Walker, Evers Team Up to Boost Accountability in Wisconsin’s Public Schools

by Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst

Despite months of debate between the two, Governor Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers joined forces on Monday to announce an initiative aimed towards improving all public schools in Wisconsin.

Walker and Evers announced that they would work together to create a statewide accountability system and provide a stronger metric to understand just how much Wisconsin’s students are learning in the classroom. This program would hold districts, schools, and teachers responsible for the children they educate by adding more transparency to the educational process. In short, parents will have a better system with which to grade the effectiveness of their public schools.

The two will pair with The Council of Chief State School Officers, as well as with experts at the University of Wisconsin’s La Follette Institute of Public Affairs, to create a program that measures student performance and growth through each stage of primary education. Using value-added data will help schools, parents, and legislators better understand the true impact of education in the state. The program is aimed at replacing No Child Left Behind’s flawed school grading system and instead creating a transparent method that sheds light on the true status of Wisconsin’s classrooms.

Walker and Evers will be the co-chairmen of the design team, which will include members from teaching, administrative, and union ranks. This team will be tasked with creating the system that ultimately informs parents of how much their children are growing in the classroom.

It’s a step forward for a state that ranked last in school accountability in the Fordham Institute’s study The Accountability Illusion. This research showed that Wisconsin schools have some of the laxest standards in America, devaluing the merits of a public education. As a result, the state has begun to lag in subjects like reading and math despite being a common presence at the top of national graduation rate rankings.

“The design team’s work has the potential to transform educational accountability in Wisconsin,” said Governor Walker in a press statement released early Monday morning.  “We’ll listen to parents, students, educators, and stakeholders across the state to help develop a statewide accountability system.”

The end goal will be a system that keeps parents from just assuming that their public schools are meeting standards and instead gives them the information they need to make the best choice for their children. Though the program is still in its infancy, it suggests a newfound commitment to accountability for teachers and schools. If this new metric can hold schools accountable in a realistic and easy-to-understand way, then it will boost the status of failing schools that had been skirting by on an undeserved reputation, forcing them to earn their grades instead.