In an effort to qualify the state's public schools for more than $4 billion in competitive federal funding, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is calling on legislators to adopt sweeping education reforms that would dramatically reshape California's K-12 schools, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Several other states, including Illinois and Indiana, have changed their laws and policies to comply with guidelines set by the federal education department to receive the "Race to the Top" grants, but Schwarzenegger's proposal "goes way above and beyond what other states are doing," Baron Rodriguez of the education research group Data Quality Center told the Times.
Schwarzenegger's reforms include:
- Adopting a merit pay system that would reward effective teachers and give them incentives to work at low-performing campuses;
- Requiring districts to consider student test data when evaluating teachers;
- Evaluating teachers and schools not just by students' achievement of specific goals but by their individual improvement year to year, referred to as "value-added" analysis.
The "value-added" approach, which determines the effect a teacher has on growth by measuring students against each other, is generating some of the most heated criticism of the governor's plans. The state's teachers unions, which have historically opposed merit pay and tying student performance to teacher evaluation, are expected to fight the proposals. Dean Vogel, vice president of the 340,000-member California Teachers Association, the state's largest, told the Times that the proposals weren't well thought out.
"If you're really serious about reform, it demands intense debate among the stakeholders," Vogel said. "The way it's unfolding is rushed."
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that the state could become a national model for school reform if the proposals end up going through.
The regular legislative session is scheduled to end September 11. Schwarzenegger hopes lawmakers will finish their work on education by early October, in time for the first deadline for Race to the Top funding this winter.
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