Friday, July 24, 2009


By Molly Peterson |

July 24 (Bloomberg) -- States barring the use of student- achievement data to help set teacher pay would be ineligible for $4.35 billion in education stimulus funds under guidelines proposed by President Barack Obama today.

The measure would disqualify states such as California, New York and Wisconsin from applying for the grants unless they change laws excluding student-performance data from evaluations of teachers and principals.

“In too many places we have no way, at least no good way, of distinguishing good teachers from bad ones,” Obama said at a news conference. The grants will go to states that “use data effectively to reward effective teachers, to support teachers who are struggling and, when necessary, to replace teachers who aren’t up to the job.”

Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who have long pressed for merit-pay programs that reward teachers for gains in student performance, unveiled the guidelines at a news conference today. Teachers unions oppose linking pay to pupil test scores, saying they aren’t an accurate measure of teacher effectiveness.

“In education for some reason, we’ve been scared to talk about excellence, we’ve been scared to reward excellence,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said today on a conference call with reporters. “I don’t understand that. We think that’s the foundation from which all reform can come.”

More Than Tests

The administration will work with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the two biggest U.S. teachers unions, to ensure standardized test scores are “just one part of a broader evaluation” of educators’ impact on student achievement, Obama said.

“But let me be clear: success should be judged by results, and data is a powerful tool to determine results,” he said.

While the proposed requirements don’t say which states would have to change their rules, Duncan has said California, New York and Wisconsin are among those with laws that create a “firewall” between student data and teacher evaluations.

“To somehow suggest that we should not link student achievement and teacher effectiveness, it’s like suggesting we judge a sports team without looking at the box score,” Duncan said in a June 8 speech in Washington. “I think that’s simply ridiculous.”

States that apply for funds should make student performance a “significant factor” in decisions about teachers’ and principals’ compensation and tenure, the administration said in its proposal.

Unions Encouraged

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and AFT President Randi Weingarten, who attended the briefing, said they were encouraged by Obama’s pledge to work with unions on the teacher-incentive guidelines.

“The era of teacher union-bashing was over today,” Weingarten said in an interview after the briefing.

Obama and Duncan “want to work with us, and not do things to us,” Van Roekel said. “A single test score just doesn’t measure what you do as a teacher.”

Among the other criteria for the stimulus grants are a commitment to developing common, nationwide academic standards; increasing the number of “highly effective” teachers and principals in high-poverty schools; and creating more “high quality” charter schools, according to the summary. The public has 30 days to comment.

The administration also wants to “challenge both districts and unions to make collective bargaining a tool for innovation instead of a barrier for reform,” Duncan said. “Adult dysfunction, in far too many places, has really been a barrier to student achievement.”

The Education Department said it plans to disburse the competitive stimulus funds in two phases, awarding the first round of grants early next year and the second by September 2010. States that fail to win grants in the first phase may reapply for the second phase, the agency said.

●●smf's 2¢: Not that it has anything to do with anything, but…

in last week's New Yorker there was a comedy article about Global Warming/Climate Change in Hell. Among the listed names for Satan (Beelzebub, Lucifer, etc.) is (AFT President) Randi Weingarten.

Bloomberg News – from which this story is pulled, is owned by New York Mayor, school takeover artist (currently engaged in a fight over who controls the NYC schools with the legislature in Albany – itself engaged in its own battle on who controls the legislature in Albany) and all-around billionaire (worth$16B) Michael Bloomberg.   Other billionaires with their own media outlets: Rupert Murdock and Silvio Berlusconi.

Bloomberg Quote: "If parents don't like the way I run the schools they can boo me at parades."

"Bloomy's" (what the NY Daily News calls him, sometimes prefixed with "Loony") attitude over this paltry $4.35 billion might be amusing.

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