Thursday, October 30, 2014

More Time to Recommend Changes in Teacher Evaluation

Important Notice: The Act 240 subcommittee of the Accountability Commission meeting has been rescheduled from November 3 to November 17 at 1:00 PM in the Claiborne Bld. This is the subcommittee that will recommend changes to the teacher evaluation system to BESE and to the Legislature. If you had planned to attend the subcommittee meeting, please change the date on your calendar.

Teachers, this was supposed to be your committee, so that you could recommend changes, and so you could have a voice in fixing what was wrong with VAM and COMPASS. But I believe that the LDOE plans to take control of that committee and use it to ramrod its own changes to the evaluation system. . . and it may not be what you want.  That's why they insisted on delaying the meeting. Don't let them bully the Committee into once again doing their bidding. They have no idea how to design an effective evaluation system!
Please continue to send emails to the subcommittee members giving them specific examples of how the COMPASS and VAM systems are not working as intended in your system, and what needs to be changed. Or if you think it is working great, be sure to tell them that instead. Don’t be shy. Don’t try to be too diplomatic. Don’t try to assume that something can be made to work if you think it Is fatally flawed.

My opinion is that VAM is fatally flawed and cannot be fixed. It is not working properly in a single state where it has been tried, so just changing the formula won't work.  Canceling teacher tenure based on one bad VAM result is criminal! The COMPASS rubric is not flexible enough, and results in a Dog-and-pony show instead of a practical evaluation system. That’s my opinion, and I am sending it in.  Now tell them your opinion! Here are all their email addresses.,,,,,,,, burnsj@REGENTS.LA.GOV,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Advocate Helps White Promote Education Reform Myths

Education writers for the Baton Rouge Advocate are usually reliable cheerleaders for all the radical reforms now being implemented by State Superintendent John White. The Advocate can always find great value in every reform, no matter how destructive. I have said that if White and BESE decreed that the next “reform” should require the lining up and shooting of 10% of public school teachers based on VAM scores, The Advocate would probably suggest that this would finally be a way to permanently solve the problem of those darned incompetent teachers who are keeping our kids from being successful!

In this most recent article by Andrew Vanacore in the Sunday Advocate, the writer suggests that even though the rules for determining school performance scores are constantly changing, there is still “a steady bar to indicate progress over a number of years”. He quotes John White as claiming that the raw scores that go into determining the state performance scores remain a steady gauge going back to the 1990s. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this post, and this post,  I demonstrated how the LEAP and iLEAP scores are manipulated by the LDOE each year to produce pretty much whatever results they want and thereby raise of lower the school performance scores without regard to actual student learning. White claims in the Advocate article that the LEAP test scores are adjusted to be equally difficult each year, but a comparison with NAEP scores over an 8 year period shows that our LEAP/iLEAP scores have been significantly inflated. From 2005 to 2013, the average performance of our students as measured by LEAP/iLEAP went up by 11%, but the NAEP test which has been accurately comparing  Louisiana with other states for years (long before the PARCC test was ever dreamed up) finds that student performance only went up by 3.25%.
Next, Vanacore touts the brilliant idea White had of requiring that all students in Louisiana public schools take the ACT so that they could be better prepared for college. Many experienced educators have pointed out that this is a terrible idea because it forces our high schools to focus almost exclusively on college prep when the experts in workforce development tell us that most of the really good jobs in Louisiana will be in highly skilled technical fields. At least 60% of our students do not want and do not need high school preparation for 4 year bachelor’s degrees which is what the ACT was designed to measure. But by making school performance scores so dependent on ACT scores, we end up neglecting the development in our high schools of pathways to promising technical and career fields. Belatedly White has been convinced by business leaders to start training students for technical careers because they were having to search for skilled workers in other states. So now White has initiated the Jump Start program for vocational-technical prep, but there is little incentive for high schools to develop those programs, since the all-important school grade is really determined by their college prep programs. Many are saying that White’s reforms have us training students for non-existent futures.

But the biggest myth being perpetrated by this latest fluff piece admiring all the John White adventures into the fantasy land of reform education, is the myth that the constant testing of our students and the grading of our schools and teachers based on these tests are really accomplishing something valuable. The real truth is this: Nationwide the testing and teacher punishing craze is driving thousands of dedicated teachers out of the teaching profession, and out of teacher training. Colleges of Education are reporting huge declines in the enrollment of bright young people who aspire to be teachers. Ask any Louisiana teacher about whether they are encouraging their children or nieces and nephews to go into teaching.

Meanwhile, real student achievement has barely improved even though we are sacrificing valuable programs in music and the arts, physical education, (even though our children are obese and out of shape), and our schools are crumbling from lack of maintenance and renovation because huge amounts of money are going to testing and test prep products sold by Pearson, Microsoft, and Apple.
Finally, the manufactured impression of the failure of our public schools has produced a proliferation of charter schools and voucher schools funded with our tax dollars with little accountability and shockingly low test performance. Almost every day we read media reports of fraud, corruption and nepotism in these so called “choice” schools where no amount of cheating and dropout reporting falsification can hide their incompetence in the education of children.

Shame on the Baton Rouge Advocate for helping White to continue to promote and glorify this fraud on the parents and taxpayers of Louisiana.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

John White Wants Principals to Get Lower Evaluation Scores

White thinks that teachers are being rated too high also.

In the just released annual report on COMPASS, the LDOE makes it very clear that the Department believes that too many principals are being rated too softly on the qualitative part of the evaluation system. The report also claims that there is unwarranted “inflation” of the teacher evaluation scores this year.

Superintendent White believes that the 50% portion of both principal and teacher evaluations that depends on student learning targets were rated too high, now that the state is temporarily not requiring VAM. He also thinks that the qualitative portion which depends on observation of actual instruction was too soft this year. This is coming from a TFA guy who only taught three years and never served as a principal. Somehow he “knows” that the evaluations were too lax this year. Take a look at the title of the press release about the COMPASS report:


Higher expectations for classroom observations? I thought that the classroom observation part of the evaluation did not depend on expectations. It is simply supposed to be an accurate measure of whether or not a teacher or a principal is demonstrating all the components of effective teaching or effective administration. The evaluator makes a judgment as to how well those components were executed in actual application. I did not know that it made a difference what expectations the evaluator had. He/she is simply supposed to accurately rate performance. But White seems to be implying that principals and teachers in schools with low SPS should be graded harder on the observation part of COMPASS. But in fact, BESE policy makes it clear that this part of the evaluation is totally separate from the performance of students. Here is the BESE policy:

A.                  LEAs shall utilize an observation tool to conduct a qualitative assessment of teacher and administrator performance, which shall represent the 50 percent of evaluations that is not based on measures of growth in student learning. (Note: I added the underline for emphasis)

So White is trying to bully local school systems into punishing teachers and principals that happen to serve high poverty, at-risk students. Here is another quote from the COMPASS Report about the evaluation of principals:

"The 2013-2014 results suggest districts can do more to establish consistently high expectations for school leadership. In 2013-2014:"

"28  Districts rated 100 percent of their administrators "proficient" or higher on site visits. Of those 28, 14 districts were below the state average in terms of the percentage of students who achieved Basic and above compared to last year. 63 districts assigned no "ineffective" ratings to any administrators."
Translation: The LDOE would like for school districts where students perform below the state average to give their principals lower evaluation scores no matter how well they meet the criteria of COMPASS. The Department doesn't like these folks getting such good evaluations!
 So contrary to BESE policy, White is suggesting that school districts lower their administrator ratings and match them to the performance of the students. He failed to note however, that the RSD which he has total control over, which has just about the lowest student performance in the state, is also rating almost all their principals as proficient and highly effective. Even so, I believe it is inappropriate for the State Superintendent to tell the evaluators of administrators that their results should be lower and be based primarily on student performance. The law says 50%!

Are the principal evaluations really too high? Here’s how I see this after almost 50 years in the education profession. I know that there are bad eggs in every profession and I have personally known a few bad administrators. Also there are some bad administrators at EXXON-MOBIL which is shoving Common Core down our throats without a shred of evidence that it will work. I know there are bad principals and they should be fired, because their job is so critical to the welfare of our children.
But theoretically a person gets promoted to a principal position because he/she has already demonstrated superior performance as a teacher and often as an assistant principal. Theoretically these folks are the best educators in a school system, and they were promoted because they are good education leaders without considering that some manage schools with high poverty student populations. So would it make sense, as John White suggests, that we give principals who manage schools that serve at-risk, low performing students, a low evaluation score? What about the principals who manage alternative schools that serve the most at risk students? Did you know that recently all such schools in Louisiana were rated as “F” schools? Should all those principals be rated as “ineffective”? What about the School for the Deaf, and the School for the Visually Impaired, and the LA Special Education Center? (All managed by the LDOE) Should their principals be rated “ineffective”? Of course not! Not unless a fair evaluation shows them to be ineffective. In turn, White should not try to bully the Parish schools systems into giving low ratings to principals, because if the local superintendent and the school board have done their job, most of these administrators should be high performers. It is totally out of line for John White to demand that their evaluation scores be lowered.

The same goes for the teachers teaching in a school with a large percentage of high poverty, at-risk students. Just the fact that a teacher can survive in such a situation may be an indication of strong qualities. To constantly hammer away at these teachers and try to guarantee that they will get bad evaluations because of student performance is criminal. It is also driving away the very teachers we need who can support and help at-risk students to be more successful.
 What does White plan to do to insure "higher expectations" for principal evaluations? Here is an excerpt from his press release on the COMPASS report:

"To address current challenges, the Department will take the following steps:

  • Work with a special sub-committee of the Accountability Commission convened by Representative Frank Hoffmann (R-Monroe) to make recommendations to BESE for the use of value-added data after the conclusion of the “time to learn” transition period.

  • Make recommendations regarding principal accountability for student learning and principal capacity to assist teachers in professional learning."

It is clear that White intends to use the Accountability Commission and his rubber stamp BESE to ram though more punitive evaluations of teachers and principals. I wonder when will the education profession say, "enough is enough" and fight back against these destructive attacks on the profession?