The Assembly passed SB 95 early Friday morning, a somewhat controversial bill that affects several different aspects of educational reform in Wisconsin. The most discussed aspect of this legislation is a provision that allows standardized testing results to play a factor – but not the sole motivation – for evaluating and disciplining public school teachers.
This legislation is an effort to tie teacher evaluations to the performance of their students. This is something that was a large part of the past two Race to the Top applicationss that the state’s local educating authorities had balked at previously, in part due to the ineffectiveness of the WKCE and its inability to gauge an educator’s influence. This bill attempts to reconcile the spirit of that federal program with Wisconsin’s flawed testing process. Though low test scores could not be the sole reason to discharge, suspend, discipline, or lead to the nonrenewal of a teacher’s contract, they would play a role in human resources and accountability statewide.
While this legislation turns over a new page in educator accountability, critics have pointed to the failures of the WKCE to rally against SB 95. The state’s standardized test is woefully ineffective in displaying a teacher’s impact in the classroom. The exam is given once a year, in October, and reflects little of what a teacher can imprint on his or her students over the course of a full school year. Without value-added data, it is difficult to glean much meaningful information on educators through the WKCE.
Several other reforms were included in the bill. This includes:
- A provision that will allow varsity athletes to earn partial physical education credits in high school.
- A law that will allow schools to pick and choose which grades to apply Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) grants to for financial reasons.
- Stipulations that allow school boards to refuse enrollment to a pupil that has been expelled from a public school in another state or a Wisconsin charter school.
- Eliminating the 200-day cap on the amount of days a teacher can teach in Milwaukee.
In all, the bill will act as a catch-all to implement some smaller reforms and introduce measures that will help schools work with other statewide programs.