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Common Bore: WI Democrats question education standard hearings

By   /   October 4, 2013  /   6 Comments

By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — If you dare question the Common Core State Standards developed by a handful of people, mostly in secret, without much public input — well, you’re a conspiracy theorist. That’s according to Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, anyway.

At the first of four scheduled public hearings on Common Core standards, Lehman called people in the audience “conspiracy theorists,” the hearing itself “crazy” and “a show” and asked, “What are we doing here?”

KOOKS: Sen. John Lehman insults dozens of Common Core opponents at first public hearing on educational standards

KOOKS: Sen. John Lehman insults dozens of Common Core opponents at first public hearing on educational standards

His fellow Democrats on the Assembly and Senate Common Core select committees seemed to agree. Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, asked the same question.

After all, “conservatives supported No Child Left Behind,” she said, to a roomful of “no’s” from the crowd, agitated by the slight.

NCLB was former President George Bush’s education overhaul that passed on a bi-partisan basis in Congress. The law expanded federal involvement in public education by requiring annual assessments, school report cards, teacher evaluation and student progress based on high stakes tests and funding changes.

Common Core critics, such as Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University, have called the new standards initiative NCLB on steroids.

“At some point we need to recognize the expertise of these people (at Department of Public Instruction) and let them do their jobs,” said Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Middleton.

Of course, these are the same bureaucrats at DPI that implemented the last set of standards that are supposedly holding down student achievement.

“It is right for the Legislature to review education standards that are being implemented in our schools,” said Senate committee chairman Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee in a statement. “What I am learning from the public is that we in Wisconsin want high standards and want our children to be challenged. We should always strive to do better.”

Indeed, the public packed the hearing room and spilled over into an overflow room. Lawmakers heard testimony for just over eight hours. Many school district administrators, educational bureaucrats and a few teachers turned out in support of Common Core. Opponents ranged from educators, concerned parents, tea party activists and experts who testified at the earlier information hearing, such as Karen Schroeder of Advocates for Academic Freedom, who said higher standards already exist for the state’s choosing.

For all the kookiness that Lehman heard from Wisconsin parents, educators and taxpayers opposed to Common Core, including student data mining and federal overreach into state education, some supporters said they had improved upon the standards in their school districts.

Administrators from Kettle Moraine School District testified their school board held public hearings on Common Core and the standards were well regarded.

Administrators also testified the school district deviates from Common Core in some areas like mathematics, where it teaches algebra in 8th grade. Administrators at other school districts, like Middleton Cross-Plains, said the same thing. They support the standards, but improve upon them in their schools.

Colin Butler, a Kettle-Moraine school board member, said although he “doesn’t want anything told to him from Madison or Washington,” he feels “we need a national standard to work toward.”

Still, he said the potential was there for data mining for commercial purposes in Common Core and urged DPI and the Legislature not to let that happen.

Although state Superintendent Tony Evers said school boards had the choice whether or not to adopt Common Core, former Baraboo school board member Scott Frostman said the implication was the district would lose money if it didn’t adopt the standards.

“We had no opportunity as school board members to discern or discuss the Common Core,” he said.

Edy Eastman, an elementary school teacher in the McFarland School District, asked the committee to scrap Common Core. Eastman said she has spent hundreds of hours reading the standards, writing and aligning curriculum to the standards “and yet I am here speaking against the Common Core.”

“Whoever mentioned earlier that teachers are afraid to (testify against Common Core), I can attest to that. I know many teachers in my district that come to me that know I will speak to what they feel,” she said.

Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action said the state can come up with its own standards.

“The Common Core is a simplistic solution to a complex issue,” she said. “One-size-fits-all standards are not in the best interest of Wisconsin kids.”

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Ryan Ekvall uncovers government waste, fraud and abuse for Wisconsin Reporter. His work has appeared at Reason, Fox News and Human Events.

  • Tagdogs

    Too many liberal or left leaning individuals involved in making the decisions for Common Core and their agenda is to dummy down our educational system. Uninformed, misinformed, low educated individuals are the people Democrats aim for when seeking votes for elections. If you don’t believe it, maybe you should watch some of the “on the spot” interviews done by the late night talk shows. Last night, a lot of people who voted for obama couldn’t even tell the interviewer what party he was aligned with. Ignorant people usually do what they are told instead of thinking for themselves, or vote for who promises them the most.

  • live4newlife

    Green Bay schools said (Sept 17th, Channel 11, 5pm, @ 5 minutes in) That once the CC standards for Teaching & Testing were in place – they would no longer have 3 failing schools.

  • kenvandoren

    Let the experts do it? Did not the experts give us New Math, Whole Language, School to WOrk and a bunch of other failed programs, including existing standards which proponents of CC now denigrate?

    In my experience, only 3 or 4 credentialed teachers make my top ten list of educators I have experienced. Almost all of the worst were in that category, however.

    And look at the results of homeschoolers who score on average at or near the 80th percentile. Their educators- the parents, are almost always NOT licensed teachers.

    Education is far to important to leave to the experts that have failed us for so long.

  • kenvandoren

    BTW, I used to think that Mr. Erpenbach was the most arrogant and rude butthead in our legislature. That still may be so, but Lehman is giving him a run for his money. Or is that OUR money?

  • darkwoods

    In the 40s and 50s, the US had the best education in the world by pretty much every standard.

    Then the federal government got involved in the 50s. In the 60s and 70s, by every comparison, US education fell heavily.

    More federal involvement in the 70s and 80s. The test scores fell again.

    Yet more federal oversight (since test scores were falling) in the 90s and 2000s. Test scores are still in the gutter.

    We have yet another amazing federal program promising to raise education standards in the 2010s. I think I can see what is going to happen.

    I think I see a common thread here.

    In 10 years, our kids will somehow learn less than they do now (which is shockingly little). Never doubt that American government can innovate. It can innovate kids right into stupidity. Even Stalin couldn’t do that anywhere near so completely.

  • Retired teacher

    To allow the federal government to gain control of curriculum to be used in public schools throughout the USA is to grant that government a propaganda tool of huge and dangerous potential. Beware, citizens, of condoning policy that you have not examined thoroughly and do not understand.

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