School board supports laws to get more funds

GLENDALE — Educators and administrators are eagerly anticipating their share of billions in federal stimulus and recovery money, but are deeply concerned regarding state rules that may affect their eligibility for the funds.

At the most recent meeting, Glendale Unified School District Board of Education members unanimously affirmed their support of laws and regulations that would allow California to qualify for Race to the Top, a $4.35-billion grant program and the largest sum of competitive and discretionary money in the Department of Education’s history.

“I think it’s important in this financial climate that we have access to funding, state, federal, local, grants, whatever — all available funding,” said Mary Boger, president of the board.

However, it’s unclear whether California will be eligible for the funds.

Qualifications and application guidelines have not been released.

Federal officials said final guidelines will be make available before the end of the year.

The board resolution was approved in conjunction with Pasadena, South Pasadena, Burbank and La Cañada school boards, Supt. Michael Escalante said.

“It’s obvious this is the direction, just like No Child Left Behind was before, this is the direction for this administration,” he said, mentioning the George W. Bush administration’s signature education policy.

“We want to make sure we get everyone to move along the same direction.”

State lawmakers are moving quickly to ensure that California can apply. A bill that takes a step toward making California eligible was signed into law Sunday.

The law strikes language from education code that prohibited linking student data to teacher effectiveness, which would have disqualified the state from Race to the Top.

“I think it helps that California is more able to apply to those funds than it has been in the past,” said Katharine Strunk, an assistant professor of education and policy at USC. “But, it’s hard to tell what the [federal government] is looking for until we see final guidelines.”

Removing barriers that prevent linking student achievement and teacher effectiveness is rarely given the light of day because of the strength of the state’s teachers unions, said Penny Wohlstetter, an education policy professor and the director of the Center on Educational Governance at USC.

“It was an amazing milestone in California politics,” she said. “It is just surprising to me that the incentive from the federal government was the lever for it, because that issue, teacher performance and student achievement, has been talked about and acted on by many other states.”

But relying solely or significantly on student performance as a measurement of teacher effectiveness is unfair and inaccurate, Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson said.

“Testing is multiple choice or filling in the blank and is not a true test of what a child can do,” she said.

“You can pass the written exam on your driver’s test with flying colors and then get behind the wheel and not know what you’re doing. That’s why you do both.”

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