Tony Evers On State Of Education, Common Core Standards

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Tony Evers On State Of Education, Common Core Standards

Premiere Date: 
September 27, 2013

The state superintendent discusses his speech this week, as well as Common Core standards.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Wisconsin Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers delivered his State of Education address this week. We catch up with him tonight by phone. And superintendent, thanks very much for being here. 

Tony Evers:

Thanks, Frederica, I'm glad to be with you. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, now, in your State of Education speech, you spoke to two pieces of policy of importance to you, namely accountability measures for private voucher schools, and Common Core curriculum standards. But first to the Common Core standards. I thought that the governor supported these. What happens in Wisconsin if he doesn't?  

Tony Evers:

Well, first of all, I'm not sure that-- I'm not sure where he's at on this. I mean, when the Read to Lead task force report came out, there seemed to be support on his behalf, but, you know, the politics of the world have changed since then, and so it's our goal to use the next few weeks to help people understand that the Common Core state standards are not weak by any stretch of the imagination. They're very rigorous and important, and the more they're messed with, the more chaos we're going to create in the lives of the kids. 

Frederica Freyberg:

What is good about them?  Just that they are more rigorous, you say?  

Tony Evers:

Well, not only more rigorous, but there's fewer of them. I mean, that was the absolute largest complaint about our present standards, before the Common Core, was that the curriculum and the standards themselves were a mile wide and an inch deep. I mean, now we're able to-- we're able to focus on the really important stuff, and teachers will actually be freed up to delve deeper into content and skills. And so it's a win-win for everybody. And the more frosting we add to this cake, the heavier it's going to get, and we'll be right back to where we were a couple years ago. 

Frederica Freyberg:

What are the politics, if I might ask, that are now causing people to kind of put the brakes on?  

Tony Evers:

Well, certainly, and I'm not a Tea Party member but I have opportunities to read some of their stuff, and they seem to be fixated on the fact that this is somehow some conspiracy out of Washington, DC. It's going to be similar to Obamacare. And they called Obamacore, just to kind of put that spin on it. So there's a lot of that, and frankly, I'm kind of saddened about that because I think, you know, that's taking it to a different level. It has nothing to do with the standards. I'll tell you flat out I never once had one person say to me, I don't like standard 27, or I don't like standard 35. It's been all around, what does this mean in the grand scheme of-- grand scheme of the world?

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, on accountability measures for private choice schools, that, too I thought was previously a shared priority. Now, apparently, it's kind of languishing. Why, in your mind, are those accountability measures important?  

Tony Evers:

Well, they're important because now we're embarking on this brave new world of having expanded vouchers, likely statewide, and it will take a lot of money to support that. And any money that those schools get are-- is money that our public schools don't. And so if you're receiving public money, I mean, it's a basic premise. If you're receiving public money, you should be part of the accountability system in a way that doesn't favor anybody, and I think that's really critical, not only for kind of the politics of it, but it's best for transparency for parents. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Very briefly, with less than a minute left, and sorry about that, but what is your number one priority for Wisconsin schools?  

Tony Evers:

Well, the number one priority continues to be a fair funding system, so that we're not in this position of every two years trying to figure out a way to jerry rig the system so that certain parts of the state get benefit over others. That, we have to fix. But I will tell you the Common Core state standards are critical to all the different transformation efforts we're looking at in the state of Wisconsin, so it's a two-piece part of the puzzle. 

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Tony Evers, thank you very much. 

Tony Evers:

Okay, Frederica, thank you.  


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