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Wisconsin education chief doubling down on failure

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 24, 2019

Madison — Wisconsin’s education chief says we have an “achievement gap crisis.”

Cue the scene in in “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” when Del Griffith suddenly gets it that he and fellow road-weary traveler Neal Page have been robbed.

“Do you think so?” Neal responds in a drippingly sarcastic voice.

Like Neal and Del, Wisconsin taxpayers have been robbed — by educrats peddling failed initiatives and programs in the state’s K-12 schools over the past generation-plus.

The difference is Del and Neal were only robbed once.

DPI Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, Gov. Tony Evers’ hand-picked successor, seems to want to double down on failure.

In her first State of Education address last week, Stanford Taylor said the record $570 million increase for K-12 schools in the current budget — on top of record spending in the previous biennium — is merely a “down payment” for educational equity in Wisconsin’s classroom.

“We have so much to be proud of, yet so much more to do,” the education chief said, spinning the numbers. She noted Wisconsin’s high graduation rates, ACT scores and advance placement rates compared to other states.

Average ACT scores in Wisconsin dropped from 19.7 in the 2017-18 school year to 19.5 in 2018-19.

Yes, there is a serious achievement gap. There has been a serious achievement gap for quite some time. In some cases, less than 10 percent of black students are testing at grade level or better in math, and in many cases less than one in five black students is proficient in English Language Arts. Hispanic students have seen achievement climb slightly, but that’s up from proficiency levels in the 20-percent- to 30-percent range.

But testing levels are down in a number of areas for white students, too. In fact, DPI’s educrats had to acknowledge that any slight narrowing in the achievement gap among white and black students is the result of white students not performing as well as the previous year.

Assembly Education Committee Chairman Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) told Empower Wisconsin last week that more money is not solving the problem. He has called for an investigation into educational practices that Thiesfeldt asserts have failed Wisconsin’s students, and are failing Wisconsin’s future.

But both Democrats and Republicans are on the hook for the record amount of spending dumped into an education system that is a long way from success.

What is the state of education in Wisconsin? It looks like doubling down on failure, based on what we heard last week from the DPI chief.

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