Measuring achievement


Make no mistake: The taxes spent on so-called federal stimulus funds would be better left in private hands. The marketplace is a far better forum for economic decision-making than the bowels of some beltway bureaucracy.

In addition, states that take stimulus cash to paper over budget woes are asking for problems. Simply postponing the day of reckoning is not a long term solution to out-of-control spending.

That said, it verges on the comical that Nevada -- and a few other states -- is ineligible to compete for $4.3 billion in federal "Race to the Top" money, intended to help states turn around failing schools.

Lord knows Nevada has its share of failing schools. But thanks to a law handwritten to appease the teacher union, the state will be unable to tap any of the federal funds.

The law deals with educational data. The Clark County School District, for instance, has the ability to track student performance from classroom to classroom. Officials with the district can analyze test scores and other information to determine which teachers are succeeding and which are not. They know in which classrooms students make progress and in which classrooms they stagnate or struggle.

But the Nevada State Education Association -- which owns majority Democrats in the Assembly lock, stock and barrel -- succeeded about 10 years ago in getting a provision inserted into state law mandating that such data may not be used to punish or reward teachers.

That runs counter to the Obama administration's intention of providing the "Race to the Top" cash only to states that can document success in turning around schools.

Keith Rheault, Nevada's superintendent of education, downplayed the dilemma. "If you're desperate for money and you get a credit card offer in the mail, you read the fine print to see what the interest rate is," Mr. Rheault told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "This to me is like a 35 percent interest rate, with all the federal reporting requirements and changes to regulations. But it just depends on how desperate you are for the money."

That could be the first time a public school functionary has said the attached strings weren't worth the money.

But it verges on nuts that the teacher union and state lawmakers have made it illegal to use data reflecting student achievement in teacher evaluations. What is a more appropriate measuring stick, student shoe size?

Whether or not the state wants to go after the federal pot of gold, this idiotic provision of the Nevada statutes should be taken out and shot next session.

 

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