Thursday, October 25, 2012

VAM Fix Must Comply with Law

Note: Please read this post as a supplement to the article below it.
A teacher from Caddo sent me an email in response to my post this week on fixing the VAM system for Louisiana. She said the attorney for the Caddo School Board gave his opinion that John White's proposed fix for South Highlands Elementary and similar schools did not comply with Act 54. (The 2010 law setting up the new evaluation system which includes the 50% value added factor). The attorney believes that the law does not allow for such an exemption that removes the value added factor from the evaluation of some teachers. Unfortunately for this situation, I agree with the attorney. I don't think the State Superintendent can go around picking and choosing which teachers can be exempted from VAM, especially not after the fact of getting a bad evaluation. There is a provision for teachers of non-tested subjects and grades to be rated using student learning targets (SLTs) jointly developed by the teacher and his/her principal, but the teachers involved did not fall into this category. This just one more example of what you can expect when you put the careers of professional educators in the hands of an inexperienced unqualified individual. The email I got also pointed out other invalid results that can occur in the evaluation of a teacher using VAM, but there is no legitimate way of tinkering with the VAM formulas to correct these problems.

The same problems are being observed all over the country where a similar value added evaluation is being tried. But the most disgusting example I can think of is the following: A teacher who had previously been recognized as one of the most highly effective in her system, got an ineffective rating because of  VAM and was dismissed. Later, strong evidence was found that the teachers the previous year had cheated on the student testing so that their student scores would help them get an effective rating. Those inflated scores caused the teacher the following year to be rated as ineffective because the students showed little or no growth on state tests. So one highly effective teacher was fired while other unethical or fraudulent teachers were rated as effective!

This is what happens to our formally proud profession when we let amateurs sell the public and the legislature on a "miracle" solution that is not based on sound educational principles. Act 54 is a very bad law that has terrible unintended consequences.  If the legislators from Caddo really want to do the right thing, they need to repeal Act 54 during the next legislative session!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed that the legislaure failed to call a special session. One lawmaker said that anything passed in special session could be vetoed by Jindal. I guess they decided the session would be too expensive for a "maybe so" situation. I certainly would have like to see the repeal of Act 54 and other education reform laws.