Where’s That Dutch Kid?

July 28, 2009 | Blog

Gotham Schools reports that some in New York State don’t believe that the state’s law that restricts student assessment data from being used in teacher tenure decisions will hamper the state from securing Race To The Top funding. Is this just wishful thinking or is this whole issue being oversimplified by proposed federal RTTT regulations?

New York State’s tenure law, passed last year under pressure from teachers unions, says student test score data can’t be the sole determinant of whether a teacher gets tenure. But three top officials — teachers union president Randi Weingarten, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, and incoming State Education Commissioner David Steiner — are arguing that the law will not disqualify New York from the fund.

“It is our firm belief that the language of Race to the Top funding does not preclude New York,” Steiner said today. “New York has a law on the books that relates strictly to tenure.”

Weingarten noted that a second section of the same law explicitly requires teachers’ annual evaluations, which take place even after they receive tenure, to be based in part on how they use test score data to improve their instruction.

“The way in which teachers use data in their classroom instruction is specifically included in the definition of what confers tenure onto a classroom teacher,” she said. ”How teachers use data is one of the criteria for getting tenure. Just not the data in and of itself.”

NY UPDATE: Charlie Barone says BS.

Likewise, in Wisconsin — another state singled out by Education Secretary Arne Duncan for having a “ridiculous” law that restricts the use of student assessment data in teacher evaluations — the Governor’s office says that the law only applies to data from the state assessment. Assumedly, other assessment data could be used instead, although that creates costs and logistical hurdles for school districts, some very small. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

According to Chapter 118.30(2)(c) of the Wisconsin State Statutes, “the results of examinations to pupils enrolled in public schools, including charter schools, may not be used to evaluate teacher performance, to discharge, suspend or formally discipline a teacher, or as the reason for the nonrenewal of a teacher’s contract.”

By Friday afternoon, state Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and Rep. Brett Davis (R-Oregon) had announced plans to introduce legislation that would change Chapter 118.30(2)(c) to eliminate the prohibition on using state testing in teacher evaluations.

But according to Gov. Jim Doyle’s office, the Wisconsin statute is not at odds with the state’s Race to the Top eligibility.

“Our reading of the current law is that it only prohibits the use of the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination) in evaluating teachers, and that other student assessments may be used to evaluate teachers,” said Lee Sensenbrenner, a spokesman for Doyle’s office.

Sensenbrenner said the governor will be putting together a comprehensive application for the Race to the Top competition that puts the state in a position to succeed.

As part of that, he said, the state would “review the existing law to see if any changes need to be made to strengthen our competitive position.”

UPDATE: On Teacher Beat, Stephen Sawchuk has a pithy update on this issue — and the pleadings of California, New York and Wisconsin about how this really isn’t a problem. Really, it isn’t!

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