Dr. Tony Evers: Steady Leadership for Wisconsin Students
State Superintendent Evers took office in July 2009 and is the longest-serving chief state education official in the country. His vision is for every Wisconsin student to graduate college and career ready. The department is guided by his mission to achieve educational equity, which is the act of ensuring every student has access to the resources and educational rigor they need at the right moment in their education, across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, family background, and/or family income.
A few selected highlights from his administration include
Prioritizing the Mental Health Needs of Kids
One in five students in Wisconsin has mental health needs. Working in collaborative and bipartisan fashion, Evers secured a needed state investment to support the mental health needs of kids with funding directed to increasing the number of trained professionals in schools and more funding for mental health training and cross-sector collaboration. (2017)
Bringing Educational Equity to the National and State Forefront
Evers served as President of CCSSO from Nov 2015-Nov 2016 and in his tenure, worked to focus the national conversation more squarely on educational equity, resulting in Leading for Equity: Opportunities for State Education Chiefs. (2016)
Growing Academic and Career Planning
In 2013, through Act 20, Wisconsin Statute 115.28(59) allocated $1.1 million dollars of General Purpose Revenue (GPR) for 2014-15 in a new continuing appropriation by the legislature for implementing academic and career planning for all students in grades 6-12 statewide. By 2017, this cross-sector work further yielded a highly competitive $2 million public/private JP Morgan Chase grant to launch the New Skills for Youth effort in Wisconsin, resulting in Pathways Wisconsin, a Wisconsin approach to career exploration through state-approved pathways.
Bringing Meaningful Summer Learning to Our Largest District
In 2015, Evers worked with leaders in Milwaukee to examine data on summer school participation and set ambitious goals to increase summer learning. Hot Summer Milwaukee, a joint effort between city, county, education and state officials launched in 2016. Since then, school and community leaders across sectors have come together to advance policies and practices that support increased opportunity. From 2017-2018, Hot Summer Milwaukee saw an overall 11 percent increase in enrollment of summer programming and a 28 percent increase at the high school level.
Giving Every Wisconsin Student a Chance at the ACT
As Wisconsin adopted high and clear standards for English language arts and mathematics in 2010, Evers turned attention toward the number and quality of the high stakes test Wisconsin students take. DPI worked with education stakeholders and members of the legislature to move to a statewide administration of the ACT exam, effectively reducing the number of large-scale assessments given to high school students in Wisconsin. Wisconsin had its first statewide administration of the ACT in 2015 and ensured that more Wisconsin kids than ever before had the opportunity to sit for a college entrance exam. Wisconsin remains a national leader in ACT scores.
Growing participation in Advanced Placement Exams
As part of Evers’ effort to ensure every Wisconsin student is prepared for college and career, Evers advocated for more support for advanced placement coursework where students earn college credit. At this point, more students than ever before are taking and passing AP exams, and more school districts are offering AP courses than 10 years ago. Students from low-income families and underrepresented student subgroups are taking more AP courses and exams than ever before, and are passing at higher rates.
Signing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with Sovereign Tribal Nations
Wisconsin has 13 federally recognized tribal nations within its borders and Evers has a long-standing commitment to our shared work on behalf of students. In service to this, Evers has worked with the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council and the federally recognized tribal nations in Wisconsin to begin an MOU process with each tribal nation to outline the respected and trusted working partnership we seek to establish and grow with each sovereign nation. The first was signed in May of 2018 in Lac du Flambeau. Each MOU will establish a working agreement and demonstrate a shared commitment to kids.
Establishing A Collaborative Approach to Academic Standards Revision
In consult with education and community stakeholders, Evers created a transparent, highly collaborative and accountable state council to monitor the review and revisions of state academic standards. The new system provides the public multiple opportunities to provide written and oral feedback to the proposed standards and institutes a predictable timeline for standards revision. (2016)
Preventing Damaging Legislation for Wisconsin Students
Through a tumultuous time in the state and federal education sector, Evers has remained consistent to the values he brought to DPI: a commitment to each and every student, regardless of condition, a belief in strong local leadership through locally elected school boards and a commitment to finding solutions through partnership and problem-solving. Guided by these values, Evers has successfully worked to voice opposition and effectively prevent many damaging and divisive education policies such as the transgender “bathroom bill,” unnecessary legislative oversight of academic standards, and overwrought and limiting local referenda laws.
Building Sparsity Aid for Rural Districts
Sparsity aid was enacted based on recommendations from the State Superintendent’s Rural Schools Advisory Council. The council stressed that declining enrollment and escalating fixed costs along with the lack of economies of scale were issues that put added pressure on small, sparsely populated districts. Since then, hundreds of school districts have benefitted from this important funding for rural communities.