December 19, 2014

Student performance plan raises some concerns

The head of a school choice advocacy group is raising concerns about proposed new standards for measuring student achievement.

A Republican-backed bill being circulated at the Capitol would measure student performance at all schools receiving taxpayer funding, including private schools that accept voucher students. School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender says parents should have that information, and it would be a welcome change from any system that takes “snapshots of individual test data” and tries to create policy using that information. However, Bender says there are some flaws with the current GOP proposal.

Bender’s main concern is that the decision on how to apply a “value-added” system to report card scores for private schools is left up to the Department of Public Instruction. He says the current language of the bill is vague and leaves too much control in the hands of an agency that has advocated heavily against the expansion of school choice programs.

Bender says it would be like allowing the Chicago Bears to set the rules and pick the referees when they face Green Bay Packer. He wants the bill revised so there is more guidance in place for how data is used to measure student performance, so it can’t be manipulated.

While the heads of the Senate and Assembly education committees introduced the bill, leadership in both chambers has indicated revisions will likely be needed before it can move forward.