In 2009 the federal government announced the requirements for states to compete for $4.35 billion in school reform funding, but Wisconsin was unable to secure funds because the state's law prohibits using student test scores as a factor in evaluating teacher performance.
Wisconsin is now planning to compete for the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition. The state's lawmakers wants to amend the law and make a shift towards more systematic teacher evaluations in order to put the state in a better place to compete for Race to the Top. The state will roll out an evaluation system for educators in all K-12 public school districts in Fall 2014. However, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has yet to determine how to link student outcomes to teacher ratings, writes Erin Richards of The Journal Sentinel.
The new evaluation system is designed to help teachers grow to be more effective by working together with their principals and using data to set student performance goals.
The delicate issue of factoring student test score growth into the job reviews of teachers — which under legislation is to count for 50% of the evaluation, with teacher practice counting for the other half — is just one element that must be hammered out in advance of the evaluation systems' launch in fall 2014.
The evaluations come at a time when a new state standardized achievement test is also being implemented. The new evaluations demand increased time, especially for principals. The student outcome data component is still uncertain due to the new state standardized test.
Also, it's still unclear how teachers of students in subjects that aren't tested on state exams — such as art, journalism or business teachers — will be evaluated on student outcomes. "It's going to be a little bit muddy for a while," said Jane McMahon, a language arts teacher at Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo.
Moving to systematic teacher evaluations was also a requirement for Wisconsin to receive a waiver from some of the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Many school districts in Wisconsin are testing one of two educator evaluation tools this year. The schools pay $80 per participating educator. The state's largest teachers union is working to develop the new evaluations, but leaders from the Wisconsin Education Association Council oppose adding test scores as a leading factor in the ratings.
While the new systems are being tested, districts are not allowed to use the information gathered through them to make so-called "high-stakes decisions" to determine salary or employment status, according to the union.
The state Department of Public Instruction has adopted an evaluation tool that is based on a well-known framework and rubric for effective teaching and supported by online software. The tool is designed to allow evaluators measure the nitty-gritty of daily classroom practice. The software also offers videos of other teachers demonstrating practices tied to different levels of proficiency.
Several superintendents report positive developments so far. "There's a shared expectation now of what good teaching looks like," said Patricia Deklotz, superintendent of the Kettle Moraine School District.