The Education Department will spend about $5 billion on the program, and even if you’re thinking, hey, I could use $5 billion, consider this: New York won the largest federal grant, $700 million over the next four years. In that time, roughly $230 billion will be spent on public education in the state. By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.
That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.
Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.
In New York, that will have to cover 79 percent of all teachers, a total of 175,000 people. The only state tests for assessing teachers are for English and math, from fourth grade to eighth.
Third, federal officials don’t wind up looking like dictators telling states how to do their jobs. They’re happy to let state officials work out the details.
In New York, state officials have also decided not to be dictatorial. They’re happy to let the state’s 700 school districts figure out, individually, how to assess those 175,000 teachers.
Fourth, while President Harry S. Truman said the buck stops here, costing himself a lot of extra time and effort, President Obama can say the buck stops way down there, cutting his workload.
Of course, a buck whizzing downward has to land somewhere, and in this case it sits on the desk of Paul R. Infante, the director of fine and applied arts for the Commack School District on Long Island.
Mr. Infante is trying to figure out how to develop a test or an assessment system to rate band teachers.
Several weeks ago the state sent out a guide. The band teacher could listen to every child play at the start of the year and assign a score from 1 to 4.
“At the end of the year,” the state guide says, “the teacher re-evaluates their students.” (Someone needs to evaluate the state’s grammar.)
The teacher again grades students from 1 to 4, and the sum of the progress they have made during the year determines the teacher’s rating.