Yesterday, our governor signed a law eliminating a statewide ban against tying student test scores to teacher evaluations. As everyone involved in it has said, the reason for this change has been to increase the odds of California getting a portion of the federal government’s “Race To The Top” competitive funding program. The state might be able to get $200- $300 million dollars from that pot of money. The state budget for K-12 schools is in $50 billion territory. The state is considering more changes in state law for the same reasons.
Whether you agree or disagree with the idea of tying student test scores to teacher evaluations (I happen to disagree), it seems pretty clear that making educational policy decisions in an effort to get money is just not good practice.
During my nineteen year community organizing career prior to becoming a teacher, it wasn’t uncommon for us (and for many other groups) to try to craft funding requests to meet the desires of private foundation initiatives on issues that might, or might not, have reflected the real priorities identified by local residents. Doing so was never in the long-term interest of making long-term improvements in our communities, but sometimes we felt like we had to do so if local dues didn’t meet funding needs. Those requests were always for a proportionally far larger amount than $300 million of $50 billion, and we always knew it was a bad idea. And the vast majority of the time we were right.
If you want to argue for changes in state education law, do so because you think it will result in a better education for students. Don’t do it in order to increase the odds of getting some federal money. It’s undignified, bad policy, and terrible role-modeling for students, to boot!
The truth is that federal $$ control most education dollars by state laws or district policies. I sat through a poor quality, one day training on ESL students that cost my district plenty because as an administrator repeatedly told us-our test scores were lowest in the ESL subgroup. It was not about helping these kids it was all about test scores=federal $$$.