Friday, September 28, 2012

Harmful Salary Schedule Mandate

Just as teachers and principals begin grappling with the new Value Added Model of teacher evaluation, school boards will be forced by law to develop possibly radical new salary schedules for teachers in all our public school systems. This is another classic case of an effort by those outside the education business to force the practitioners to adopt a solution to a problem that does not exist! School boards according to a provision in Jindal's  ALEC inspired Act 1 must revise their local teacher salary schedules to add a performance or merit pay component. According to the new law, the revised salary schedules should consider (1) effectiveness as measured by the new evaluation system, (2) job demand/area of certification, and (3) experience, yet no one factor of the three may account for more than 50% of the final formula. This means that results of the new teacher evaluations using VAM data may affect teacher's salaries as a form of merit pay. At the same time some teachers (10% of those evaluated using VAM) will find their salaries frozen based on the new evaluation.

Act I also requires that a new teacher layoff priority list be created for 2013-14 with the teachers that were rated as ineffective by the new evaluation system being first to be laid off without considering their previous evaluations or experience. Seniority of teachers is absolutely banned by Act 1 in the making of employment decisions. Effectiveness as measured by the new VAM system is “king” in the employment and layoff of teachers. As we saw in the editorial by the American Press this week, some schools that are top performers in the state may have disproportionate numbers of teachers classified as ineffective using this new flawed system. Those same evaluations may also cause major changes in the salary schedule for teachers.

So we have a brand new teacher evaluation system whose validity is being seriously questioned by numerous education professionals and now a major Louisiana newspaper, that also may soon have a major impact on teacher salaries. Teachers and school boards will now be forced into possibly adversarial positions just to comply with a law they never needed nor asked for. This is another example of non-educator ideologues dictating new problems for our public school systems. Will such new rules apply to the voucher schools or to the new course choice course providers? Of course not! These unproven competitors with public education as usual are exempted from the heavy handed approach of our ALEC influenced legislature.

According to the new law, a teacher's present salary may not be reduced by the new salary mandate, but a teacher who had looked forward to regular step raises based on experience may no longer receive those incentives to stay in the profession here in Louisiana. Also, some educators who have spent precious dollars and time pursuing higher degrees in expectation of a higher salary rewarding this additional education may now find their plans quashed by the new rules.

One of the perverse incentives to school boards to drop or reduce step increases for experience or advanced degrees are the projected deficits to many school board budgets caused by freezes in the MFP, unfunded mandates by the legislature, and the new drain on the MFP caused by vouchers and Course Choices. School boards may be forced to choose between teacher salaries that were used in the past to attract  and retain experienced and educated teachers or increasing class size. Many Charter schools in Louisiana have already chosen cheap TFA corps members over experienced teachers partly so they could pay their administrators obscene salaries. You see TFA recruits only expect to do this “public service” for just a couple of years, get their college loans paid and then move on to their real careers. Or they may get high paying jobs in our State Department of Education. The Advocate points out today that the Director of the new teacher evaluation program is a two year TFA teacher with no training in education other than the 5 week crash course. You see in our Brave New World of Louisiana education, the advantage goes to persons with no professional training in education but who buy into all the latest reform fads.

If you want to get a good idea about the destructive effects of these mandates take a look at the recent blog by Diane Ravitch about the chaos that has resulted from a similar program implemented in the Washington DC public school system by Michelle Rhea. The main difference is that the DC system had much more funding with which to implement this monstrosity! Louisiana will be attempting to do it at the same time that most school systems are faced with crippling budget shortfalls. Many of my teacher readers have sent me emails confiding that they believe these programs may finally drive them out of the profession or at least cause them to look for employment in another state. Louisiana may soon be faced with a shortage of experienced competent teachers.

Will educators and school boards along with innocent students continue to be helpless victims of our misguided corporate styled reforms?

Why not fight back? Why not have teachers and school boards present a united front to our common enemy; the privatizers of public education? I am suggesting that school boards and teachers propose amendments to these unneeded laws before they are mandated to take effect in the next school year. Teachers and school boards are on the same side in opposing these unprecedented attacks on public education. I hope we can find new hope in cooperation as a united front.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Jindal and White really hate us! Why?
So if we get fired due to our value added scores, as it seems 10% will, what happens to our retirement accounts? Do we get back what we paid in? From the last article there seems to be a chance that even the most senior of us could be terminated. Teachers are starting to get really scared. Administrators keep telling us to do SLTs, do hands on, get reading scores up, worry about math, keep the students reading, make sure accommodations are met, met with parents all with an edge of desperation and yet no one will say it out loud, "We are doing our best but if our best isn't good enough...then what!!!?!" A peer summed it up well when he commented that he feels like he is just waiting to get fired with no hope for a future. Knowing he is doing everything he can to be a good teacher as he has been and then one day he will be fired. He has taught 14 years. He will have value up until the scores get calculated and suddenly he will be worthless.

Michael Deshotels said...

To Anomymous all I can say is I really sympathize with you and other teachers who feel helpless to deal with VAM. I taught at a time when we were really empowered and trusted to do the right thing for our students. I loved my teaching job and never lived in fear because my principal and I had mutual trust and respect. Now according to the new Act 54 rules, even if a teacher gets an excellent evaluation from his/her principal, an ineffective rating from VAM and the teacher is rated as ineffective. That's why I say that VAM can easily become 100% of a teacher's evaluation!

Anonymous said...

So if a teacher is rated ineffective are they fired immediately? I thought there was some sort of intensive assistance program they were put into? I love this blog and the info, is there a site that lists the consequences of these laws that really explains what is going to happen to teachers in Louisiana? I have read the laws on the DOE site and the LFT and LEA sites but are they honest or exaggerations? I share everything from here with my peers! Thank you!

Michael Deshotels said...

The teacher is not fired immediately. The legislature delayed the effect of an ineffective evaluation for one year, but the teacher still loses tenure immediately and is put first on any layoff list. This blog is the only site I know that has described all the major changes made by acts 1 & 2 but I have spread it out over several months.... .. There was just so much. I have also summarized much of it as a guest blogger on the LAE web site. You can also get a lot of inside info. By joining my Defenders of Public Education data base.

Anonymous said...

thank you!

Anonymous said...

...and if you check out our director of the new teacher evaluation program, Molly Horstman's facebook page and see her very public images of drinking and partying you'll be even more appalled!

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know the number of veteran teachers and administrators who retired over the summer, and the number who have retired or quit teaching since the start of the current school year. Could you learn this?

I would love to know how many of our veteran teachers are now at private, charter, and parochial school. I think these schools will continue to hire more of our best and brightest educators as they flee an unfair evaluation system in droves.

If possible, also request observation forms from some of the school districts who ranked in the top 25% of the state last year based upon school performance scores. Note the hoops teachers are asked to jump this year in order to attempt to earn a highly effective observation to offset their VAM scores (of course, the observation won't matter if the VAM score rates the teacher as ineffective). Please write about this!

One transition in a 50 minute class (whole group to small group for example)would earn an ineffective score on that one individual item within the major component area. Teachers earn points if students help determine evaluation criteria, help evaluate student work, lead discussions, or suggest modifications to lessons, for example. Who is in charge of the classroom- the teacher or the student?

When you went to school, how often did you develop the evaluation criteria? How often did your class have 3 transitions in a 50 minute period? Can you imagine your college professor doing much of this?

Remember also that many school districts follow time lines for instruction. Teachers have to cover a certain amount of material within a given amount of time. How are teachers supposed to do all this while attempting to incorporate the "bells and whistles" needed to earn a highly effective rating on the observation part of the evaluation process?

Chicago teachers walked out when only 30% of their evaluations were based on VAM scores. In LA, 50% of some teachers' evaluations are based on the VAM component; that rises to 100% if the VAM component rates the teacher as ineffective.

Why can't reform measures affect only schools that need assistance in improving their school's performance scores? Schools that perform well should be left alone to continue to do what works for them.

Anonymous said...

I wrote to the BESE board members and here was my reply from the President, Penny Dastugue:

"The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education hires two individuals, the Executive Director and the State Superintendent of Education making your request for a written justification of a hire within the Department of Education inappropriate and one that BESE cannot and should not respond. Since Superintendent White is the administrative head of the LDOE, I suggest that you direct your request to him. I appreciate your interest in our work and all that you do for your students.


Penny Dastugue"


Michael Deshotels said...

So why can't BESE set the qualifications for department heads so that the Superintendent must hire within the parameters set by BESE. This would obviously be a policy decision within the area of responsibility of BESE. Dastigue's answer is a cop-out.

Anonymous said...

This is beyond ridiculous. I have been teaching in public schools for 22 years and have seen nothing like it. I think we are getting to the point where we need to take action. I feel bullied. I am ready to do whatever it takes to give the students of LA a better future. We are going backwards. I think we need to unify and take action. Strength in numbers. I am ready. If we must go back to the capital, strike, etc. I am ready. I have enough. I want to protect this profession that I love so dearly.

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