|Carolyn Stanford Taylor is Wisconsin’s State Superintendent
Committed to Children
Carolyn Stanford Taylor, Wisconsin’s first African American
State Superintendent of Education has been focused on
academic education for all children for more than 40 years.
response intervention, disproportionality, and technical assistance. That’s the work that we were doing with Glenn Singleton and some of the other people around
equity. And then I had the student services, prevention and wellness team, which involved social workers, psychologists and counselors, those professional
folks. We had a lot of prevention grants on issues like bullying and harassment, all those that center around the whole child, social and emotional learning skills,
mental health work, after school programs, community learning centers, all of that. And then we also had the State School for the Blind in Janesville and the State
School for the Deaf in Delavan.”
At first, Stanford Taylor had an Equity team, but then Superintendent Tony Evers came to believe that it was everyone’s responsibility to promote equity. Evers
created an internal initiative to promote equity work across the department.
“We created some courses,” Stanford Taylor said. “One is called ‘Embracing the Equity.’ And Tony had the wherewithal to say, ‘This will be a requirement for
anyone who is seeking employment with this agency.’ So we had all of our existing staff go through that course. And we have on-boarding so that any new staff
who comes on board also has to take the Embracing the Equity course. We also created a tool kit for all of our teams to use. It asks certain questions around the
work. And one of the critical questions is around impact, not just what impact you are seeking, but also is there a negative impact around whatever it is that you
are implementing. We do a lot of work around policy. And if you are creating policy, who is being negatively impacted by the policy that you are creating?”
And in order to really work on equity issues, DPI learned that they must disaggregate the data of student achievement in order to determine which subgroups aren’t
doing well and then plan policy around helping those groups achieve.
“You find subpopulations of kids who are not doing as well like our English learners, our kids with disabilities, our low-income kids and our kids of color,” Stanford
Taylor said. “They aren’t faring as well and that is where we have to focus our attention. So when we talk about our equity agenda, we are going to be looking at all
of the work that we are doing internally here and figuring out how we impact this so that when we work with the districts, CESAs and other educational
organizations, that we also have them accountable.”
Stanford Taylor also feels that DPI also needs to assist educators in ensuring that their work is relevant and effective with all populations of students.
“We have not competently developed our educators to understand many of our kids,” Stanford Taylor said. “Our educators come to us with their own lived
experience. What they know is what they have lived. Often there are others who experienced other communities and cultures and bring that with them. It is
incumbent on us to provide resources and professional development for our educators so that they are more culturally aware. And that shows up in the classroom.
One of the biggest things is relationships are important. That’s huge. When you start to build a community in the classroom and school and everyone feels a part of
that community that they have a voice in what is happening in their classroom and in their school, they take ownership of their own learning and they have an
opportunity to engage in learning that fits their learning styles.”
As Superintendent Evers was developing the 2019-2020 biennial budget with Stanford Taylor and other assistant superintendents, they focused on the fact that
public education had been suffering financially for years and wanted to restore some of the funding.
Part 3 of 3
By Jonathan Gramling
By Jonathan Gramling
It’s been a long and incredible journey for Carolyn Stanford Taylor, from the Mississippi Delta to
becoming the Wisconsin State Superintendent of Education, the first African American to hold
the position. It is an honor well-deserved, earned by a lifetime of dedication to educating
Madison’s and then Wisconsin’s children.
When Stanford Taylor was named an assistant state superintendent at the WI Dept. of Public
Instruction by Elizabeth Burmaster, she was placed where she could have an impact on student
success as the head of the Division of Learning Support.
“My division had two Madison-based teams,” Stanford Taylor said. “One was special education
and that’s all categories of disabilities plus we had discretionary grants that we would work
with districts around like parent involvement, autism, you name it. We did lots of outreach on
“We are calling it an equity budget because we are looking at a lot of issues
that happen around the concept in our large urban and our rural districts,”
Stanford Taylor said. “We are figuring out what the needs are and how we
address those needs. And we know that in many of our schools, they don’t
have the personnel to work with some of the mental health issues that some
students present with. We’re talking about getting more social workers, more
psychologists, nurses and counselors. There is an item in the budget for that.
There also is an item in the budget that talks about the learning time for
students in and out of the school day. Before we had community learning
centers, which we still have. But there isn’t enough funding for the number of
districts that would like to have programs. That is federal money, but we are
asking for state money. Let’s support these programs that have proven to be
influential in helping kids by exposing them to enrichment activities and
basically keep them out of the unstructured time where they are free to do
things that may get them into trouble. We’ve asked for those programs.”
It is now Stanford Taylor’s responsibility to shepherd the department’s budget
through the legislative process.
“What we are doing is starting to be proactive,” Stanford Taylor said. “I’m
setting meetings up with legislators to just introduce myself and let them hear
from me what my agenda is. I’m passionate around education. I think there
are more things that we have in common than not. I want to start that
dialogue. I’m optimistic about where we are going because we’ve got Tony in
as governor. And I know all of the things that have happened in terms of the
power of the governor and all of that. But having worked with Tony for the last
17-18 years, I know that he is genuine when he says, ‘I want to work across
the aisle.’ And I know he will be extending his hand at every opportunity. I
look forward to that. I think for us as an agency, we will have greater access
to collaborations. In the past, there has been an Early Childhood Council that
was chaired by the secretary of the WI Dept. of Children & Families and the
superintendent. I look forward to that because I think we can deepen those
relationships and we can move on providing resources that our earliest
Stanford Taylor was appointed to fill Evers term as state superintendent, a
term that ends in 2021.
“I think I will know what my plans are after the first year,” Stanford Taylor
said. “I’m not ruling out a run. I need time to assess where we are and the
impact that I am able to make at the agency. I know we have done great
things over the last 17-18 years since I’ve been here. I’m excited about the
future, so there is a possibility that I will run.”
Carolyn Stanford Taylor has made a huge impact in the lives of Wisconsin’s
school children for the past 17-18 years. That impact will only grow as
Wisconsin’s first African American state superintendent for education.