In an op-ed in the Des Moines Register, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) writes:
In 2011, we changed that broken system in Wisconsin. Today, the requirements for seniority and tenure are gone. Schools can hire based on merit and pay based on performance. That means they can keep the best and the brightest in the classroom.
Best of all, the reforms are working. Schools are better. Graduation rates are up. Third grade reading scores are higher. Wisconsin students now rank 2nd best in the country for ACT scores in states where more than half the students take the exam.
In addition to improving traditional public schools, like the ones my own sons attended, we increased the number of quality education choices all over Wisconsin. Over the past four years, we expanded the number of charter schools, lifted the limits on virtual schools and provided more help for families choosing to home school their children.
As virtually all GOP contenders but Jeb Bush do, he then takes a swing at Common Core. “Nationwide, we want high standards but we want them set by parents, educators and school board members at the local level. That is why I oppose Common Core. Money spent at the local and state level is more efficient, more effective and more accountable. That is why I support moving money out of Washington and sending it to states and schools. Students deserve a better education.” This is confusing since Common Core per se does not affect how and where money is coming from. It is Race to the Top that affords states money if they can show either through Common Core or other standards that they are setting high expectations for students. Wisconsin under Walker has been successful in collecting early education Race to the Top funds, and he has spoken favorably about use of the funds to further his education reforms. (Among GOP 2016 contenders, only Rick Perry rejected Race to the Top funding as governor.)
Walker and other reformist governors will rightly be touting their success with education reform, and I suspect there will be some spirited debate on which states have done the best. But here is the problem: How can governors of states that have adopted Common Core simultaneously argue 1) it’s awful and 2) their record — with Common Core in place — is terrific? Wisconsin has had Common Core in place for years, as the state education Web site shows:
In 2010, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recognized the opportunity to define the knowledge and skills that will prepare students for the 21st century workplace and will ensure students are truly college and career ready.
Leveraging the expertise of educators across 48 states was crucial to developing strong standards that meet the needs of all students. Working with state partners on the implementation of the CCSS also helps us to learn from one another, share free resources, and support students as they move from state to state.
Since 2010, Wisconsin has begun to link this system of CCSS, instruction and assessment to school accountability measures, educator effectiveness, and accountability for pre-service educator preparation programs. The CCSS provide the foundation for all of these important systems statewide. Additionally, the CCSS provide a framework to Wisconsin educators for research-based instructional practices that will truly transform student learning.
A couple of years ago Walker started pushing the legislature to eliminate Common Core. He is one of many GOP governors to do an about-face.
As we have made clear, GOP candidates pander to misinformed voters when they paint Common Core as something that it is not. Indeed, Wisconsin’s department of education debunks a number of myths about Common Core. For example, it makes clear Common Core is not curriculum. (“They are a clear set of expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others decide how the CCSS are to be met. Teachers continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.”)
There may be good reasons why Common Core should not be used. But from the GOP contenders — including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who recently announced he’s going to dump Common Core — we have yet to hear one. Right now, they are simply telling the base what it wants to hear.
Walker’s press spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: Wednesday night I received this response from his PAC’s spokeswoman: “Governor Walker’s collective bargaining reforms in 2011 and his focus on reading in early grades have led to significant positive results for Wisconsin students. While Common Core was adopted before he came into office, he ended funding for the smarter balanced test and his budget repeals the requirement that schools use Common Core.” These are proposals for the budget, which has yet to be completed. It still is not clear why he objects to Common Core, which has not prevented the reforms he boasts about and has not limited how he spends education funds.