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San Diego Unified school board members Shelia Jackson and Richard Barrera are arguing that the school district has done enough to be eligible for a second batch of federal stimulus money, even if it does not follow Obama Administration requirements for winners to link teacher evaluations to test scores.
States and school districts that want to compete for money through the federal program, dubbed Race to the Top, cannot bar schools from linking test scores to teacher evaluation, as California now does. A new state law that would erase that rule and allow California to compete for the new stimulus dollars is awaiting Gov. Schwarzenegger’s signature.
Teachers unions are wary of the change, saying it could pave the way for merit pay or other ways of using test scores to reward or punish teachers. Barrera, who was backed by the union during his campaign for school board, has said that research doesn’t support linking evaluations to test scores.
Jackson and Barrera sent a letter to State Senator Gloria Romero, who held a recent hearing on whether San Diego was ready for Race to the Top, in which they contend that the stimulus money “force(s) a ‘one size fits all’ strategy across all schools and districts.” The board members argue that San Diego Unified is already doing innovative things, such as:
- Picking principals using the Haberman interviews, a process introduced by outgoing Superintendent Terry Grier.
- Keeping classes small using the first batch of stimulus dollars.
- A new biliteracy program.
- Trying to stop the over identification of African American and English learning students in special education.
- Classroom technology made possible by the facilities bond, Proposition S.
- New programs to support disadvantaged families, such as helping families apply for food stamps and breakfast in the classroom.
Jackson and Barrera hinted that their aversion to linking test scores to teacher evaluation shouldn’t prevent the school district from getting the stimulus money. “[L]et’s not let this opportunity get bogged down by ideological and political debates over top down strategies that are not supported by research or by local communities,” they wrote. You can read the full letter here.