public schools, which have to take the achievement test chosen by the state because of federal rules. The Assembly bill would also issue A-F ratings to schools, and chronically failing public schools could be shut down and converted to independently operated charter schools. 
The Department of Public Instruction has said this might not even be legal in some districts. 
It wouldn't... But that's the Assembly's crack-pot schemes that aren't even solidified. So, we'll just leave it alone for now.
On Tuesday, Sen. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee), the chair of the Senate's education reform committee, said he still preferred schools be able to choose from different tests for annual accountability purposes. 
Sigh...
Jim Bender, president of voucher-advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin, said he likes the multiple testing provision in the Assembly bill but the two different state boards proposed in the Senate bill. 
But of course he does.
"We are more focused on where they are headed compared to where the bills exist today," he said in an email. 
Sure, because why should he have to be held to the same exact standards as the other schools that are publicly funded?
Representatives from Milwaukee Public Schools, the state's largest district and home to the majority of the state's lowest-performing schools, said the Senate bill was preferable to the Assembly bill. 
But, they expressed concern that the bill still didn't address a key issue contributing to many schools' low performance: poverty. And specifically, the lack of more state resources to help schools serving impoverished, disadvantaged students. 
We covered that above with Dr. Driver and Dr. Bond's testimony.

However, I want to give a huge shout-out to my union Vice President Kim Schroeder and his testimony. (And being quoted in the Journal-Sentinel while also appearing in the list on WisEye):
"Advice is appreciated, but we'd rather have the billion dollars," said Kim Schroeder, a veteran MPS teacher and vice president of the district's teachers union, as he referred to cuts in funding to public schools.
Damn right we'd rather have that money from 2011 back. You know, because maybe then we'd be able to actually implement some of the things that we know would help students.

But really, who am I to say what I think students need? I just work in a chronically underperforming school with an over 90% free and reduced lunch rate and population that comes to high school woefully below grade level in reading and math.

Oh, I forgot... I'm not supposed to speak my mind because EVERYONE has the answers to the problems I see daily.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sup. Tony Evers on Up Front

State Superintendent Tony Evers was on "Up Front w/Mike Gousha" this past weekend to discuss some recent proposals coming from Madison.

You can read a summary of his conversation on TV from the Cap Times HERE: 
Education proposals coming from Republicans in control of the Wisconsin Legislature and from Gov. Scott Walker have Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers speaking out against what he said is a double standard. 
Assembly Republicans are working on a bill that would allow for public schools that don't meet academic progress requirements and then don't follow through on an improvement plan to be converted into independent charter schools. 
Walker has proposed allowing for licensing of teachers based on having "real-life experience" and a bachelor's degree. 
In an interview broadcast Sunday on the statewide TV show "UpFront with Mike Gousha," Evers compared the expectations on students and teachers in those proposals. 
"It seems irrational to me to say we have higher standards for our kids ... but teachers, we don't expect you to be good teachers. You just have to know stuff," Evers said. "That's not the way to go. We need the highest-quality teachers." 
DING! DING! DING!
Walker's plan calls for expansion of nontraditional routes to teaching so people with experience in areas in which they'd like to teach can be licensed for three years if they pass a test proving their knowledge. The proposal is for teachers of grades 6 through 12 only. 
Evers said knowledge and experience isn't enough to be a teacher. 
It sure as hell makes a difference. But it's not the only thing you need.
"Teaching is an extraordinarily complex skill and you need to learn about the abilities of students," he said. "You have to be able to differentiate instruction. It's not like you're just walking into a classroom and opening up your brain and spilling out content. You have to know how to teach. You have to know how to establish relationships." 
YES! YES! YES!

Think about it, the teachers you remember most aren't the ones who you did best with all the time. They were either really bad and you can't stand that you had them, or they were someone you had built a relationship with.
Evers was critical of the proposal to convert schools that don't meet requirements and fail to complete an improvement plan into charter schools. He said in some parts of the state, that could take away school choice options. 
But he did say he and Walker are on the same page when it comes to accountability for schools and students. 
"He's saying give us a system that has clarity around outcomes, and we already have that — everybody's taking the same test — and (leave) it up to local people to figure out what they need to do with their schools," Evers said. "I think we have that piece in place already. ... I think simplicity is a good idea and I think the governor and I kind of see eye to eye on this." 
He suggested that the vision isn't as locked on the issue of private school vouchers.
Evers warned of a lack of funding increases for public schools while an expected expansion of the voucher program takes place.
 
And now, let's talk money...
"It seems, again, irrational to me to say, public schools, you're going to have to make do but let's expand the voucher program over here where history has shown us that 70 to 80 percent of those kids are already in private schools," Evers said. "So it's narrowing the pot of money that's available for public schools. 
"I'm not slamming voucher schools. I'm just saying here's the reality of it: We have 860,000 kids in our program, typical public schools, and there could be very little money, if at all, increase. I don't see the politics of that very good, but I'm sure there will be a push to expand vouchers."
Sigh..

Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Stand Friday

Seems like Gov. Walker wants just about anyone to be a teacher these days. I mean, what's wrong with that?


I had to...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Teacher Licensing

Everyone and their brother seems to be asking me about the news-drip today that Gov. Walker will propose some kind of alternate teaching certification program in the budget.

Heaven help us.

First, I want this to be clear, I think in some way, there is some merit in looking at proposals about allowing people with work experience to be high school teachers. And mind you, I'm someone who from a philosophic standpoint am vehemently against programs like TFA. However, the needs we do have in Tech-Ed, Business Ed, and Finance are very, very real.

That doesn't mean however, that we need to do what's being proposed, or even hinted at. Teachers in the K-12 setting need to know pedagogy, how to structure lessons, assessments, differentiation, special education needs, special education law, education law in general, human development, and a litany of other things that makes teachers in the K-12 able to serve all students.

So what are we talking about with this proposal? From the Wisconsin State Journal:
Anyone with “real life experience” and a bachelor’s degree would be able to get a teaching license in any subject as long as they pass a test proving they are knowledgeable, under a budget provision Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday.
Are you flipping joking me? So, remind me again why I worked 25-30 hours a week, lived at home, took out $25,000 in loans, and spent two years at the local UW two-year campus to afford school to become a teacher?
The proposal would expand the non-traditional routes available to become licensed without an education degree. But many details weren’t disclosed Thursday, including whether it would call for any preparation for teaching, which is required in many of the current ways to get a teaching license without attending an education school.
BECAUSE IT IS PROVEN TO BE THE MOST EFFECTIVE METHOD!
Under Walker’s proposal, people with experience in fields they intend to teach could get licenses as long as they have a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate “that he or she is proficient in the subject or subjects that he or she intends to teach,” according to Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick.
Oh gee, I'm someone who's the chair of the local historical society. Obviously I can teach history. Oh, I am a citizen of the United States who could pass the citizenship test, I can teach citizenship. Oh, I spent $700 on a Davis weather-station for my home, I'm sure I could teach meteorology.

That's seriously what it's come to?
The renewable license authorizes the individual to teach only in grades 6 to 12 for three years, Patrick said.
As opposed to our current five year license renewal cycle?
The proposal would be similar to nontraditional routes already available. Patrick said there are differences that will be outlined in the budget, but was not specific.
Ahhhh, see, that's the thing, there are ALREADY alternative education programs. So, really, what's the motive behind this?
Currently, school districts may hire candidates with an emergency teaching license for high-need subjects. Someone with a bachelor’s degree also could obtain a teaching license by completing a teaching preparation program at a state college or university, or may receive a license in a subject area they majored in that has a shortage of teachers. 
So, the problem with this system?
Those candidates then receive teacher preparation from one of 10 programs approved by the state, according to the Department of Public Instruction’s website.
Again, the problem?
Wisconsin, like other states, has a shortage of college graduates planning to teach courses in such subjects as applied technology, health sciences and finance largely because salaries are higher in those fields in non-teaching jobs. 
It’s unclear if Walker’s proposal is intended to specifically address those shortages. 
Now here's the thing, it's so, so, so, so, true that there is a shortage in teachers in those fields. The money is just too good in industry and the things we high school teachers have to put up with just don't justify people to seriously consider K-12 education.

I have a family member who had over 30 years of experience in healthcare, and is a prime example of someone who could greatly benefit high school students looking to be CNA's. She never once considered it because she didn't want to deal with high school students who didn't care, didn't want to be in class, and weren't as mature as those who were in college. Hence why she took a job at a tech-school.

When will people realize, you have to pay for the goods.
Senate Education Committee chairman Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said shortages in fields like career and technical education are a “big concern,” but any alternative pathway for teaching licenses should ensure the applicants are effective teachers, too. 
“Just passing a test that you know how to change spark plugs on a motor is one thing, but you’ve got to be able to teach kids, too,” said Olsen, who noted he had not read Walker’s proposal. “We have a serious shortage of people that are trained to teach technical education ... We need to move in that direction.”
Sen. Olsen, again, speaking like someone who isn't just making random crap up and throwing it at the proverbial wall.
In an emailed response to the proposal, DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said, “You need more than textbook knowledge to be the kind of teacher that connects with students and helps all kids learn.” 
“Like a skilled surgeon or a master electrician, high-quality teaching requires both skills and content knowledge,” said McCarthy. “Increasing the number of licensed teachers only addresses one side of the equation when it comes to finding and retaining the best teachers.”
You can't just be all content knowledge in high school. The students who are in your classes won't always have the same passion and drive for your subject that you do, which is why they will get bored, disrupt your class, annoy you and other students, and then become a "problem." This isn't college where you can kick them out or they are paying for it. You need to have content knowledge, but also connect with students on a human level, and bring your passion down to them.

It's easier said that done. TRUST ME. I'm battling that now more than ever as an MPS teacher on the north-side of Milwaukee.
McCarthy said school funding should be increased to allow schools to be able to pay competitive salaries to people with such skills so they don’t leave for a higher-paying job in the same field but not in teaching. 
He said the state has seen a decrease of nearly 500 career and technical education teachers in the last six years.
Lots of budget cuts, lots of retirements, and lots of people who said "screw this" when the governor got elected
Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, who chairs the Education Reform and Government Operations committee, said the proposal is needed. 
“That is something we need to look at,” he said. “How can we engage (teaching candidates), especially in specialty areas of the (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and the finance areas.”
Let's look at it, but why in the world is this a budget item, and why isn't anyone asking people who are in education what their solutions to the problem are? Everyone so far seems to be lining up against it. Case in point...
John Forester of the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance said without seeing details, the organization has “significant concerns over what appears to be the philosophical underpinnings” of the proposal. 
“Our reading of the research indicates that high quality preparation for teachers really matters,” he said. “We think content knowledge is only one part of the equation.”
Look for DPI to call in some serious flaws as well. 

And people wonder why teachers vote Democratic? 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

People Are Finally Seeing The Light On Testing

Want to know why so many teacher who are pretty standard Democrats flip out when conservative Republicans talk about "Obama and Duncan like X, Y, Z thing in education?"

Because it's finally reached a point where people are realizing that the insane level of testing in our schools is out of hand.
With that, I direct you to THIS article from the Huffington Post



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WisEye Mobile?!

If you're an extreme Wisconsin political junkie like me who doesn't have the cash to spend on things like WisPolitics, this may be of interest to you:



Now, can we get a "Wheeler Reporter" App? Cause that would be awesome...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Assembly Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt on WFDL's "Between the Lines"

Rep. Thiesfeldt was on the radio in Fond du Lac today in one of his first long-form interviews after his banana-republic hearing last Wednesday in the Assembly Education Committee.

You can listen to the interview HERE. 

To start, host Greg Stensland asked Thiesfeldt about his "impression of the testimony" that he heard last week Wednesday. Thiesfeldt responds by saying the testimony was "interesting" and that he heard some "good methods for improving the bill." He also said that there won't be a committee meeting this week, which isn't entirely surprising considering we haven't seen a formally drafted amendment to his original proposal to AB 1.

When asked about removing the sanctions that demand a public school be turned into a charter school and removing provisions that convert the current "plain language" to an A-F scale on the DPI report cards, Thiesfeldt says he's open to "changes in just about any area of it." Which means he knows his bill is being neutered by the Senate and the pissing-match that's been slowly brewing under the surface between Speaker "Boss" Vos and Senate President Scott Fitzgerald isn't going to be dragged into a conference committee if either can help it. Thiesfeldt then somehow says that while schools aren't in favor of A-F scales, he seems to think public sentiment IS in favor of it. Which, I don't know what hearing he was paying attention to, but nobody once said that the A-F scale was appropriate or easier to understand.

When speaking about the Senate version, SB 1, and it's lack of turning schools in to independent charters, he says that it's "basically reorganizing deck chairs on the Titanic." He then goes on to speak for "most of the State Assembly" in saying that they aren't interested in just checking a box that says "we did accountability." He says they want this to be a bill that uses strong measures to address issues that are in schools.

Whether they work or not apparently.

When Stensland brings up Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olsen's comment about his bill not looking to punish anyone, Rep. Thiesfeldt makes quite the jab at the Senator. He notes that in last session's original accountability bill, SB 286, turning schools into independent charters was part of his proposal. So, he tries to pin the whole idea on Olsen without taking any credit for it himself, which begs the question, does Rep. Thiesfeldt have any original ideas anyway?

Thiesfeldt continues, reassuringly saying the idea of changing a public school to a charter school would be "rare" (I'm sure he means for those people who aren't in Milwaukee, or Madison, or Green Bay.) He continues on with a lot of hyperbole about how this shouldn't be viewed as a punishment and how it's all about the kids, and somehow thinks that giving a school seven years to improve is providing "significant help."

Somebody please tell him that time alone isn't help. Resources and ways to implement them are help.

Stensland next asks him about the idea of a state level board or boards holding schools accountable, something the Rep. noted would be dropped before the hearing started. He then goes on to pretty much say that the senate made him put it in, and now they have two and are backing off, so nobody knows which direction is up. Really folks, this is who we elected to run our schools...

When asked about seeing a vote, Thiesfeldt says that he "quietly announced" on Friday that they wouldn't be taking it up this week, but putting out an updated version of the bill means that any movement will likely come later into February because now the Senate is going to be having it's own hearing Jan 27th.

So much for that "top priority" Wisconsin Legislative Republicans.

School Funding Conundrum - And This Is Before The State Budget Is Even Introduced

If last week was any testament to the complex and charged attitudes towards our schools, lest we forget the proposed "accountability" bills are more than just targets towards areas of the state that are economically disadvantaged. Messing with schools in Wisconsin is like throwing a cog in a very complex machine that has affects which ripple statewide. Case and point come from the Marshfield News Herald:
A provision of a Republican-authored school accountability bill potentially could lead to higher property taxes for central Wisconsin residents. 
It's all about the Benjamin's, which is what I've been saying for awhile now. Defeating bills that allow for hasty expansion of charter schools won't be won by simply expressing frustration from Milwaukee. It will be won by showing how expansion of "choice" will simply drain resources and money from places that won't see any expansion of "choice."
Schools that are deemed as habitually underperforming according to Department of Public Instruction report cards would be converted into independently run charter schools. A total of 135 public schools fit that criteria, according to analysis by DPI. 
Rep. Bob Kulp, R-Stratford, is a co-sponsor to the Assembly bill, and said that provision wouldn't directly affect any schools in central Wisconsin. 
"In our area, I don't think (schools) will be impacted in any way. I could drive 90 minutes in any direction before you run into any school that would be a part of it," Kulp said. 
See, because remember... It's not an attack on just any schools. It's meant to be an attack on certain specific schools.
Kulp is correct that the closest school placed in the lowest two report card categories by DPI in three consecutive years is in Antigo. However, the idea that it wouldn't have a direct effect on residents in the area is misleading, said John Gaier, superintendent of the Neillsville School District and executive director of the Association for Equity in Funding. 
That Superintendent Gaier, he's a smart one. Go on, tell me more about how screwed rural school districts would become under a proposed "accountability bill."
Gaier said about $88,000 from Neillsville's general state aid goes to pay for charter schools in Milwaukee each year. That difference is then made up by local property taxes. 
Ohhhh, snap. So, including fringe benefit costs, you essentially lose at least one teacher from Neillsville to pay for independent charter schools in Milwaukee.
"About half of the public schools in Milwaukee would be converted to for-profit charters," Gaier said. "Even if my school district is doing fine, and we have schools here that are exceeding expectations, our taxpayers are going to have to pay more because we're going to be losing more general aid to schools that have been taken over. 
"For-profit charters?" Oh wow... Talk about calling them as you see them. Remember now, those independent charter schools in Milwaukee, they take their money out of the "pot" after the vouchers. Watch for those to be expanded in the state budget on Feb. 3rd...
"It seems to be penalizing schools that do well," Gaier said. 
There is just no way to slice it... When you create dually operating systems, you're going to waste an insane amount of money.
Kulp said he believes the provision of the bill was included to help give those schools increased direction and tools for improvement.
"Some people are seeing an ill intent in what's trying to be done (in Madison)," Kulp said. "I can speak to the character and tenacity for the people putting this out. We're not talking about trying to derail the system."
You might not be talking about it, but that's exactly what's going to happen. That's the problem, people thinking that they are doing one thing, when in reality, it's going to do something else. Mind you, I don't for a second believe that there isn't a non-ill intent designed in this bill. I firmly believe that there are many legislators who wish nothing more than to snatch schools from MPS and it's local control.
Legislators have wasted no time introducing a series of bills designed to bring accountability to public and private schools in the state. 
Bills in both houses of the state Legislature introduced during the 2015 session revolve around reforming the current school accountability system, something legislative leaders have made a priority in the first month of the year. 
Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, author of the Senate bill, said he had to introduce it sooner than he would have liked, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. 
Hmmm.... Really? Had to introduce it?
"I think it was moving faster than it should have," he told the State Journal. "There's always the speed-over-quality concern. You want to make sure you have effective legislation." 
Farrow's comments echo those of Democrats who feel the rush to pass such bills is simply a "check a box." 
Again, how scared should I be that I'm agreeing with Sen. Paul Farrow?
"They're pushing this accountability bill, which is a false narrative, to say they set up accountability for the expanded voucher program," said Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point. "If the Republicans are serious about accountability for private vouchers schools, that's great, they can sign onto the Democratic-authored bill from last session that would hold our private voucher schools accountable and would apply public school accountability measures to any private schools that take public tax dollars. 
Ohhh Rep. Shakland. How I adore you and want nothing more than to help your rise as a leader in the Democratic caucus. I look forward to sharing many a conversation at the party convention this coming June.
"They are essentially trying to check a box. Republicans in office want to pave the way for a massive expansion of taxpayer funded vouchers," Shankland said. "In order to do that, they have to claim they are holding vouchers accountable, without saying they are holding them to different standards than public schools." 
Some days, it really must be nice to be a small-town politician from a place where people are more willing to just speak their minds. There is just so much truth in this, why can't people from competitive seats just say this?
The measures in the accountability bills would replace the school and district report cards that have been produced by DPI the previous three years. Those report cards have been widely seen as one of the most informative and readable accountability reports for parents and educators, according to a study by the Education Commission of the States, a state-led research organization.
Sigh...

However, this leads us to our 2nd article, one that comes from Racine where their article adds another wrinkle to the whole school funding mess - open enrollment:
If Racine-area parents are not happy with the school district they live in they have two main choices.

They can send their children to a new public school district through open enrollment or to a private school with a state-funded voucher.
Don't even get me started with the voucher program...
Both use public taxpayer money, but private schools accepting vouchers receive more money per student than public school districts do for students attending through open enrollment.
Hmmmm.... Interesting. That's something most people probably don't know. Let's read on:
It’s a part of the law that Al Mollerskov, Union Grove High School’s district administrator, has been trying to change and that state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester said he is “willing to take a look at.”

But it could come at a cost to other public school districts that students enroll out of such as Racine Unified School District.
 
Ahh... So, yet again we come back to the problem of funding, and how some districts win, others lose.
Funding breakdown

This year, private schools receive $7,210 in state funds for K-8 students using vouchers and $7,856 for students in grades 9-12.

In contrast, public schools that have students attend through open enrollment receive $6,635 for each student, regardless of what grade the student is in.
Wow... sounds like somethings amiss there.
The amount of aid for schools accepting vouchers and open enrollment students is set to increase in subsequent years if other public-school funding increases.

But unless the law changes, the amount private schools receive for voucher students will remain higher than what public schools receive for each student attending through open enrollment.
And that's not right. I mean, really not right.
“It shouldn’t be (if) they are going to a private school, they are getting more,” said Mollerskov, whose district receives about a quarter of its students through open enrollment, mostly from students in the Racine area. “It’s not fair.”

If the funding structure was changed, he said it would translate to about $300,000 more for Union Grove High School and could mean more class offerings, smaller class sizes and additional other resources.
Sigh... Which is true, but sadly, it also will further exasperate the problem of urban poor districts and suburban rich ones. This is especially true in Milwaukee where Oak Creek, Greenfield, Wauwatosa, and Brown Deer see substantial numbers of students from the City of Milwaukee who would otherwise be MPS students.
Waterford High School Superintendent Keith Brandstetter also questioned the difference between the amount given for a voucher and for a child attending a district through open enrollment.

“Why would one type of school get more?” he asked.
Um, ideological politics dude? Seriously, you just asked that question?
How this could affect Unified

Students who open-enroll to other districts actually receive more taxpayer money than voucher students, said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of voucher schools. The difference is that the district that the open enrollment student leaves receives a portion of their money, while the entire amount for a voucher student goes to their new school.

For instance, if a student leaves Racine Unified, money still stays with that district as well as going to their new district, such as Union Grove.
Ohhhh. Because remember, people have a responsibility in society to support societal institutions, like schools.  And, just because you don't want to go to your local school doesn't mean you're off the hook for providing some support to it.
“If they have a problem with that, it seems they should ask for all the money,” Bender said. He wasn’t suggesting that should happen, he said, but it would be an option for the Legislature.
Because who better to dispense advice about public school funding than the face of the privatization and voucher movement in Jim Bender? Gimme a break...
Vos also explained one of the differences between voucher schools and public schools accepting open enrollment students is that private schools receiving vouchers have to fund-raise to make the extra money they need. In contrast, a public school receiving a student through open enrollment receives other state aid and can tax local residents for additional revenue.
That's their problem. I'm sorry, don't tell me that private schools need to fundraise to make up the money because it's expensive to educate students. If we actually funded public schools, maybe then we wouldn't have a need to divert zillions of dollars into schools with public schools barely able to get money, private business giving money to charters and private schools.
But Vos said he is interested in looking into increasing the amount that schools accepting open-enrollment students receive.

“The district educating the child should receive the funding,” he said. However he explained to make that happen, that would mean the district that the child leaves, such as Racine Unified, would receive less money.

Vos said he would need to wait until the budget comes out next month, and then see what resources are available.
Ohhh the budget. Heaven help us for what the budget will look like.
Opposition

That is not something state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, would be OK with.

When students leave a district through open enrollment or through the use of a voucher, it takes money away from districts such as Racine Unified that are left serving a large number of students living in poverty and with “above-average needs,” Mason said.
Ahhh, so we arrive at the problem. It makes sense to have the money follow the student to the new district, but those who aren't accepted (usually students with special needs, or who are Emotional-Behavioral) are expensive and need those dollars and resources that come with it.
“The important policy question that we should be answering is how to make sure every school district has the resources to adequately educate every child, not how to get affluent suburban school districts or private vouchers more money,” Mason said.
Ding.
Marc Duff, Racine Unified School District’s chief financial officer, said the amount sent with open enrollments students to the new district was only intended to cover the incremental cost of adding one student, not building costs and other things.

“If Union Grove doesn’t like what they are getting per student, there is nothing forcing them to accept those students,” he said.
Ding, ding.  That's one thing we haven't mentioned yet. Open enrollment is based upon the receiving district accepting the student and those dollars. They know exactly what they're getting into.
Mollerskov said he understands why districts keep a portion of the money when a child open-enrolls to a new district, such as a Racine student open-enrolling into Union Grove. It’s for fixed costs such as building maintenance and expenses, he said.

But he said for fairness, the amount of money given to schools that take students through open enrollment should be at least equal to what voucher schools get. That money can then be used for things such as additional resources and personnel, said Mollerskov.
Mind you, all of this completely avoids the issues we have with rural school funding too. Ohhh, how I can't possibly wait until the Joint Finance Committee get's it's hands on the budget and the education portion comes down. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Knee Deep In The Common Core Hoopla - Again

Can someone explain to me why we keep coming back to the Common Core State Standards and the legislature? An article from late last week in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sheds some light on what we may see this coming term in the legislature, and how the fervor may be dying down a little bit:
The energy behind repealing and replacing Common Core State Standards — already rooted in most Wisconsin public schools — may be losing some steam among the Republican leadership in Madison. At least for now. 
Gov. Scott Walker appeared to change his tack again this week in his state of the state address, saying he just wanted to ensure no districts were forced to comply. In the past, he was swung between tacit approval of Common Core, and middle-of-campaign calls for its repeal. 
Except for, everyone already knows that the state adoption of the standards only relates to what the standardized tests the state uses will be measured against. Local districts have been free to adopt whatever standards for their own courses they'd like.
In the Legislature, Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos (R-Rochester) echoed the idea of reinforcing flexibility among school districts to use whatever standards they want. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Senate Republicans were "struggling with how to try to put the Wisconsin label" on the Common Core. 
Because they have come to the same realization that Sen. Luther Olsen told them years ago - It's a waste of money that really only puts a new name on the same things that have already been developed.

There are only so many ways to say "1st grade students will add and subtract numbers."
Has the zenith of opposition to Common Core in Wisconsin passed? Or will a Senate bill in production soon bring the Common Core controversy roaring back to life? 
Jason Rostan, a spokesman for Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), said that Vukmir is working on a bill that would be an updated version of a Common Core Senate bill that failed last session. 
Leave it to Sen. Vukmir to let ideology blind the common sense that is percolating.
That bill would have halted the implementation of Common Core and required the state Department of Public Instruction to adopt new standards within one year, but only after they had been developed and approved by a new state board made up of political appointees. 
Records obtained by the Journal Sentinel last year showed the governor's office initiated that proposal before forwarding it to Vukmir to introduce. But around the same time, Walker was vague in a public speech to educators about whether he wanted to reverse Common Core or just provide an avenue for input on future standards. 
And every six weeks or so when Neo-Stalwarts don't have anything better to do with respect to meddling in schools, they bring up the Common Core repeal.
Up and down history 
The genesis of Common Core predates Walker's tenure as governor. National standards were agreed on in 2010 after years of work by private non-profit groups and state education departments. The idea was to ensure that — at least in English and math — students across the country learned roughly the same academic concepts by the time they graduated from high school. 
Local university professors and others in participating states' education circles weighed in on drafts, which were also posted for public comment. The work at the time was not well-publicized, and drew little public interest. 
But everyone in education circles knew the work was happening. I remember sitting in methods classes at UW-Oshkosh in 2008-09 and 2009-10 discussing the work on Common Core. It's not like it was done under the extreme cover of darkness.
Superintendent Tony Evers adopted the standards for Wisconsin in 2010, and a new state test aligned to the Common Core standards has been created and will be administered this spring. 
Wisconsin school districts are free to ignore Common Core, and adopt their own standards; no law has ever been passed in Wisconsin to mandate them, and technically there isn't anything to repeal. However, all have signed on except Germantown, which decided to use the Common Core as a guide to develop what it considers more personalized standards. 
Because... Ideology.
Whether districts adopt the standards or not, they will still be judged on how well their students do on the state test — which means deviating too far would be self-destructive. 
And really not what's best for kids. Like I said, there's only so many ways to say "students will know how to add" or explain when and where students will need to know how to properly use a semicolon. Common Core isn't a curriculum, it doesn't say HOW to teach anything, it is a series of benchmarks for math and English-language arts.
Concern, alarm 
Major political and parental pushback didn't really surface until 2014. 
Well, maybe 2012ish is a little better date for where it began, but the politicians started pandering to the crazies in 2013-14, that's for sure.
Many school district leaders and businesses support the standards because they raise expectations for students and, at least in theory, create a more uniformly educated citizenry, and a more consistent and reliable workforce. 
There's no theory about how they make things more uniform. That's a good thing and one reason why schools are generally supportive, because you know where students are at when the move from school to school or district to district. With society being more transient than ever, this is huge.
But some teachers are increasingly worried that meeting test requirements are draining creativity and freedom in the classroom, and that well-vetted materials aligned with the new standards are in short supply. 
This is true too. The real reason why teachers are worried is the constant testing that is taking time out of their day and forcing limited creativity. It's the testing that drives teachers mad.
Further, parents have expressed confusion and alarm at how some concepts were taught, and horror stories went viral of parents — including celebrity parents — and children left frustrated by muddled math instruction that was blamed on Common Core. 
Except, the instruction isn't Common Core. It's the well-vetted materials problem and curriculum that forces certain ways of teaching. It's not "Common Core Math." There is no such thing as common core math.
There was also a political edge, as conservatives reacted to what they saw as too much federal meddling in local education issues, with the Obama administration offering incentives to states that adopted the standards and providing funding for the development of new tests aligned to them. 
Because no Republican has ever connected increased funds with adopting certain criteria of some kind...
That agitation over Common Core during the last legislative session culminated in a Senate hearing where more than 100 superintendents and school board members launched a defense of Common Core. The standards were not without their troubles and challenges, they said, but the Senate bill aimed at undoing them would do far more harm. Lacking enough support, the bill never came to a vote. 
That was a great hearing to watch.
Then, when the Legislature was out of session in July, Walker abruptly announced that he wanted the new state Legislature in 2015 to adopt a bill that would repeal and replace the Common Core.  
Six months and a midterm election later, Walker said Tuesday that he wanted the Legislature to pass a bill "making it crystal clear that no school district is required to use Common Core standards." 
Because, as we already knew, the state can't mandate local districts adopt anything.
Scores expected to drop 
Tracking the attitudes of legislative leadership is important because the standards are entering a crucial year: In just a few months, Wisconsin students in third through eighth grade will take the new state standardized achievement test, the "Badger Exam," that is aligned with the new learning goals. 
Proficiency score results may drop — even beyond what the state Department of Public Instruction has anticipated. 
Oh... I'm sure they'll drop.
"I think the predictor for us all will be after the students take the (new exam) with reset performance benchmarks, and everybody shows up ranked lower than where we used to be," said Ted Neitzke, superintendent of the West Bend School District. 
"I don't think we'll be talking about standards — we'll be talking about performance," added Neitzke, who supports the Common Core. "There will be greater questions about our students' ability to compete." 
And I'm sure more blame on teachers about how they need to do "more with less." Although, as it's been pointed out you really can never do more with less. You can only do less with less.
Rostan said Vukmir's office is still hearing from constituents and others across the state who want the Common Core standards replaced. 
Congratulations. Direct them to their local school board or DPI.
He said recent discussions with the governor's office indicate Walker is in agreement.
He said the bill in production will likely propose a model academic standards board that would come up with Wisconsin state standards, as well as specify that school districts can write their own standards.
Great... So we're going to waste even more money?
Fitzgerald, the leader of the Senate, said he was open to taking up legislation on Common Core, but noted — again — that school boards already have the ability to adopt whatever standards they want.
We're knee-deep in the hoopla again. Why? WHY haven't we figured this out yet?