MADISON — A Wisconsin plan to make student test results more reliable and to evaluate teachers based on both classroom performance and student achievement was approved by the federal government Friday.
The approval came when the U.S. Department of Education granted Wisconsin a waiver from elements of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which mandates all children be proficient in reading and math by 2014. The 10-year-old law passed with bipartisan support but has since taken fire from politicians and educators alike for its unrealistic goals and the financial sanctions schools can face for missing them.
Despite such shortcomings, Congress has not updated the law, leading the U.S. Department of Education this year to grant states NCLB waivers if they set their own student achievement standards and accountability systems. Including Wisconsin, 26 states now have waivers.
The waiver is a good thing,” Racine Unified Superintendent Ann Laing said Friday. “I think everybody realizes that No Child Left Behind didn’t work.”
Under its waiver, Wisconsin will implement new state standardized tests in the 2014-15 school year. The new tests will align with national K-12 knowledge standards and will raise the scores required to deem a student proficient by aligning with the more rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP scoring means fewer students will classify as proficient initially. For example, 83 percent of eighth-graders are currently proficient in reading but under the NAEP model only 35 percent would be proficient.
It’s going to be a huge shock to everybody because it’s a much higher standard,” Laing said.
The NAEP model will be good though, she said, because it sets higher goals and will allow Wisconsin students to more easily be compared to those in other states.
Wisconsin’s waiver also calls for implementing a new teacher and principal evaluation system in 2014-15. The new system will have evaluations based half on educator classroom performance and half on student outcomes.
Laing said such evaluations would be put into a teacher handbook for 2013-14, after the current teachers’ contract expires. Laing said she expects no pushback from teachers’ union officials — though they can no longer negotiate such workplace terms anyway — because the state teachers’ union has endorsed the waiver. Racine Education Association teachers’ union officials did not return calls Friday.