The report notes that Wisconsin’s education system needs to “double or triple current performance so that in the short term, 60 percent of students achieve at or above proficiency, and in the longer term 90 percent of students achieve at that level.”
Wisconsin suffers from what might be described as the “Lake Wobegone Syndrome.” Like the residents of Garrison Keillor’s mythical Minnesota burg, we believe our kids are all above average. Judged by some national standards, they are; judged by international standards; it’s not true at the K-12 level. Only after post-secondary education do American students begin to climb up the global proficiency scale.
If you’re looking for an ambitious mission statement, consider this pledge from the bipartisan Wisconsin School Finance Adequacy Initiative: “We will not simply propose adding new dollars on top of current dollars, but propose a complete new reuse of all dollars – first those currently in the (K-12 public school) system, and then any additional dollars if that is the finding of the adequacy analysis.”
In other words, this blue-ribbon panel won’t be satisfied with recommending more of the same when it comes to public education in Wisconsin, unless “more of the same” is producing tangible dividends for students, their communities and the overall economy.
Now halfway through its study of Wisconsin public schools, the 26-member task force led by UW-Madison Professor Allen Odden is trying to live up to its promise to scrutinize current spending levels and to adjust them up, down – or even out – based on empirical evidence of what works and what does not.