The Hypocrisy Of The RAISE Act

Let’s suppose that by the end of the month the U.S. Department of Education tells Alabama that we have to build a giant data center where data of all sorts will be gathered from students and the state’s workforce.  It will contain information about students’ courses, grade point averages, remediation, retention and demographics.  It will also include workforce data such as employment status, wage info, geographic location of employment, employer info and field of employment.

Data will be collected from 12 agencies such as community colleges, state labor department, four-year colleges, veteran affairs, regional workforce councils, federal employment data exchange and others.

One of the duties of this data center will be to determine how well teachers perform based on student data, even though such efforts in other states are lackluster at best.  The center will be governed by a politically-appointed board.  This board will hire an executive director.  Contracts may be outsourced to private vendors.

How much will this cost?  Who knows.  But it will not be cheap.  Where will the money come from?  Another $64 million question.

What would be the reaction of statewide politicians?  Outrage?  Would the leaders of our legislative super majority scream to high heaven about Federal intrusion?  Would the governor file suit like he has just done saying he wants to “reform the way the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the State Department handle the refugee resettlement program” and let the good folks of Alabama foot the bill for the lawyers?

But not to worry, Washington is not wanting to do this.

No, this is what the super majority wants to do by passing the RAISE Act of 2016.  Go to page 31 of this 49-page bill and in the next 13 pages you will see that someone wants to create the Alabama Longitudinal Data System that will be all of the above and then some.

The draft legislation says: The Alabama Longitudinal Data System is a statewide data system that contains individual level student data and workforce data from preK-12 and college levels of education and the state’s workforce, and allows users of the center to do all of the following:

Effectively organize, manage, disaggregate and analyze individual student data. Examine student progress and outcomes over time, including preparation of students for their next level of education or the workforce.

It will also do processes and requirements to determine the teacher of record for purposes of assigning student achievement scores to a teacher in evaluating the performance of the teacher.

This is another way of saying Value Added Modeling (VAM), a teacher evaluation system that in most cases has more bugs than a kennel of blue tick hounds.  A New Mexico judge has just ruled against that state’s use of VAM.  A number of other states presently have ongoing litigation about VAM.

People in Alabama have long viewed the federal government as “big brother.”  But in this case, “big brother” is not in Washington, he’s in Montgomery.  And for our legislative leadership, the same folks who screech about Washington intrusion, to embrace a similar approach across the state is nothing but hypocrisy.

 

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