MacIver News Service – Wisconsin’s reluctance to tie student performance to teacher evaluations, and the lack of cooperation from local teacher union leaders have cost the state perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in one-time federal education grant money.
Today we know a little more about why Wisconsin failed to make the first cut among applicants for nearly $2 billion in Federal “Race to the Top” education grants.
Applicants were judged on a 500-point scale that looked at the states’ commitment to improving teacher effectiveness, data systems, academic standards and low-performing schools.
Wisconsin scored a 341, which ranked 26th among the 41 applicants
Why didn’t Wisconsin make the cut? Wisconsin lost points in the area of improving student outcomes, noting specifically the racial achievement gap–the disparity between the performance of students of color and their white peers.
Wisconsin also lost points for its failure to fully implement a longitudinal data system, but the biggest knock against Wisconsin, according to the reviewers’ comments, was improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance.
“How the plan will deal with compensating, promoting and retaining principals and teachers is not clear nor is information regarding the granting of tenure and full certification or removing ineffective principals and teachers,” read the official comment of a grant reviewer.
Another reviewer noted that “teacher union support for RTTT [Race to the Top] at the local level [is] lacking.”
Clearly the reviewers were looking at how states tie teacher evaluation to the performance of their students. Wrote one:
“Partly because the application is vague about the nature of these evaluations and partly because the connection between evaluation and professional development appears so tenuous in this application, very limited credit can be given for the first element (D2iv.a.) of this criterion. The application does not address at all the use of evaluation results to compensate, promote or retain teachers and principals. There is no discussion of using evaluation results to make tenure or full certification decisions. There is no mention of how evaluation results might be used in removing ineffective teachers, nor what opportunities these teachers should be give to help them improve.”
These comments seem to confirm the fears of critics who warned that earlier efforts to reform Wisconsin law were tepid. They blamed WEAC, the state teachers’ union, for the failure to enact stronger measures.
As we reported in November:
Here is a link to the reviewers’ comments and scores for Wisconsin.
Tennessee (444.2) and Delaware (454.6) were the winners of this first round of the Race to the Top competition.
Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina were the other finalists.
You can read the applications from all the states, and read the reviewers’ comments here.
A roundup of MacIver’s previous coverage of this controversy can be found here.
We’ll continue to follow the “Race to the Top,” as the process for secondary grants unfolds in June. The states that did not win this round are free to reapply.