Looks like the Nevada teachers union might not have to give in and give up the ban on using student test scores in teacher evaluations after all.
The state law thus far has prevented Nevada from participating in the money chase for some $200 million of federal “Race to the Top” dough, but according to a Wall Street Journal editorial on Friday, the Obama administration appears to be reversing its stand on this issue:
“The Obama Administration’s education rhetoric, with its emphasis on charter schools and evaluating teachers based on student performance, has won plaudits from school reformers—and from us. But this month the Department of Education laid out in detail the eligibility requirements for states seeking federal grant money, and it looks like the praise may have been premature.
In the spring, when the White House announced its $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” initiative to improve K-12 schooling, President Obama said, “Any state that makes it unlawful to link student progress to teacher evaluations will have to change its ways to compete for a grant.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters, “states that don’t have charter school laws, or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools, will jeopardize their application.”
The Administration appears to be retreating on both requirements. The final Race to the Top regulations allow states to use “multiple measures,” including peer reviews, to evaluate instructors. This means states that prohibit student test data from being used to measure a teacher’s performance may be eligible for the federal funds, even though the President clearly said that they wouldn’t be.
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It’s no accident that these weakened requirements are the same ones that most upset the teachers unions. Dennis Van Roekel, who heads the National Education Association, has repeatedly expressed skepticism about using student test scores to help determine a teacher’s effectiveness, and the NEA officially opposes any effort to “greatly expand” charter schools, a stated goal of Race to the Top. The open question was always whether the Obama Administration would be willing to cross this powerful political ally.
Mr. Duncan insists he isn’t going soft. “I don’t think there’s anything that’s watered down,” he said in a conference call. “We think it’s tough but fair.” But even fellow liberals are unpersuaded. Amy Wilkins of Education Trust, a children’s advocacy group, said that Race to the Top presents “a real opportunity for unfettered boldness” but that the final guidelines ultimately contain “no incentive for states to be particularly bold.”