In the middle of controversy and skepticism surrounding Common Core State Standards and voucher schools, State Superintendent Tony Evers said he was in favor of the standards and of private schools with taxpayer funds being held to those standards.
“We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them,” Evers said in his state of education speech Thursday. “To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state.”
Wisconsin adopted the Common Core State Standards as the state’s primary mathematics and English standards in 2010, with help from teachers, curriculum experts, parents and community leaders, according to the Department of Public Instruction.
Wisconsin is also participating in a multi-state project to develop new common standards for science, led by the National Research Council, according to DPI.
The standards provide rigorous goals for teaching and learning, and such high standards should serve as benchmarks for what students should have learned at a given grade level, according to DPI.
Evers said in his address the standards provide targets of learning for each grade level so students can be more unified in their learning.
“After all, public education is the great equalizer,” Evers said.
Although Evers is in favor, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, announced plans to create an Assembly committee to address the Common Core Standards and provide recommendations on future implementation.
Committee members will include former educator Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, as the committee chair, and five Republican and three Democratic representatives.
Vos added in a statement the committee will hold public hearings to enable a conversation about what standards should be taught in schools.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, also announced a Senate committee on Common Core Standards, which he called “an issue that deserve an in-depth review,” in a statement.
After Gov. Scott Walker called for public hearings on Common Core Standards, Wisconsin Family Action, a nonprofit organization working to promote conservative family and marital values, released a statement saying an informational hearing held earlier this year on the standards left the organization and the public with questions.
“The time has come for these public hearings to be held,” Julaine Appling, WFA president, said in the statement. “The budget calls for them and they have not been scheduled. The public is asking for answers to questions.”
Private schools participating in voucher programs should also be held accountable for their performance if they are receiving taxpayer dollars, Evers added.
“It’s time for private schools that enroll students using taxpayer-funded vouchers to be held to the same performance measures as public schools,” Evers said.
In addition to addressing the controversial issues, Evers said he was concerned about the dropout rate for minority students statewide.
According to Evers, one-fourth of Hispanic and Native American students and one-third of African-American students drop out every year.
Despite the dropout rates, Evers said he was pleased Wisconsin leads the Midwest in Advanced Placement tests, as well as ACT scores, with an average score of 22.1.