Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

August 20, 2013

Ill. slow to implement new teachers grading system



The law was hailed as historic, and part of a national trend, spurred by states' desire to qualify for the Obama administration's Race to the Top federal education grants.

The student growth component of the evaluations will be phased in, with all districts tying student performance to teacher evaluations by the 2016-17.

Last year, Chicago Public schools began incorporating student tests into evaluations. This fall, 34 districts which received federal education stimulus money —including Wabash— will begin using the new criteria.

The lowest performing 20 percent of schools start in 2015.

In 2011, President Barack Obama administration began offering an "out" to the federal education law passed a decade before, which works by punishing districts for not meeting federal benchmarks. Waivers, the administration said, would be given to states that agreed to adopt certain education ideas, such as teacher evaluations tied to student test scores.

Illinois quickly sought a waiver in 2012 because of its implementation timetable on evaluations. It continues to wait on a verdict.

"The issue has been how quickly we implement teacher evaluations," state board of education spokeswoman Mary Fergus said. "The feds would like that to be a year earlier. We have said we'd like to follow what's in the state law."

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Ed. announced it's now permitting some case-by-case flexibility on states' timelines in using growth in teacher evaluations. Illinois is seeking an exception.

States nationwide — including Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida and Nevada — have been given waivers, after their teacher evaluation systems were approved by the department.

Meanwhile, the number of schools in Illinois labeled "failing" by the federal government continues to increase. More than 82 percent of the state's 860 school districts failed to meet federal benchmarks in 2012, up from 64 percent in 2010.

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