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Experts Discuss Education Standards in Milwaukee


Experts and officials from around the country gathered in Milwaukee this week, in part, to discuss educational standards and accountability. The panelists of the Governmental Research Association’s educational standards session were not afraid of accountability.

They included Superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District Phillip Ertl; Kirstin Pryor of the Center for Governmental Research; Trip Stallings, an educational researcher at North Carolina State University; and Deputy State Superintendent Michael Thompson. Each expressed an acceptance of oversight and even an enthusiasm for the motivational factor of “heat.”

When it comes to the source, extent and type of accountability, their views were more varied. “There’s locally elected school boards for a reason,” said Ertl. Stallings commented, “We couldn’t do without the federal role in education.” Thompson advocated for teacher control, and Pryor said she was torn on the issue.

Whatever the details, oversight is a hot topic in education right now since the Common Core Standards from the federal government is set to take effect soon. They’ll standardize what students should know by what age and assessment of that knowledge.

The panelists largely agreed much of outcry over the standards is founded on a misconception. “The Common Core Standards are not a curriculum. That happens at the local level. The instructional design to deliver the Common Core [is] at the local level, and the Common Core will, quite frankly, drive those type of instructional practices because they’re at a higher level, and they’re deeper,” Thompson said. He then joked, “Most people believe that Common Core, they don’t like it, because they’re going to put a chip in everybody’s neck – just a little one – and then track them around the world.”

Beyond standards, the panelists also offered creative attempts to improve education. Pryor voiced interest in emerging technology to meet individual student needs and close achievement gaps. Stallings praised attempts to make teachers like and stay in their jobs. Speaking about Wisconsin specifically, Ertl voiced his support for Act 10 and "choice within the public school system."

Thompson called for a paradigm shift. He said of varying participants in education, “Let’s assume they’re doing it right, and we’ll be surprised if we catch them doing it wrong. Personally, I have not met an educator, a principal, a superintendent who’s like, ‘We’re going to stick it to the kids.’”