Tony Evers Discusses Common Core Debate

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Tony Evers Discusses Common Core Debate

Premiere Date: 
February 21, 2014

The state superintendent responds to some in the GOP that want to revisit the standards.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Turning to capitol news, what exactly is going on with the so-called Common Core Academic Standards in Wisconsin? Late this week, it looked like the assembly was rushing to approve a bill undoing the standards, only to call off a committee vote on the matter. The bill could lead to the repeal of the currant Common Core and give authority over writing new academic standards to the state legislature. Governor Scott Walker backs the move. The bill's author was unavailable to appear on tonight's program. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers calls the bill craziness. Thanks very much for being here.

Tony Evers:

Thank you for allowing me to be here.

Frederica Freyberg:

So why is it craziness?

Tony Evers:

Well, the sad part of it is our teachers and children have been working with the Common Core now for two or three years with pretty good success around the state. So it seems to me it's illogical at this point in time to say, well, no, let's stop it. That's exactly what this piece of legislation does. Frankly, it's a bit of a power grab, I'd say, to make sure that the legislators and legislature is in charge. And the author has promised that this will be the end of the Common Core.

Frederica Freyberg:

What would it do to students and teachers and districts who, as you say, have already been in the midst of implementing these standards for a couple of years at least?

Tony Evers:

Yeah.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what happens?

Tony Evers:

Well, it would be chaos, frankly. I mean, districts have been working hard to implement it and, as I mentioned before, with good success. So to send a message of, no, we're going to go a different direction, I think it has a potential of making us a laughingstock of the nation. We must persist. We must go forward. We must capitalize on the good work that's already been done.

Frederica Freyberg:

Aside from the academics of it, what about the cost efficiency of kind of starting over?

Tony Evers:

Well, it's horribly-- we would have to develop new tests. If there's a new set of standards, we would have to develop new tests to measure the success of our students on that. And that is multimillion dollars. That would be tens of millions of dollars that would need to be spent. And I haven't seen that kind of money come down the pike for some time. So I think it's just a major mistake. Clearly, it's done to be political. It politicizes the process. They appoint-- the governor and others appoint more members than me, so they're trying to marginalize my ability to lead the state in education. And so it's not good for our kids. That's the bottom line. It's not good for our kids. We're moving forward in a positive direction. It also is going to impact on the new teacher evaluation systems and the report cards, because all of them are tied together, that are based on Common Core standards in math, English, language arts.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, on the test that would align with the Common Core standards, I understand that the legislature and the governor approved of this test that is supposed to start next year.

Tony Evers:

Right. It's been in the budget for-- it was in the budget the last couple years, with specific reference to college and career-ready standards and funding the test. So clearly this isn't like a sneak attack that we've created this sneak attack here. We've been talking about it for years. I'm really disappointed we're at the point we are, where we're encouraging people to contact their legislators and let our teachers move forward with implementation.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, my understanding of Common Core standards is that they demand kind of more depth of learning?

Tony Evers:

Yes.

Frederica Freyberg:

And more advanced learning.

Tony Evers:

Yes.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, I understand that the governor says that he'd like even more stringent standards.

Tony Evers:

Right.

Frederica Freyberg:

Harder standards.

Tony Evers:

Yeah. I don't know what that means. I hear-- I've heard others besides the governor say that, too, and I asked the question, and no one can describe what higher means. What I take is during the testimony that was taken this last year, last fall, when they had committees going around the state getting input, math-- we have signatories from at least 100, 150 mathematicians and physicists and engineers across the state of Wisconsin in higher education saying these standards are high. This is where they should be. So to go from a place where academics are saying, they're good enough, to someone saying, they got to be higher. I just don't know how we can bridge that gap. It's something without a definition.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, one criticism I've heard is that the Common Core standards don't allow for enough kind of local district control?

Tony Evers:

Oh. Well, the standards are like a blueprint, and the local school districts are implementing it now. They have total control over the curriculum, the textbook. Many teachers are creating their own lessons that are aligned to the Common Core. I think the Common Core is going to allow us to really free up teachers to be as creative as they've always wanted to be.

Frederica Freyberg:

What are your hearing from districts across the state in the midst of this kind of confusion, potentially, over this?

Tony Evers:

Shock and awe, to be honest with you. We get comments and I know they're contacting their legislators. They just can't believe. This is unimaginable at this late date to have this happen. Not only am I saying that, but school districts across the state are saying that.

Frederica Freyberg:

Are some school districts saying, well, we’re going to sit tight and not move further on implementation?

Tony Evers:

I've heard this and heard others say, state be darned. We’re moving forward. But it just sends the wrong message that we don't know what we're doing here. I think we have a good plan. We're moving forward. I think that's where we should be.

Frederica Freyberg:

Have you consulted with any other states that might be going through the same kind of thing?

Tony Evers:

Well, yes. And this is not a Wisconsin-alone issue. I just read in Florida they made some changes with the Common Core. But even those changes they made weren't enough to satisfy, in that case it was the Tea Party, that said this is not enough. The only thing we'll settle for is complete repeal of the Common Core. That was Florida. I hear some of the same things here.

Frederica Freyberg:

Could we make some tweaks without fully repealing it, and would you be amenable to switching some things of concern to people?

Tony Evers:

It could be, but I've never had any person come up to me and say, you know, this standard right here on this page, I don't like it. It's too hard. So that's an abstract concept right now because it's more about federal intrusion, and all these other things that really have nothing to do with what's going on in the classroom.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Superintendent Tony Evers, thanks very much.

Tony Evers:

Thank you. 


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