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A Conservative Case for Common Core

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Both Republicans and Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature have drafted measures aimed at reforming education in Wisconsin.

Republicans in the state assembly are calling for a bill that would transfer control of failing schools away from school districts, while Senate Republicans are considering a somewhat different accountability measure. Meanwhile, some Democrats are calling for new accountability standards for voucher schools. 

One thing that is not contained in any of those draft bills is language that would repeal Common Core standards that are in place in Wisconsin. That was a message delivered by Governor Scott Walker in the wake of his re-election in November, and reflects growing sentiment among many conservative politicians.

But there is also some pushback from other conservative analysts in the policy arena.

Robert Pondiscio says there’s nothing about Common Core standards that clashes with his values.

He is a senior fellow and vice president for external affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-of-center education policy think tank, and an advisor to a charter school network based in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood.

"The analogy that I always use is to compare education standards to auto safety standards," Pondiscio says. "If you're going to make a car you got to have certain specifications, you've got to build them to certain standards. But that says nothing about what kind of car you must drive, what kind of make, model, color, etcetera."

He says Common Core does not amount to a federal takeover of local schools' authority; rather, it sets benchmarks and gives states and schools autonomy to determine how to reach those benchmarks.

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.