Committee Holds First Investigative Hearing on Common Core

Are the Common Core Standards right for Wisconsin?

MacIver News Service | October 3, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] A bipartisan group of legislators heard the first round of public testimony regarding Wisconsin’s implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the classroom. Thursday’s hearing was the first of four that will address public concerns about the nationally-normed standards and their use in the Badger State.

Last week, legislators created a pair of special select committees to follow up on the 2013-2015 Wisconsin State Budget’s decree that the state hold public hearings on the implementation of CCSS in public schools. Today those groups convened to hear eight hours of testimony both in support of and opposed to the educational standards that have already taken root in the state. This included stakeholders like State Superintendent Tony Evers and President of Advocates for Academic Freedom Karen Schroeder.

Evers led things off by explaining the history of CCSS in Wisconsin, including its origin in the state and the difficulties the state had with its own standards in the years leading up to the switch to CCSS in math and reading.

“Our old ELA and math standards were only set at grades four, eight, and 12, leaving districts to fill in the gaps between grades; often a costly process that took tons of staff time and resources,” said Evers. “We heard from businesses that students were not prepared with the knowledge and skills to succeed in the workplace and from higher education leaders who felt students were not as prepared as they needed to be to succeed in college. And, we consistently received low marks from national think tanks, like the Fordham Foundation, that compared the rigor of standards across states.”

Evers also pointed out that recent education reform efforts in this state rely on CCSS to gauge student progress. Those included the Read to Lead literacy program, DPI’s School Report Cards, and the Educator Effectiveness program that is slated to grade teachers in coming years. He also reiterated that local school districts would retain ultimate control over their curricula.

The critics that followed him quickly rebuffed his support. Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Action, gave an hour of testimony voicing her concern over the CCSS. She said the standards are an outsider’s view on what is best for Wisconsin, limiting local control over the standards as a whole. Appling also expressed concern over the program’s data collection and ability to keep student confidentiality as a priority. Schroeder, who followed soon after, made it clear that the biggest concern that the state faces with CCSS is ceding local control over standards and curriculum.

Members of the select committees mainly questioned opponents about what the state should do instead. Many of the educational stakeholders involved in the hearing suggested looking at the state’s past education achievements or developing our own standards, but few had any specific details with which to replace CCSS.

The meeting was the first round of public testimony on the issue. Three more hearings involving members of the Assembly and Senate select committees will be held across the state in coming weeks. The dates and locations of these meetings have yet to be announced.