Ohio Changes Student Tracking for Federal Money

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Ohio lawmakers have approved linking student performance data from kindergarten through high school with information from college to improve the state's application for extra federal education stimulus money.

States are scrambling to put themselves in prime position to receive a share of $4.4 billion that President Barack Obama has dangled before them if they make changes consistent with Obama's goals for education reform.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Ohio think the state is in a good position to get up to $400 million in additional money. The student performance tracking measure builds on changes already made in Gov. Ted Strickland's education overhaul, including teacher residency and training requirements.

But only some states — perhaps 10 to 20 — will get the funds. The New Teacher Project, a national organization that promotes teacher quality, has put Ohio in a grouping of 15 states it considers to be competitive for the federal funds.

Ohio's student data adjustment was approved quickly last week ahead of a January 19 deadline for states to submit their application for the federal "Race to the Top" funds because it was the one item that both parties could agree on.

State Sen. Jon Husted, a Republican, and state Rep. Jennifer Garrison, a Democrat, set aside political complications arising from their race for secretary of state in 2010 to usher through the more comprehensive tracking system. It will let the state gauge how well the K-12 curriculum is preparing students for college, and will give students and teachers a year-by-year look at student progress from the first year in school through the last.

But additional changes pushed by Husted, which he said would strengthen Ohio's application even more, were too much for Democrats to swallow — at least for now. One change — which has been stressed by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan — would enable student performance measures, including test scores, to play a significant role in teacher evaluations and pay. Another would loosen some of the state's restrictions on new charter schools.

Both of those changes are vehemently opposed by teachers unions, a traditional ally of the Democratic Party.

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