LOS ANGELES, July 25 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has singled out California for failing to use education data to distinguish poor teachers from good ones, it was reported on Saturday.
Obama urged the state to change this situation so as to receive competitive, federal school dollars, according to the Los Angeles Times.
At stake are billions of U.S. dollars in federal stimulus funds to be allocated in "Race to the Top" grants, the paper noted.
Obama's comments on Friday echo recent criticisms by his Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who warned that states that bar the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, as California does, are risking those funds.
In an announcement Friday at the Education Department in Washington, Obama and Duncan said the "Race to the Top" awards will be allocated to school districts that institute reforms using data-driven analysis, among other things.
"You cannot ignore facts," Obama said. "That is why any state that makes it unlawful to link student progress to teacher evaluations will have to change its ways."
Obama and Duncan made their position clear. "This competition will not be based on politics, ideology, or the preferences of a particular interest group," Obama said. "Instead, it will be based on the simple principle: whether a state is ready to do what works."
"Race to the Top" applicants must show progress in four key areas to compete for the 4.35 billion dollars: adopting rigorous academic standards, recruiting and retaining talented educators, turning around chronically low-performing schools, and building data systems to track student and teacher effectiveness.
But Obama also pointed out that teachers should not be judged solely on student test scores.
The remarks escalate a disagreement between the Obama administration and California education leaders. While a 2006 law prohibits the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers on a state level, it does not mention local districts, where state officials say pupil data can be used to judge instructors.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday he would push to amend state law if necessary.
"We will seek any reforms or changes to the law deemed necessary, including changes to our data system laws, to ensure California is eligible to compete" for federal funds, Schwarzenegger said in a statement.
California's top education officials sent the Obama administration a letter earlier this month saying no changes were needed to state law and that any attempt to modify it could distract from reform efforts, but the administration has not responded.
Obama's speech could also mark the beginning of a protracted fight with teachers unions, which have resisted some of the reforms advocated by the administration, including performance pay and data-driven teacher evaluation, the paper said.
The state's teachers unions have already voiced their opposition to such a move. When the 2006 law was drafted, teachers unions insisted that it include an amendment saying: "Data in the system may not be used ... for purposes of pay, promotion, sanction, or personnel evaluation of an individual teacher or group of teachers, or of any other employment related decisions related to individual teachers."