Legislation Update - 09/15/2009

By Peter Birdsall
Executive Director of Advocacy & Association Services

Legislature Votes to Repeal "Firewall" On Test Data and Teacher Evaluation

On the last day of the regular 2009 legislative session, the California Legislature approved SB 19 (Simitian), which would repeal the so-called “firewall” that prevents state assessment data from being used for teacher evaluation. The following language in current law would be repealed if SB 19 is signed into law:

"Data in the system shall not be used, either solely or in conjunction with data from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, for purposes of pay, promotion, sanction, or personal evaluation of an individual teacher or groups of teachers, or of any other employment decisions related to individual teachers."

In its place, language would be added to explicitly say that such data "may be used for purposes of teacher evaluation."

The issue received a great deal of publicity this summer, when US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan specifically cited California as being among the states that wouldn't qualify for “Race to the Top” (RTTT) funding if it didn’t eliminate its “data firewall”. The Governor has 30 days to sign or veto SB 19. This issue is also addressed in the Special Session of the Legislature that has been called by the Governor.

Legislature Approves District of Choice Bill

Also in the closing days of the session, the Legislature approved SB 680 (Romero) which extends and greatly expands the District of Choice program. SB 680 may be of particular interest to IB schools, because it dramatically increases parent and student choice. At the same time, concerns about the bill were raised by opponents who argued that SB 680 will facilitate affluent families fleeing schools that serve predominantly disadvantage students.

Under the District of Choice program, a school district may declare itself willing to accept a specified number of inter-district transfers. The district of choice must admit students on a random basis that prohibits selection based on academic or athletic performance. Under this program, the district of residence has no authority to approve or deny the transfer.

Under prior law, districts of choice were limited to those that had declared themselves as such prior to August 24, 2007. SB 680 opens the program to all districts statewide.

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