State education department opposes standards bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Revising academic standards every six years would create legal, technical and other issues that make a Republican-backed proposal to do that unworkable, an assistant state superintendent told the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday.

The testimony against the bill comes amid Republican criticism of the process used to implement Common Core academic standards currently in place covering math and English. The standards, in place in 45 states, were adopted in 2010 in Wisconsin by state Superintendent Tony Evers.

DPI didn’t do enough to engage the public and the Legislature before adopting the Common Core standards, said Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, who sponsored the bill.

“I don’t think the standards themselves are unconstitutional,” Knudson said. “I think the process for adopting the standards was deeply flawed.”

Knudson’s bill would require a review of academic standards every six years. The state Department of Public Instruction would also be charged with creating model academic standards in regular and advanced math, English, science, social studies and the arts.

Public hearings would be required in each of the state’s eight congressional districts and DPI would also have to appoint an advisory panel that includes parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, business officials and others.

Assistant state superintendent Sheila Briggs said Knudson’s bill was unworkable for several reasons. For one, she said many districts would not have fully implemented a set of standards in the classroom before the process of reviving them would begin. Additionally, some standards, including those for science and social studies, would be forced to wait years to begin the process, despite calls from teachers and administrators to update them now, Briggs said.

Briggs also raised concerns about the costs to school districts and about restricting DPI from addressing the needs of those schools as they arise.

“The thing we are most concerned about is having our hands tied,” Briggs said. “We want to be able to have the flexibility to respond to what’s happening in the world, what’s happening in the field.”

Committee chairman Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, urged DPI to work with lawmakers on improving the bill, saying there was a desire to make changes because of frustration over how the Common Core standards were adopted.

“I don’t think the public or the Legislature right now are comfortable with the status quo,” Kestell said.

The Republican-controlled Legislature has been studying the standards, and possible changes, for months. Tea party conservatives have called for the standards to be repealed, but there is no proposal to do that. A Senate committee planned to meet Thursday to vote on its own recommendations.

Another bill heard Wednesday by the Assembly committee would prohibit the collection of any biometric data, including scans of a student’s pupil, fingerprints, or hand or palm geometry. The standards do not require the taking of biometric data, but bill backers have said that because of rapidly evolving technology, they need to take action before any attempts are made to collect such data.

DPI also opposed that measure, saying that due to a lack of definitions in the bill, it could prohibit a broad range of activities at school, including taking a student’s blood pressure and administering medication as required by the student’s doctor.

“How school districts could even begin to anticipate getting parental permission for every student and every conceivable circumstance this bill would prohibit is mindboggling,” DPI’s lobbyist, Jennifer Kammerud, said in prepared testimony.

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