When Advocates Evaluate Evaluation
News that Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist is working alongside the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers (aptly, RIFT) sets off my scam alarm, and it’s not just the fact that the smarmy Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D, Ocean Drive) is at the front of the line heralding a “firm belief” in “true reform.” Mostly, I’m suspicious that massive federal and foundation grants are going to the union to develop and evaluate the system:
Buoying the effort, the RIFT has received multiple grants — including a $5-million federal innovation grant shared with the New York State teachers union — to help create the evaluation system, money that will be used to hire testing experts and consultants who have created high-quality evaluations in other states.
About $700,000 will go to the American Institutes of Research, which will conduct a four-year study of the evaluation system, determining whether it improves teacher effectiveness and student achievement, said Colleen Callahan, director of professional issues for RIFT. …
… the Rhode Island Foundation announced it, too, would give a $200,000 grant, the only time in the last 20 years the foundation has given to a teachers union.
Initially, the system will become operational in seven districts, and it sounds as if its backers are planning a four-year evaluation. Moreover, the use of standardized test scores is still a matter of contention. There’s plenty of time and wiggle room, in short, to make sure that the system isn’t so rigorous that it raises the ire of union members. There’s also money to “train” everybody on the system, and no doubt compliance will turn out to require more state and municipal money once federal dollars dry up.