MacIver’s Top Ten Education Stories Of 2021

The year 2021 was nothing short of an education disaster here in Wisconsin and across the country. From continued school shutdowns to the racist Critical Race Theory indoctrination of our children to dismal academic achievement, you can make the case that education was the top issue in 2021. Covid may have grabbed all of the attention and headlines, but the steep and rapid decline of K12 education in our state will have a longer-lasting impact on the future of our children and the prosperity of Wisconsin in the years ahead.

Here is a list of the MacIver Institute’s Top Ten Education Stories of 2021

#10. Questionable Curriculum: Superintendent Launches Secret Equity Agenda Without Approval

The Lodi School Board was surprised to learn how much work the superintendent had been doing to push equity, Critical Race Theory by another name, in the school district over the past year – especially since he never got permission to do it in the first place.

This story was a wake-up call for all the parents who believed that their elected officials, the school board, would stop Critical Race Theory – the idea that our country is actively and deliberately carrying out racism and that everything we do and everything we do not do as individuals is racism – from being taught in our schools. Parents need to get involved in their child’s education, attend school board meetings, and demand that education officials listen to their wants and concerns. Only then will the education establishment realize that we will not allow them to train our children to hate our country and our way of life.


#9. Questionable Curriculum: Madison School District Blames Everything On White Supremacy Culture

Madison School District requires “Dismantling White Supremacy Culture” training for employees

Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) antiracism website instructs teachers how to learn about “race, equity, anti-racism and abolitionism” through three phases: discover, disrupt, and dismantle

Racism in the Madison School District is a “pandemic”


As the MacIver Institute has been investigating the racist indoctrination of our children, better known as Critical Race Theory (CRT), all across the state, one district stands alone in its full-throated promotion of CRT and the incorporation of this dangerous idea – that everything and everyone in America is racist – into all aspects of their operations and the teaching of our children. 

The Madison Metropolitan School District. 

MMSD Superintendent Carlton Jenkins has compared his efforts to combat racism in the district to a pandemic and this supposedly widespread racism is one of the justifications Jenkins and the School Board use to infuse Critical Race Theory into every corner of K12 education in Madison.

Racism is a pandemic in Madison, Wisconsin? Really??!!

While CRT disciples believe that the institutions of our country are fundamentally racist – our government and our schools – it should be pointed out that the Madison School District is located in one of the most progressive cities in the country and that the far left has been in charge of the school board for decades. DECADES. The city of Madison itself has been governed for more than two decades by avowed socialists. Madison is the most liberal enclave of any liberal enclave in the country and, yet, the school superintendent and the educational establishment blame systemic racism for their dismal failure to help all of our children do well in school and succeed academically.

And, by the way, the latest academic achievement data for the Madison School District is atrocious. Remember, to be proficient means your child is simply at grade level. In Madison, just 20% of children are performing at grade level.


#8. Middle School Library Books Make Adults Squirm At Waukesha School Board Meeting

***Graphic Language Warning*** 

The books discussed at this meeting deal with sensitive subjects in graphic detail. Parents, this discussion is not suitable for children.

Back in August, a group of concerned parents spoke up at the monthly meeting of the Waukesha School Board, objecting to certain books that are available to children as young as eleven years old in school libraries across the district and online.

To make their point on how inappropriate these books are for children, the parents read aloud directly from Later Gator by Lauren Miracle and Crank by Ellen Hopkins. 

MacIver’s video coverage on this school board meeting has reached over 945,700 people on Facebook alone. 

If you are a parent, you need to ask your school board if these books or any other similar in nature are in the library and available to young children.

Thank you to the parents featured in this video for making this public. The rest of us would still be in the dark if you had not so bravely spoken out about these inappropriate books in the school library.

#7. 2021 – The Year Parents Took Back Control Of K12 Education

What Can Parents Do To Back Against Critical Race Theory In Our Schools?

Across the country, parents are fighting back against masking requirements, zoom instruction, and the push by the far left to indoctrinate our children with the belief that the United States is a fundamentally and actively racist nation. Thankfully, parents all across the state as well have started to become aware of, some might say woke to, what exactly is going on in our schools. It has been inspiring to see parents in Lodi, Germantown, Waukesha, Elmbrook, Wausau, Baraboo, Antigo, and everywhere in-between stand up to make their voices heard.



Scarlett and Alyssa are perfect examples of this refreshing and much-needed parental activism in Wisconsin. These two moms decided that their children’s education was too important to sit on the sideline. In this podcast, they describe why they became involved in the fight against CRT, and how difficult the education establishment has made it to find out basic public information about the use of CRT in our schools. Finally, Scarlett and Alyssa talk about how they convinced their fellow parents and community members to speak up and fight back.


Both of these moms have done extensive research on CRT both at their district level and beyond. After investigating the Department of Public Instruction’s standards for education, Scarlett found “There is so little emphasis on science and math and just total emphasis on social justice. And the goal of education now is to make children activists. And this is just not acceptable to the vast majority.”

“Parents have to rely on putting their trust and faith in their schools that they are doing what’s best for those students, putting the students’ needs first. And this is really the districts taking advantage of that trust that the families are giving them, and it feels so blatantly wrong and immoral that we are manipulating children and dumbing down our educational system in the name of equity.”

The education establishment is reluctant to use the term “Critical Race Theory (CRT).” Instead, they refer to CRT by other names.


We need more Scarletts and Alyssas all across the state. We need every parent to get involved at the school board level to stop CRT.

If you want to become better-educated on Critical Race Theory and how the education establishment is forcing this disturbing belief system on our children, check out MacIver’s Critical Race Theory section on our website.

Make sure you also check out Christopher Rufo’s Parent Guidebook – click here. Or watch Rufo’s recent presentation to supporters of MacIver on Youtube.



#6. The Most Dangerous Man In America Comes To Wisconsin

Speaking of Rufo. In December, the MacIver Institute hosted Christopher Rufo, the nation’s foremost expert on Critical Race Theory, for an evening of fellowship and conversation. Rufo shared with parents what they should be on the lookout for when it comes to Critical Race Theory in their school and how they can fight back against Critical Race Theory – the belief that everything about our country is racist and that all we do or do not do, as individuals, is racist. 

WISN AM 1130 Talk Show Host and MacIver columnist Dan O’Donnell sat down exclusively with Rufo for an interview during his visit. 


“When we began researching this, almost no one knew what ‘critical race theory’ was,” he explains.  “Now it has more than 70 percent name recognition with the American public.”

And no one is more responsible for exposing it than Christopher Rufo.  As a result, he has been the subject of countless hit pieces in newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post, shrieking monologues from the likes of Joy Reid, and even repeated physical threats at his home in the Seattle area.

Just a year ago, he was a relatively unknown documentary filmmaker, Manhattan Institute senior fellow, and City Journal contributing editor.  How did he become so reviled so quickly?  Because he exposed the most insidious yet little-known tool in the liberal toolkit: Forced compliance with neo-communist dogma.

Read the entire interview here.

You can also watch the speech here including a Q&A session where Rufo answers questions from Wisconsin parents.

#5. Legislature Uses Unprecedented Federal Aid To Pay For Historic K12 Funding Increase

School Administrators and the education establishment predictably claim massive funding increase is not enough

For taxpayers, this is one of the underreported and most important policy discussions of 2021. Thankfully, Legislative Republicans stood tall and forced Gov. Evers to this common-sense budgeting approach into law.

Legislative Republicans adopted a taxpayer-friendly approach to spending in the 2021-2023 state budget: wherever possible, use the massive amount of one-time (hopefully!) federal COVID-19 and economic-stimulus aid to fund government operations. 

From the taxpayer’s perspective, it doesn’t matter if your federal tax dollars are funding state government or if your state tax dollars are funding state government, state government is being funded either way. Democrats and their special interest allies, of course, wanted to pile “normal” state government funding on top of the mammoth federal funding, which would have just larded more state government tax dollars stacked on the federal government dollars. 

School District Administrators and the education establishment have screamed the loudest about this common-sense approach. They object to the use of $2.6 billion in federal COVID money to increase K-12 education spending by 17% to an estimated $17.9 billion over the next two years.

They object because they see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use the virus as the reason to astronomically increase school funding. They object because they would like the state to add on top of that massive amount of federal aid, a “normal” increase of state funding. While they claim that schools can only spend COVID aid on certain expenses, if you look at the plan submitted by the Department of Public Instruction to the federal government, DPI believes that it can be used for “addressing learning loss among pupils, using high-quality assessments to accurately assess pupils’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting pupils’ academic needs, and implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of pupils.” The federal money can be used on just about anything education-related in our schools.



The federal funding amounts to $2,159.23 per student per year, by far a record amount since total student enrollment in Wisconsin’s K-12 schools has been steadily declining for two decades.

It should be pointed out that this massive increase in school support this year comes on top of large increases included in the past few budgets.



Don’t let administrators, school board candidates, or Gov. Evers tell you that our schools are hurting for money or support. It is just NOT TRUE!

If Legislative Republicans had pursued such an irresponsible approach, K12 education funding would have been increased by over $3 billion dollars in this budget alone, even though public school enrollment declined by almost 4% this year and has been flat for years.

Thank God for common sense.

Now, if only our schools would use all of this taxpayer support to give our children the education they deserve.

More on that below.


#4. Many Students In Wisconsin Are Failing While 95% Of School Districts Receive Passing Grade According To DPI

If the mainstream media truly cared about holding those in power accountable, this story would have been one of the year’s biggest scandals. Not surprisingly, it received little notice if any at all in your newspaper or the ten o’clock news.

Despite recent dismal proficiency test scores showing that our children are struggling academically and falling further behind, somehow, the vast majority of our schools are magically performing well and doing their job.

Many Students In Wisconsin Are Failing While 95% Of School Districts Receive Passing Grade According To DPI

If the majority of our children are not at grade level, how can nearly all of our school districts be graded as meeting or exceeding expectations?

According to the Department of Public Instruction, many Wisconsin schools and school districts “met, exceeded, or significantly exceeded expectations” while only 27% of students are proficient in ELA and 27.5% are proficient in math.

According to DPI, the report cards are part of the state accountability system and track “four priority areas: achievement; growth; target group outcomes; and on-track to graduation.” 

It should be noted that without any public notice or comment, DPI changed the grading scale this year and made the curve easier for a school to receive a passing grade. In the last report card, in order for a school district or school to qualify as having “Exceeds Expectations”, a minimum score of 73 was required. I’m not sure if taxpayers would consider a 73 as exceeding expectations but that was the minimum score set by DPI in 2019.

Now, the minimum score to reach exceeding expectations is 70, a full three points lower. The minimum score to reach the supposed satisfactory level, in traditional grading terms the “C” level, was reduced from 63 to 58.

Making the already generous grading curve even more generous, some might say easy, partially explains how DPI, in their press release, can assert  that 95% of districts “met, exceeded, or significantly exceeded expectations.” The average report card score for a Wisconsin school district in 2021 was 71.6 or exceeding expectations. Of Wisconsin’s 421 school districts, in 2021, 39 districts significantly exceed expectations, 210 districts exceed expectations, 150 meet expectations, 19 districts meet few expectations, and 2 districts fail to meet expectations (one district did not report a score).

Source: Representative Thiesfeldt

Kudos to Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Education, for trying to draw attention to this scandal, and shame on the mainstream for trying their best to ignore it.


#3. The State Of K12 Education In Wisconsin 2021: New Disappointing K12 Education Testing And Proficiency Results – “An Absolute Disaster”

The latest data on testing and proficiency rates for Wisconsin’s children were released by the Department of Public Instruction earlier in 2021 and it is not pretty. You might even say the scores were abysmal.


This year, English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency is 27.5%, down 5.4 points or a 16.41% reduction from 2019. Math proficiency is at 27%, down 7 points from 2019 or a 20.59% reduction. These figures look at proficiency rates as a percentage of TOTAL Wisconsin students, not just those tested as Superintendent Underly reported in her press release. 

In Wisconsin, we have over 50% of our students between grades 3-10 who FAIL this important benchmark.

Think about that for a second. Where is the outrage?

Quite frankly, any other year and these disastrous testing results would be the #1 story by a wide margin. Unfortunately, 2021 was unlike any other year.



#2. The Lost Year Of Learning – What Wisconsin Needs To Do To Keep Our Children From Falling Further Behind

Our children have suffered in many different ways during COVID-19, but the forced closing of their schools, the isolation away from their friends and teachers, and the lost academic progress that many have experienced had the biggest impact on their well-being and their futures. 

Parents and The MacIver Institute started asking questions about the impact Zoom instruction and other covid procedures were having on academic achievement back in March. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) apparently does not track the number of “F”s earned by students statewide, but a growing pool of data from local school districts shows academic failure rates were going through the roof. 

Let that sink in – the bureaucrats in charge of K12 education do NOT track how many of our children are failing. Apparently, DPI leaves that important work and that critical data to the local school districts. Hard to notice a statewide trend if DPI doesn’t collect this important metric.

The question the Governor and the media ignored is how would the Department of Public Instruction and school districts help students recover from the lost year of learning and catch up academically. The State Superintendent for Public Instruction did not talk about this issue in her State of Education speech. The Governor rarely spook of this crisis. Remember, one of the main reasons for the federal government to send massive amounts of covid aid to every state was to stop the learning loss and keep our children on track academically. Tragically, that did not happen.


Student Failures During COVID-19 And Virtual Instruction Have Increased Dramatically 

Study after study at the national level has found that COVID-19 virtual education is not as effective as in-person instruction.

Here in Wisconsin, we can look to the Waukesha School District, where 28% of students are failing at least one class this year, a 265% increase from the prior year. The school board was recently presented with the data to suggest that 57% of these failures occurred in hybrid model classes.

The Post Crescent recently reported that one in four Appleton School District high school students failed a class last semester. Students with disabilities and English language learners are disproportionately represented in the group of students failing a class. The district’s Assistant Superintendent of Assessment, Curriculum, and Instruction, Steve Harrison, attributed the failure rate to “the extremely unprecedented year.”

We are seeing a similar trend in the Wausau School District. The Freshmen class has seen a 350% increase in failed classes this year compared to 2019-2020. Across grades 9-12, the average increase in F’s is around 208%.

The Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) has also seen a massive increase in students failing a class from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021. Across high schools in the district, the average increase in failure rate is on average 133% excluding the district’s traditional online school. The ten traditional middle schools in the district saw a similar trend with an average of 136% increase in failed classes.





#1. Critical Race Theory in Wisconsin Schools


Finally, the biggest story in education this year was the discovery of the widespread use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in our schools. While the mainstream media seemed to only focus on Covid’s impact on education, the use of CRT to indoctrinate our children is actually a much bigger and more important story. 

Critical Race Theory is an academic discipline that has been around for decades but only recently became the ideology of the far left in their push to tear down our country, destroy the principles our country was founded on and eliminate the protections every American is afforded under The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Critical Race Theory seeks to fundamentally and profoundly change the United States forever.

Critical Race Theory preaches that the United States was founded on racism, grew to become the successful nation that we are today because of this racism and that our country, still today, is fundamentally defined by our racism and racism is found in everything that we do and that we do not do.

We found that Critical Race Theory (CRT) – or one of the many other names for CRT, like Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), equity, antiracism, woke, implicit bias, white privilege – is being taught in many school districts all across the state and is quickly on its way to fundamentally changing K12 education in Wisconsin.

Parents need to wake up to what CRT is, what CRT will do to their children’s education, and speak up before it is too late. 


Make sure you follow the MacIver Institute and check out our CRT section on our website as we continue the fight in 2022 to stop CRT and the indoctrination of our children.


Did we miss an education story that you thought was important and should have made the Top Ten?

Share your thoughts below and join the conversation!

Hoping for a better 2022 for our children and their education.