Joint Finance Committee to Discuss New Testing Standards, Protocol in Wisconsin Schools

MacIver News Service | May 21, 2013

On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Finance will take up legislation that could change the way students are measured in Wisconsin.

JFC will discuss the Department of Public Instruction’s administration and funding heading into the 2013-2015 biennium. This will include several important issues that will affect teachers and students across the Badger State. The 16-legislator panel will discuss and vote on items like new standardized tests, new requirements for teachers and professional development, and state funding for Teach for America educators.

The most notable policy being taken up is the administration of SMARTER Balanced assessments for students in grades 3-8 and ACT tests for high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. These tests would replace the ineffective WKCE and are a major part of the state’s waiver to free Wisconsin schools of No Child Left Behind regulations. These programs would be field tested in 2013-2014 and moved to statewide implementation in the following year.

Bringing in these assessments will raise testing standards in Wisconsin. However, there may be some controversy surrounding their implementation. Adopting these tests will continue Wisconsin’s buy-in to national Common Core State Standards for instruction. The state had announced that it would join the 46 other states that currently adhere to these standards back in 2010, but the looming reform associated with these tests has made Common Core a hot topic amongst the education community.

While these new standards will likely be a magnet for debate, there are several other issues in play as well. The committee will discuss Governor Walker’s expanded commitment to keeping Teach for America educators in Milwaukee. They will also debate the merits of new data collection systems to help legislators, families, and children better understand how schools, teachers, and students are performing. We’ll have live updates as they unravel at the Capitol on Tuesday.