Evaluating the job of K-12 evaluations

Rakesh Mohan and Lance McCleve may not be well-known to many Idahoans — but they are well-known to Idaho’s elected officials and education stakeholders.

Mohan heads the state’s Office of Performance Evaluations, the Legislature’s auditing arm. McCleve is principal evaluator at OPE, and led three high-profile audits on K-12 — on teacher workplace issues; on Idaho’s ragged longitudinal data system rollout; and on the state’s troubled Schoolnet instructional management system.

JLOC, 2.16.15
Office of Performance Evaluations director Rakesh Mohan, left, discusses Idaho’s longitudinal data system during a February 2015 meeting of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee.

The audits have given Mohan and McCleve an insight into the politics of K-12, which emerge when auditors try to examine contentious educational issues. Mohan and McCleve collaborated this week on a guest opinion on the challenges of auditing public education issues.

Many of their observations are more germane to colleagues in the auditing community. But their thoughts on education politics certainly extend beyond the auditing process.

Mohan and McCleve list five ingredients that inject politics into education evaluations. Here they are, verbatim:

  1. “Nearly everyone went to some school and has assumptions, beliefs, or reactions based on individual experiences. Unlike nuclear physics, nanotechnology, and neurosurgery, people from all walks of life act as though they are experts in education.
  2. “Education policies affect most people either because they have children in school or they are taxpayers, or both.
  3. “Providing adequate and equitable educational opportunities to all children is the responsibility of each individual state. Generally, one of the biggest parts of a state’s annual budget is for public education. For example, Idaho spends 48 percent of its general fund on public education.
  4. “Among various stakeholders, teachers’ unions play a significant role in influencing education policies.
  5. “Education policies have consequences for the future of our children and the nation.”

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