Saturday, July 25, 2009

School Reform

Obama's $4 Billion Education Prize: Incentive or Bribe?

The Atlantic — President Obama announced a new education initiative today that sets aside a pool of $4 billion to reward states for improving their school systems. The theme of his speech was twofold: We need better teachers, and we need better standards. We need to find better teachers by using data from student achievement to highlight effective teachers. And we need better standards to keep some states (ahem, Mississippi) from setting their education bar so low that they gut the word "standard" of all meaning.
One of the commonly lamented problems with No Child Left Behind is that the law tells states: Set a standard, any standard, and we'll reward you if your students pass it. The law encouraged states to set the a low bar. That's why Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says he stands behind the national standard -- as hard as it might be to get all 50 states on board.
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Obama May Disqualify Some States From School Grants

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.
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Obama chides California for not using test scores to evaluate teachers

L.A. Times — President Obama singled out California on Friday for failing to use education data to distinguish poor teachers from good ones, a situation that his administration said must change for the state to receive competitive, federal school dollars.
Obama's comments echo recent criticisms by his Education secretary, Arne Duncan, who warned that states that bar the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, as California does, are risking those funds. In an announcement Friday at the Education Department in Washington, Obama and Duncan said the "Race to the Top" awards will be allocated to school districts that institute reforms using data-driven analysis, among other things.
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