RACINE — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos supports a proposal that would essentially eliminate Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin, instead giving lawmakers the power to approve new Wisconsin-specific standards.
“When the standards were developed, they were not done with Wisconsin’s needs in mind,” the Rochester Republican said last week, explaining the academic standards don’t take into account the state’s needs for things like skilled manufacturers and weren’t created with direct input from regular Wisconsinites.
The Common Core standards were created by state superintendents, governors and curriculum experts, with their adoption by states later supported by the federal government. The standards have support from state Democrats and state and local education leaders including Racine Unified Superintendent Lolli Haws. The standards outline what math and reading skills students from kindergarten through 12th grade should master by the end of each grade.
Common Core is intended to hold all students to the same high standards, no matter what state they’re from, allowing for more accountability and easier comparisons. Common Core standards are more rigorous than Wisconsin’s prior standards.
Common Core has been adopted in 45 states including Wisconsin, where state Superintendent Tony Evers adopted the standards in 2010.
As schools have moved closer to implementation, Common Core has taken heat from vocal political groups. Those opponents often say the standards are an intrusion of the federal government, though the standards were not drafted by the federal government.
Vos has different key issues with Common Core. He likes the idea of more rigorous standards, he said, but wants to make sure Wisconsin has “the highest standards.”
“I want us to not be the same as Michigan, Illinois, Iowa,” he said. “I want our kids to be at a greater level of learning.”
Vos also wants more stakeholders to have a say in what the standards are, he added.
“There’s a whole lot of arrogance in (the state Department of Public Instruction) to think the only people concerned with high standards are educators,” he said.
Legislation introduced last month by Republicans in the state Legislature would make the changes Vos wants.
The legislation would ditch Common Core and instead have a new 15-member board create Wisconsin-specific academic standards in English, reading, math, social studies and science.
The governor’s office would select five committee members and DPI would pick four. Other members of the board would include a public school teacher, a public school superintendent, an elementary school principal and the parent of a student using a state voucher to attend a private school — even though private voucher schools would not have to follow the standards created.
The board would submit proposed standards to the state superintendent, who would then send recommendations to a joint legislative committee. That committee could adopt the superintendent’s recommendations or choose the board’s proposed standards instead, media reports show.
Evers has voiced loud disapproval of the proposal, saying legislators should not be put in control of approving standards.
“It just throws it into a political arena and has people writing standards that don’t have a clue,” he has said.
Unified’s Haws has similarly questioned how legislators and board appointees with no educational backgrounds could set standards.
“Are the politicians able to say what a first-grader should know at the end of first grade in reading? They really think that they should legislate that?” she asked. “Or what the end of a biology course outcome should be? They probably would like to legislate some of that around some personal beliefs. But then what happens when the next party comes in and decides something else?”
State Sen. John Lehman, a Racine Democrat, said even though he’s been involved in educational issues for years, he would not be comfortable setting academic standards. He supports Common Core instead.
“To put legislators like myself in charge of writing educational standards is just a big mistake,” Lehman said. “That’s something that specialists need to do and folks that are involved in research and have an educational background.”
But Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who supports the proposed legislation, has said he believes the new board would be able to write standards without lawmakers having to step in. “I’m confident in the end you’re not going to have a debate topic by topic on the floor of the Legislature,” he has said.
For now, the legislation — comprised of a bill in the Senate and a bill amendment in the Assembly — waits in committees.
The Senate Education Committee has scheduled a Thursday public hearing on the bill. The Assembly amendment and its related bill have been referred to the Assembly Education Committee but no meetings or hearings are scheduled, according to the state Legislature calendar.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.