Sizing Up Education Action in Madison

Mike Ford:

Seems yesterday was a busy day at the State Capitol. Legislators tackled school choice, ACT testing, common core standards, and the use of data systems in school districts.
I’ll withhold any judgment about the supposed school choice deal because there appears to be a heck of a lot about it I don’t know. The biggest thing I’ve learned about school choice programs is that design matters. A lot. The boring specifics of funding and school and student eligibility are the difference between a program with a chance to succeed and one that is doomed to fail. This morning’s Journal Sentinel article is too vague to make a judgment on those specifics. But don’t worry, when it comes to school choice I am like Bob Seger and songs about the nostalgia of youth, I’ll eventually write about the issue whether it’s needed or not.
Joint Finance’s approval of universal ACT testing is great news. I ‘ve been arguing since 2011 that the ACT suite of tests is a simple way to give students and teachers comparable student performance data that can be used to aid instruction and measure Wisconsin student performance against other states. It’s a no-brainer.
I find the vote to delay the implementation of thecommon core standards a bit more perplexing. I support local control but wonder if having national standards regarding what students ought to know is an infringement on local control. Districts would still have the freedom to teach how and what they want, just with the expectation that students will be proficient in certain subject manner at certain times. I guess I am ambivalent about the common core, I don’t think it will dramatically improve our nation’s education system, but nor do I find it a significant threat.