On page 13 of the draft of the latest version of the infamous RAISE/PREP bill are 18 lines that lay out an unfunded mandate for local school systems. Price tag? $15 million.
Here is the innocuous sounding paragraph.
At least two observations per school year. One observation shall be conducted by the school principal, assistant principal, or his or her designee. An observation shall be aligned to a clear, consistent rubric provided to the teacher before the beginning of the school year that assesses teacher performance as it relates to evidence-based instructional practices that promote student achievement. An observation may be announced or unannounced, and shall be of sufficient duration to provide meaningful data. At least one observation shall last the duration of one complete classroom lesson. All observations shall be conducted by evaluators who have a full understanding of the evaluation system and its expectations for teachers and evaluators. No person shall be responsible for the evaluation of personnel unless the person has received education and training in evaluation skills approved by the department that enable him or her to make fair, professional, and credible evaluations of the personnel whom he or she is responsible for evaluating.
When an administrator looks at this all they hear is “cha ching.” Of course, they are not opposed to teacher observations. Good principals do it constantly. But it is the rigid structure the bill calls for that starts the meter running.
I asked the Chief Financial Officer for a large system in the state to try to come up with the cost of meeting this requirement. This system has 1,900 teachers.
So that is 3,800 observations a year of at least one hour in length. Say an evaluator can do four per day plus the accompanying paperwork. That means it will take 950 days to evaluate everyone. The school year is 180 days. But realistically, at least 10 days will be off limits for evaluators because of the beginning and ending of school and various other things going on. Divide 950 by 170 and you see that you need 5.58 evaluators. Since it is difficult to find half of an evaluator, you have to round up to six.
The law says these will be highly-qualified people with a great deal of training. We are not talking about substitutes, we are talking about people with probably a master’s degree.
My CFO friend says salary and benefits for such a position would be about $95,000 annually. Add in cost of professional development, supplies and transportation and you’re looking at $100,000 a year per evaluator. Or $600,000 for just this one system. That is $20 per student. We have 730,000 students in our public schools. That’s almost $15 million.
I asked an administrator in the same system as the CFO how they would handle an additional $600,000 a year. She had no idea, but did know that they did not have six people to devote to this job full time.
I know principals in rural school who have fund-raisers just to pay their telephone bill because the central office does not have the money to do so. Now I suppose she can have fund-raisers to hire someone to evaluate her faculty.
Just one more example of why RAISE/PREP makes no sense. But then, when you live in a fantasy world where you give staff members $95,000 in raises in five years, does anyone really and truly care what additional burdens we put on local school systems?