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Wisconsin legislative committee reviews concerns about the Common Core
THURSDAY, JANUARY 16, 2014 14:53 PM

Three bills addressing the primary concerns of Wisconsin's tea party groups over the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) recently faced evaluation by the State Assembly Education Committee. These concerns come as a surprise because the state's schools already use the Standards. The debate stems from people not understanding the focus and direction of the Standards despite the state's education department's attempts at clarifying the purpose of the CCSS.

Content of the bills
State governors and some of the nation's most respected education experts developed the Common Core State Standards in 2009. They hoped that an education that focused on complex math skills, advanced reading comprehension, and critical thinking and reasoning would create a better generation of workers. These skilled and intelligent workers would define the future of the U.S. economy by competing at the highest levels of international business, industry and technology.

The Assembly Select Common Core Standards Committee collected recommendations, statements, concerns and questions from numerous Standards-focused public hearings across Wisconsin in the fall of 2013. More than two dozen tea party groups participated in these public hearings and voiced their opinions. They believe that the Republican-controlled Legislature should make schools abandon the CCSS entirely. They also think that the Standards are not rigorous enough and were produced by profit-motivated corporations who want to control the direction of education in America.

Issues addressed
Two of the bills address privacy issues raised because of a potential biometric data collection policy. Parents expressed concern over the security of this information. They want to reserve the right of consent when it comes to sharing their students' information with contractors. Tea party members also believe that districts should not have access to biometric data such as fingerprints and retinal scans of students.

The bill also requests restricting the use of any device that assesses and collects data on a person's physiological and emotional state. Only the consent of a parent or guardian would give the district authority to gather such information. According to John Johnson, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction, limiting access to student information makes the department's job of meeting federal and state requirements more challenging.

"It limits academic research and ties the hands of locally elected school boards to provide services to their pupils," Johnson said in a statement.

The federal government has not expressed any interest in collecting student biometrics. In addition, the implementation or removal of the Standards in state schools rests solely in the authority of the Department of Public Instruction.