My state ranked 40th of 41 applicants in the competition for the Race to the Top money. It turned out that only two states received money (Delaware and Tennessee) and the Obama administration is saying only 15 more states will eventually get the grant. So, my state is now scrambling to meet the criteria and rank better. They are scrambling by passing legislation. It's not all bad, but as usual it is being passed more quickly than it can be put into practice. I got a chance to look at the bill that was passed and what follows are a couple of the things that will go into effect next year.
Third graders who fail state testing will be retained.
Teacher evaluation will be at least 51% based on achievement.
State core standards will be adopted.
Philosophically, I agree with each of these ideas. My problem is the timeline, the lack of funding, and the impracticality of these measures as they are. This state right now widely practices social promotion. Retention has been extremely rare here, even fifteen years ago when I went to school here. How can we decide in one year's time to completely reverse this? In my opinion, smart change would be gradual and well planned. Furthermore, I have yet to see a copy of these state standards that I am responsible for next year. How will our adopted curriculum be made to match the new standards? Lastly, how will achievement be measured for Art teachers and PE teachers, what accountability will there be for primary grade teachers? It seems to me that accountability in this way is more limited in scope than the traditional evaluation.
I get it. We need money and to get it we have to align philosophically with Race to the Top, but I don't think the politicians who profess to make "common sense" decisions for education understand the scope of what they are doing. I doubt whether the people who pass this could even talk intelligently with me about how these new laws will work with the twenty-four or twenty-five students I am directly responsible for next year.
The relationship between education and politics is like the blind leading those with excellent vision.