The state Senate’s version of a school accountability bill received its first hearing at the Capitol Tuesday, receiving a much warmer reception that a competing proposal in the state Assembly when it faced public testimony. Members of the Senate’s education committee took hours of testimony on the legislation, which is aimed at identifying taxpayer-funded schools that are falling short of expectations.
School administrators and state education officials were generally positive about the bill, primarily because it does not include sanctions for failing schools – a major change from the Assembly’s version of school accountability legislation.
State Senator Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee), the sponsor of the bill, says the goal is to make sure we “bring as many resources we can, and a lot of that is advice from successful schools on how to get better, and what they can do to make them a more effective school.”
The proposal is facing some criticism though. Democratic state Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) said the focus needs to be on giving schools the resources they need to improve, and not just identifying those that are having trouble. “Adding to the incessant relentless focus on testing, without a concurrent focus on excellence in teaching, does not improve Wisconsin’s schools system,” Vinehout told committee members.
An official from the Department of Public Instruction said the bill reflects ongoing efforts to keep tweaking standards for schools. Jeff Pertl also urged lawmakers to stay away from assigning letter grades to schools, like the Assembly bill does. He warned that could create a negative view of schools that are meeting expectations by assigning them a “C” grade, which may have some people thinking “turn off the video games, and go crack a book.”
The future of the legislation remains uncertain, due to numerous differences with the Assembly bill. Republican leaders in both chambers are expected to work on a compromise version that can pass both chambers.