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August 7, 2015 - The Lingering Stench of False Education Reform: Updates from Wisconsin and Missouri


Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. -from Hamlet, William Shakespeare

...and in Missouri and Wisconsin and a whole lot of other states that oughta smell better.

Ridding ourselves of false education reform is an ugly, dirty, and generally thankless job...one akin to clearing out sewers. It must be done, but it was never going to be an easy proposition, a brief one...or a pleasant one. Despite the fact that numerous states across the nation have already attempted to extricate themselves from the detrimental triad that is Common Core, high-stakes assessments, and "accountability,"  we have yet to see one that has cleanly accomplished that end. The infrastructure that has been laid down over the years by educrats, politicians, and an array special interests is broad and deep. A tremendous amount of money and power retains a significant hold on that infrastructure. And we are still working to wake up enough people to achieve critical mass on issues and initiatives that could accomplish effective pushback and change. 

That is not to say we won't get there. At Resounding Books, we are committed to the challenge, and we are watching more people get on board every day. We trust that a sea change is coming, and that better things lie ahead. That said, it's important to take heed of what's happening in various states. Learning from the games being played or the pitfalls being experienced in one location may help us to similar issues, uncover related thorns, and navigate more efficiently in our own locales.

Last month, we shared with you an article highlighting the efforts of a cross-ideological group of 56 Wisconsin activists and organizations to boldly and very publicly call out Governor Walker for essentially playing both sides against the middle on Common Core. In particular, they took issue with his claim that his then-proposed 2015-2017 biennial budget would not just remove Wisonsin for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium but likewise repeal the Common Core standards. Shortly after the letter was published, the governor's 2015-2017 biennial budget was signed into law, and the validity of the concerns expressed by Wisconsin activists was confirmed. 

As it turned out, the State of Wisconsin is indeed proceeding with a request for bids (RFB) that seeks replacement assessments for the Smarter Balanced assessments. Email dialogue between Jeffrey D. Horn (Wisconsin activist and Common Ground on Common Core essayist) and Jeff Pertl, senior policy advisor for the state's Department of Public Instruction reveals that the new assessments will likewise be Common Core-aligned. So, all of Governor Walker's rhetoric about ridding his state of Common Core to the contrary, the state-mandated assessments will all still enforce the standards...and everything that goes along with them. 

Just as troublingly, buget langauge the governor vetoed in relationship to assessment mandates, has deeply confused citizens and press alike. While it has appeared to many that the governor undercut standardized assessment in Wisconsin and the DPI's authority over it, Horn's dialogue with Pertl also revealed that he did no such thing. The vetoed language essentially ensured only that the DPI's RFB for replacement assessments could proceed without alteration. 

Wisconsin, then, with Governor Walker's assistance, remains firmly in the grasp of the false reformers. To keep an eye on what's going on there, watch blog posts at Stop Common Core in Wisconsin.

In Missouri, another sort of debacle has been unfolding.

In a three-part series of articles over the past few days, Gretchen Logue, education activist and blogger at Missouri Education Watchdog has been filling readers in on various aspects of how Common Core not only became entrenched in her state, but also why the English Language Arts 6-12 Work Group will ultimately do nothing more than recommend warmed over Common Core standards to the State Board of Education in October of this year.

And Gretchen's not done. She's got part 4 on the way, which will further expose problems with how the work groups were funded in the first place. Interesting how money and the sources from whence it comes can make a difference, huh...?

We'd encourage our readers to read part 1, part 2, part 3, and whatever else Gretchen has to say. She's one of the most informed sources in her state and can provide some excellent clues as to stuff you may want to check out about what's unfolding where you are. 

Stay tuned. We'll do our best to keep you updated as other interesting stuff comes our way.