Supporters defend Wis. Common Core standards

  • Article by: TODD RICHMOND
  • Associated Press
  • October 3, 2013 - 5:55 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin's Common Core academic standards don't force school districts to give up control of their curriculum or instruction methods, the standards' supporters told a pair of Republican committees studying whether to change the requirements on Thursday.

Criticism of the standards has been mounting in recent months. Some conservatives fear the standards set a national curriculum and will result in student data ending up in the federal government's hands.

Dozens of people packed a state Capitol hearing room Thursday for the first of the committees' four planned listening sessions on the standards this month. State superintendent Tony Evers told the panels that Common Core promotes complex thinking in students and prepares them for college and employers' expectations.

Local school districts remain free to implement the curriculum, textbooks and other methods to attain the standards, he said.

"Common Core standards are a serious step forward for Wisconsin," he said.

He said the federal government didn't coerce him into adopting the standards, drawing a "Ha!" from someone in the audience.

"Please protect our state autonomy and our state's history of local control of schools by assuring that citizens will retain the freedom to choose the best curricula," said Karen Schroeder, president of Advocates for Academic Freedom. The Rice Lake-based organization advocates for local education control and curriculums that fit with the founding fathers' beliefs.

Common Core, a set of voluntary national standards for math and English, replace a patchwork of education goals that have varied from state to state. The federal government was not involved in developing them but has encouraged states to adopt them under its "Race to the Top" grant competition. Forty-five states have adopted them. Wisconsin was one of the first, adopting Common Core in 2010.

Republicans have started a national movement to dismantle the standards. The Republican National Committee in April adopted a resolution calling the standards an inappropriate overreach. Movements to slow the standards down began in nearly a dozen states this year. Some Democrats have also criticized the standards.

Tea party members sent Wisconsin lawmakers a letter calling for an investigation into the standards. Republicans who control the Legislature responded by creating Senate and Assembly study committees. Republican Gov. Scott Walker has weighed in as well, saying he wants to see tougher standards than Common Core.

School superintendents and principals praised the Common Core standards at a news conference ahead of the hearing.

"They're about what our kids need," said West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Neitzke.

Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, a member of the Assembly study committee, began the hearing by saying the public wasn't consulted before Evers adopted the standards and saying the requirements are too weak.

Opponents shook their heads as Evers said that Common Core doesn't infringe on local control. A school district could decide to teach pre-calculus to kindergartners or first-graders if it wanted, he said.

Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Cross Plains, said the Common Core is a starting point, not a federal mandate. But Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwtosa, called the standards an entry point for the federal government to take over state-level curriculums.

Edward Perkins of Appleton, leader of the Fox Valley Initiative, a tea party group, showed up with a sticker on his lapel that showed the words "Common Core" crossed out. He told the committees that engineering experts didn't give any input when Common Core was developed, an omission that will lead to the end of the United States' technological dominance.

"It will practically destroy us as a technology-leading society," Perkins said.

The committees plan to hold three more joint hearings in Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Wausau this month.

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