September 17, 2014

Work continues on Common Core report

A legislative committee looking at the use of Common Core education standards in Wisconsin will continue to work on recommendations for possible changes to the system.

The special study panel met Tuesday to discuss what members heard during a series of hearings held around the state this fall. Those public forums drew a wide range of praise and criticism for the national math and language education standards, which the state Department of Public Instruction adopted in 2010. Republicans have voiced concerns that Common Core may not be strong enough for Wisconsin and that they do not give local school officials enough control over what they teach.

During Tuesday’s hearing, lawmakers sitting on the committee each offered their own recommendations on what changes, if any, should be made to Common Core. While most members of the panel indicated that it’s unlikely the state would move away from the standards, several said they would like to see some changes.

State Representative Joe Knudson (R-Hudson) admitted the standards are an improvement over what was in place before they were adopted in 2010. However, he said “we must remember that these standards are a floor and not a ceiling. Our students will not be able to compete with the best from around the world…unless they are asked to do more and to reach highers.”

Republicans on the committee argued the state could do more to protect the privacy of students and to allow more local control for school districts. State Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and others also made the case for doing a regular review of how effective the standards are in improving educational outcomes, such as a statutory requirement that they be reviewed every five to seven years.

While Democrats on the committee indicated they might support an annual review of the standards, state Representative Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains) said that the actual requirements should be left alone. “I have faith in the Department of Public Instruction,” Pope said, adding that “rather than throwing up roadblocks and barriers, I think we need to be supporting that work.”

State Representative Jeremy Theisfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), the chair of the committee, indicated that he hopes to have a final report for members to vote on before the end of the year.