Assembly Republicans to Pass Data Delay/Pause Bill

Saying they are responding to pressure from parents and teachers upset with the troubled roll-out of a new statewide test that students are taking this spring, Assembly Republicans will pass a bill (Senate Bill 67) next month ensuring the results aren’t used on school report cards or to evaluate teachers.

The announcement comes a month after the GOP-led Senate passed the bill with no opposition. The Assembly has been slower to act, leading to concerns and confusion among school officials.

The lead author in the Assembly Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) is a former school board member.

The Badger Exam is being given this spring to all public school students in grades 3-8, as well as students attending private schools using taxpayer-funded vouchers. Schools have until May 22 to complete the tests, which cover English and math.

Under the bill, expected to be passed May 13, there would be no school report cards in the fall with the test results. Test results would still be reported to comply with federal law, and would be available on the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) website, but could not be used to evaluate teachers as part of the state-required educator effectiveness initiative.

The exam has provoked widespread consternation from parents and schools because of implementation problems that led to delays in administering the test, as well as a writing portion of the language arts section being deleted and a key interactive feature being dropped because it didn’t work correctly.

“This rollout has been a complete disaster, unlike anything we’ve seen since ‘Obamacare,'” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said.

Lawmakers are talking with Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel about possible legal remedies the state has so it does not have to pay any more money for the tests, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said.

So far, the state has paid about $1.2 million of $2.7 million expected to be owed to the California-based Smarter Balanced testing consortium, which developed questions for the test. The state has halted payments and is seeking a reduction in what has been spent already, said Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy.

Wisconsin was set to owe another $8.8 million to New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service, which holds the contract to provide the test, but has not yet paid anything, McCarthy said.

Scores were expected to be lower than they had been in previous years because the test is tied to the more rigorous Common Core academic standards. That, along with the implementation problems, has raised concerns about how the results would be viewed and used.

Gov. Scott Walker proposed dropping the test after this year and moving to a new one.

Because the test likely will only be in use one year, support has coalesced around not issuing a report card with the results. Groups that typically don’t align on education issues — including state superintendent Tony Evers, school choice advocates and public schools — agree the results should not be used this year.

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) who is chairman of the Assembly’s Education Committee, says he also was considering adding an amendment to the bill to clarify in state law that any student who does not want to take the test can opt out.