The first challenge of grant review is the scoring algorithms. The NIH has changed this quite recently from a 1-5 scale with decimals to a 1-9 scale with no decimals. Not surprisingly, changing the scale has not done a great deal for how people map their evaluations to the metric. Some struggle mightily to develop their own algorithms to allocate points and retain measurement fidelity across all applications. Others lead with their gut and are quite idiosyncratic from application to application. The adjudication of these mapping processes happens in those airless hotel conference rooms when the applications are discussed and scored. People engage in brinkmanship, acquiescence, passionate articulate speechifying, and occasionally embarrassing backtracking. The consequence, however, is a scoring mechanism for any given application is constructed through a rough form of consensus building. Obviously most of the debate occurs in slicing up those on the margins. Everyone in these rooms recognizes the Elvis on Velvet and the Picasso of applications. Everything else is much harder.
The state is making a bet that threatening to fire and publicly humiliate teachers it deems are underperforming will be sufficient to produce higher test scores. Since most teachers in New York do not teach tested subjects (reading and mathematics in grades 3-8), the state will require districts to create measures for everything that is taught (called, in state bureaucratese, “student learning objectives”) for all the others. So, in the new system, there will be assessments in every subject, including the arts and physical education. No one knows what those assessments will look like. Everything will be measured, not to help students, but to evaluate their teachers. If the district’s own assessments are found to be not sufficiently rigorous by State Commissioner of Education John King (who has only three years of teaching experience, two in charter schools), he has the unilateral power to reject them.
Using conventional economic approaches to estimate the value of recreation time combined with relatively conservative assumptions, the estimated an annual contribution of the state park system is around $14 billion. That value is considerably larger than the annual operation and management costs of state parks.
I hope Leslie Knope is reading!