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MADISON, Wis. - Changes are still on the way for a school accountability bill that could change how schools are measured and sanctioned.
An overflow crowd packed a Capitol hearing room Wednesday for a public hearing on the Assembly version of the bill, which would force failing public schools to convert into independent charter schools.
"There has to be a line drawn in the sand somewhere where you're not going to keep doing the same thing and we're going to make a significant change," bill author Rep. Jeremy Theisfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, said.
Thiesfeldt announced at the beginning of the hearing Wednesday that he no longer will push for the creation of a new board to oversee the grading of schools and sanctions.
"In the next version of the bill the academic review board will be eliminated," Thiesfeldt said. "It's just another level of bureaucracy that is not necessary."
The Assembly bill would assign letter grades to schools, and public schools that fail to improve over a series of years would be turned into independent charter schools. Private voucher schools would no longer be able to participate in that program.
Local superintendents from Verona, Middleton-Cross Plains and Madison all came to the Capitol Wednesday to express concerns about the bill.
"Within the bill the ABCDF system really, I think, looks at shaming schools, and I don't believe that's an effective way to make changes," said Don Johnson, Middleton-Cross Plains superintendent.
Johnson said there are no failing schools in his district, but he's concerned about how the bill could divert designated funding for schools with a high achievement gap to other failing schools.
Verona Superintendent Dean Gorrell shares the same concerns.
"As a parent, would you rather go home and see your child got a letter B as a grade in language arts or see your daughter's report come home to see exactly what standards she has mastered?" Gorrell asked. "There's a whole lot of information that glosses over and I don't think it's fair to the school district and I don't think that's informing parents."
The Senate is considering its own version of the bill, which includes two review boards and no charter takeover.
Thiesfeldt said Wednesday that he was open to making other changes, but not to the sanctions. He said it's likely the committee will vote on the amended Assembly bill by next week, and it will head to the Assembly floor by Jan. 22.
Gov. Scott Walker said passing an accountability measure early in the session is a priority.
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