Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Holding our schools to a higher standard

At least the state DPI race is being fought over the issues, albeit a trifle one-sided. Candidate Rose Fernandez is challenging the educational establishment again, this time over standards:

There is no doubt that Wisconsin has some great public schools. But without solid standards and the ability to accurately measure student performance we will never know just how good our schools really are.

A recent study issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute evaluated states’ academic standards and found that Wisconsin’s standards were among the lowest in the country.

That’s not acceptable and it’s time for a change.

President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has called for states to adopt academic standards that are more rigorous and comparable with those of other leading nations.

I agree. And as your State Superintendent I will see to it that Wisconsin does just that.

Presently, there are vast differences between Wisconsin’s model academic standards in core areas and those in states like Massachusetts and Virginia. There, the standards have both clear objectives and tangible expectations for each grade or two-year intervals.

Unfortunately, too often, Wisconsin’s standards are neither as rigorous nor tangible; and the state merely measures performance standards in fourth, eighth and twelfth grades.

Here’s just one example of the problem: The math standards in Massachusetts expect a child in the first or second grade to find the value of combinations of coins and dollar bills up to $5. In Virginia the first grade standard is to do the same for a dollar bill.

In Wisconsin, we challenge fourth graders to master change combinations up to thirty cents.

Here's her plan:

In my first 100 days as State Superintendent, I will bring together teachers, parents and employers to begin the process of having new, rigorous and tangible academic standards in place by 2010.

This debate is not about federal or state education mandates. Rather, I believe DPI should provide model standards from which local districts can build their expectations for the students within their schools.

We also need to improve the state’s assessment system at the same time as our standards are upgraded.

It’s time for a change.

I will bring the parents, teachers, employers and education leaders from around the state together to build a set of standards that are understandable, tangible, rigorous and realistic.

Teachers deserve to have concrete, understandable expectations and our students deserve to be challenged to excel and have their success measured honestly.

In other news in the race, State DPI official Jeff Dickert told WTAQ-AM’s Jerry Bader yesterday he realizes he was wrong to send out an invitation to a Tony Evers fundraiser using his state government e-mail account. He contacted the state Government Accountability Board, claims it’s a “self-referral” (even though CRG Network filed a complaint) and also claims that he would have sent the same type of e-mail for Rose Fernandez (hilarious).

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this lest I be accused of letting the issue “consume” me* but I’m just fascinated with how someone will turn themselves in to the state Government Accountability Board. Will his lawyer block the cameras with legal papers? Will Dickert pull his coat over his head as he walks into the state GAB offices? Oh, that’s right. There won’t be any cameras there. No newspapers. Good thing conservative bloggers and talk radio are covering the story.

* For an English teacher, Jay Bullock of the center square has real trouble with English.