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Tony Evers

Tony Evers, state superintendent of public instruction. 

Wisconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.

“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”

Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.

Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.

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Republican legislators have groused before about not being part of the decision to adopt Common Core, as have teachers. And state tea party groups have been trying for months to block their implementation. Walker’s abrupt repudiation of them should come as no surprise, according to a Cap Times report by Steven Elbow: it’s part of a concerted conservative campaign.