Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Editorial Blasts VAM

Thank you to the Lake Charles American Press for an excellent editorial and for being willing to take an independent stand on this critical issue!

State superintendent of Education John White. (Donna Price / American Press)

Editorial: Value-added model rating system unfair to teachers

Last Modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 8:59 PM

Contemplate this scenario: The CEO of the company you work for decides to implement an employee evaluation system in which only about 10 percent of the total employees will receive annually the highest level of evaluation possible. Job security and some employee compensation is based on that rating system.

Do you think that’s fair? Neither do we.
Yet that is the prospect that public school teachers in Louisiana face with the fledgling value-added model rating system.
Amazingly, state Superintendent of Education John White defends the system.

The rating system for teachers provides four levels: highly effective, effective proficient, effective emerging and ineffective.
For value-added teachers, the system uses a bell curve that projects that about 10 percent of the teachers in the state will earn the highly effective status in a given year; 80 percent will earn the effective proficient and effective emerging ratings; and 10 percent will be labeled as ineffective.

Teachers in grades 3-8 who teach core subjects, as well as high school Algebra I and geometry teachers, will be evaluated under the value-added model.

This bell curve will make up 50 percent of their total evaluation score.
A rating system that has either predictable results or outcomes has not 1 ounce of credibility. How can an evaluation system that projects the end numbers be taken seriously?

Additional statistics expose other flaws in the evaluation system.

Less than 6 percent of the fourth- through ninth-grade teachers in Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes evaluated by the VAM system received a highly effective rating last year.
Traditionally, those four school districts have been ranked in the top 25 percent of all districts in the state. In fact, Jeff Davis Parish, where only 3.06 percent of the evaluated teachers were rated highly effective, has routinely ranked in the top eight districts in the state.

Low-performing school districts have, on average, a higher percentage of highly effective-rated teachers than high-performing school districts.
The numbers don’t jibe with reality.

‘‘It isn’t like if you achieve this, then you will get this rating. It’s where you stand in the overall state rank,’’ said Jeff Davis Parish Superintendent David Clayton. ‘‘What is the concrete standard for teachers?’’
Under the VAM system, those standards are nebulous at best.

Additionally, to earn tenure, a nontenured teacher must receive a highly effective rating for five out of six years. Based on trials, that appears to be simply unattainable for most teachers.

In 2009-2010, 715 teachers in the trial received a highly effective rating. In 2010-2011, only 277 of those teachers maintained the highly effective rating. And last year, that number fell to 149.

Under this new system, the rating system factors into teachers’ compensation.
White is correct when he says the former tenure status was too easily attained. But the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

If White and Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted to abolish tenure, they should have had the political courage to accomplish it through legislation, not through this sham of an evaluation.

We submit that any evaluation system that has per-conceived or intended results is not only unprofessional, it borders on immoral.
Such evaluations challenge the very issue of fairness and the motives of White, Jindal and the state Department of Education.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby DowerKen StickneyJim BeamCrystal Stevenson and Donna Price.
Posted By: Zach On: 9/26/2012
Title: Most teachers don't use this grading scale
What may work in the business world doesn't always work for everything else. I don't see how it's fair that even if all the teachers in the state work at a high level that 10% will still fail no matter what. This doesn't work in classes with grades. I never had this type of grading scale in K-12 and in my college years I never had a professor use this type of grading scale. In fact I had more than one professor say how much they do not like this scale.

In today's world it is very difficult just to become a teacher. College students in education go through a lot and have to deal with a lot of crap just to graduate. The process to be certified to be a teacher helps weed out most bad teachers. They don't do it for the money or incentives like that like they do in the business world, they do it because they have a passion for teaching otherwise they would not take the time and effort to become a certified teacher. And then the stress involved with teaching usually weeds out any bad ones that make it through being certified because once you start teaching if you don't have a passion for it you won't stay in it long. If the state wants to revise things fine but don't let a dictator strong arm everyone and ruin public education. Let the teachers be involved in the process as well. I'm willing to bet that in the next several years there will be a shortage of teachers in the state or even if not the quality of education will be less because a lot of good teachers will not want to teach here.

Posted By: Glenn Gordon On: 9/26/2012
Title: School is not the real world Kyle
Kyle (above) said that this how he is rated in the "real world"....Well, I too was rated this way in the corporate world before becoming a teacher. Here is why he is wrong. When I was rated this way, I was 100% responsible for all inputs into my product line. There was no part of my evaluation that was not in my handsIn education this is not true. We have these students less than 1/3 of their day. We have no control over any aspect of their lives other than the 1 hour a day we see them. Holding someone 100% responsible for a child's education ignores the reality of real life. Or, as Kyle said..."the Real world"...Absent parents, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and homelessness are all problems that my "products" (my students) have had in the time I have been teaching these young people. I invite Kyle to try teaching for a few years or better yet....let me have access to his inputs and after I screw them up really well....he can see how his evaluations look.

Posted By: Kyle On: 9/26/2012
Title: Welcome To The Real World
There are no new concepts here. This sort of system is how major corporations manage thier employee evaluations. The objective is to reward high performers and weed out under performers. I have worked under this sort of system for 20 years, evaluating staff and being evaluated by my management. My salary and bonus calculations are closely tied to this system. It drives performance! The key to the process is setting clear goals in the beginning of each year and meeting or exceeding (the 10%) those goals. It's usualy those who do not set or strive to meet thier goals that are the complainers about the system.

Posted By: Anne Farrar On: 9/26/2012
Title: Thank you!
As a teacher, I'm so relieved to see that someone other than teachers gets the unfairness of the system. John White doesn't even understand that the scores the teachers worry about are not the levels students achieve on the iLEAP/LEAP tests. It's about the scaled scores. I so appreciate the support for teachers who stood against this system in Baton Rouge last spring. Thank you SO much!


Anonymous said...

OMG! Someone really gets it and put it in writing in Louisiana. This horrible value-added farce is being shown for what it is, a way to get Jindal into some position of power in Washington DC. Shame on our state BESE and DOE! You all allowed this to happen to us, our lives are being destroyed, great teachers are being told they are barely effective and humiliated and you all will actually get to retire!

Anonymous said...

While I am thankful that the Lake Charles American Press finally understood the problems with VAM, it would have been much better had they taken this position PRIOR to the education reform legislation being passed in the spring. Why wasn't this position expressed then when many tried to make them aware of the problems with the proposed evaluation system and education reform legislation?

Speaker of the House Kleckley is from Lake Charles. Lake Charles also supports two charter schools. I do not know how much these facts influenced the paper's position at the time.