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November 6, 2009

Wisconsin Legislature Passes (47-46!) Education "Reform" Bills: Teachers Cannot Be Disciplined or Removed using Test Data


The Wisconsin Legislature passed a series of education reform bills designed to make the state compete for nearly $4.5 billion in federal stimulus money.
The Assembly voted 47 to 46 in favor of the reform bills around 3 a.m. on Friday morning after a long closed door meeting among Democrats. The Senate approved the measures earlier on Thursday.

The action came after President Barack Obama came to Madison on Wednesday to tout the Race to the Top grant program.

One of the bills would create a system to track student data from preschool through college. A second bill would tie teacher evaluation to student performance on standardized tests. Another bill would require all charter schools to be created under federal guidelines. The last bill would move grants awarded to Milwaukee Public Schools for student achievement to move from Department of Administration to Department of Public Instruction control.

The bills remove a prohibition in state law from using student test data to evaluate teachers.

Even with it removed, teachers could not be disciplined or removed based on student test scores. And the teacher evaluation process would have to be part of collective bargaining.
Republicans argued that means most schools won't even attempt to use the test data when evaluating teachers. Attempts by them to alter the bill were defeated by Democrats.
Senate Republicans expressed concern about the teacher evaluation portion, saying collective bargaining could become a hurdle to the Race to the Top guidelines and that teachers should also be disciplined or fired based on standardized testing results, not only rewarded.

"(Obama) said we have to be bold in holding people accountable for the achievement of our schools. Well, trust me, if we pass this legislation requiring mandatory negotiations we're not bold, we're a joke," said Sen. Luther Olson, R-Ripon.

Four education bills aimed at bolstering the state's application for federal Race to the Top funds were also moved through the Legislature. In the Assembly, passage of a bill allowing the use of student performance on standardized tests to be used in evaluating teachers. Republicans objected to the bill because they say it requires school districts to negotiate how the data is used in the teacher evaluations and would tie the hands of administrators who seek to discipline or dismiss poor performing teachers.

The bill barely passed the Assembly on a 47-46 vote.

The Assembly session wrapped up at about 4 a.m.

It will be interesting to see how these bills look, in terms of special interest influence, once Governor Doyle signs them. I do - possibly - like the student data tracking from preschool through college. Of course, the evaluations may be weak and the content may change rendering the results useless. We'll see.

In related news, Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak again raised the issue of evaluating math curriculum effectiveness via University of Wisconsin System entrance exam results and college placement at the 11/2/2009 Madison School Board meeting. This request has fallen on deaf ears within the MMSD Administration for some time. [Madison School Board Math Discussion 40MB mp3 audio (Documents and links).]

Posted by Jim Zellmer at November 6, 2009 8:24 AM
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