Wisconsin Teacher ‘Firewall’ Law Too Lax, Critics Say

By Stephen Sawchuk — November 09, 2009 1 min read
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President Barack Obama and his administration have made quite a big deal about the Wisconsin legislature’s move to undo a law barring student test-score data from being considered in teachers’ evaluations.

You may remember that having such a “firewall” between teachers and students essentially disqualifies a state from participating in the $4 billion Race to the Top Fund. Both Wisconsin and California have been scrambling to rectify the issue, although two other states with similar restrictions, New York and Nevada, are passing on it for now.

Last Thursday, I wondered if Wisconsin’s law really had the teeth it seems to have, since the bill doesn’t actually permit the data to be used for disciplining or dismissing teachers. Additionally, the bill also requires every district to bargain the evaluation system with its local teachers’ union, and does not affirmatively demand that the test-score data be used.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one to be asking these questions. There’s a lot of discussion out there on Wisconsin’s law this morning.

The Wisconsin State Journal accuses Democratic legislators of “watering down” the bill. At Flypaper, Andy Smarick suggests that states are just after the Race to the Top money, not necessarily the accompanying reforms.

Now, the question is whether the Obama administration thinks that this law aligns closely enough to its priorities for teacher evaluation to fund the state’s RTTT application.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.