This weekend, news broke that Wisconsin may not be eligible for certain federal education funds because of an interesting law on the state’s books. Under Wisconsin law, teacher pay cannot be influenced in any way by student test results – meaning, the amount we pay teachers are legally not allowed to have any relation to how much their students are learning. This may effect the state’s eligibility for $4.3 billion in federal “Race to the Top funds,” which will be distributed to the states “with positive records of what the [education] department considers school reform as well as plans for additional improvement.”
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.”
Laws such as these that provide a firewall between teachers and student performance recently came under fire by President Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan. In an interview with the New York Times, Duncan specifically singled out Wisconsin for having such a law on the books:
“Believe it or not,” Mr. Duncan said, “several states, including New York, Wisconsin and California, have laws that create a firewall between students and teacher data. I think that’s simply ridiculous. We need to know what is and is not working and why.”
In fact, this issue was the subject of a WPRI report released in May by researchers Mark C. Schug Ph.D. and M. Scott Niederjohn Ph.D. Among their research and recommendations two months ago:
These effects can serve as measures of performance in performance-based compensation programs. To the extent that value-added testing does provide valid and reliable measures of performance, the argument for traditional salary schedules is nullified…
As indicated in our survey, many Wisconsin school districts have moved to embrace new trends in testing. Nonetheless, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has been slow in providing leadership in this regard. While the DPI has taken some positive initial steps toward a statewide value-added assessment system-including the development of a statewide data system, working with outside consultants to consider growth-oriented models and forming a technical advisory committee-Wisconsin lags behind many states in the implementation of new value-added testing methodologies. Wisconsin is far behind in experiments regarding pay-for-performance for teachers.
The state Legislature should act now to abolish statutory provisions that disallow the use of results from state testing in teacher evaluation. At a time when many districts have begun to use testing programs that go beyond the WKCE-CR, it makes little sense to prohibit them from taking into account the information they obtain from these programs in their evaluations of teachers’ effectiveness.
Of course, NOW people will start to listen, since there’s a dollar sign attached to the recommendations.
As it turns out, State Senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and State Representative Brett Davis (R-Oregon) are drafting legislation to allow the use of student testing data when determining teacher pay. They believe such a change could mean up to $612 million more in federal funds for Wisconsin.
Governor Doyle, on the other hand, believes the state already qualifies for the funds – despite being called “ridiculous” by the guy actually handing out the cash.