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“Firewalls” Could Impact Other States’ Eligibility

Several states have lifted or eliminated caps on charter schools.

California isn’t the only state concerned about its eligibility for Race to the Top funding. Several states have lifted or even eliminated caps on charter schools after learning that the DOE would look with disfavor on states that had them, and as in California, officials in Wisconsin, New York and Nevada are considering what to do with their own state laws prohibiting the use of test data to evaluate teachers. Arne Duncan has referred to these laws as “a firewall between students and teacher data.”

Two Wisconsin lawmakers have announced that they will introduce legislation to change the law. “Wisconsin’s statutory barriers between student achievement data and teachers’ performance is now being ridiculed across the country,” said state Sen. Randy Hopper in a press release. “We must change these laws to make Wisconsin public schools competitive with other states.”

Gov. Jim Doyle is also proposing changes to the law as part of a series of education reform measures he hopes will better position Wisconsin to compete for Race to the Top funds.

New York’s law prohibits the use of test data in evaluations for tenure. According to The New York Times, Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state’s Board of Regents, believes that because the prohibition is tied only to tenure, it won’t disqualify the state for Race to the Top funding.

Nevada may be out of luck altogether. In the legislative session that ended in June, a proposal to allow teachers to be evaluated on the performance of their school as a whole failed. With the legislature not scheduled to convene again until 2011, it seems likely that Nevada’s prohibition will remain in place and the state will be out of the running for Race to the Top funds.