Sunday, December 16, 2012

VAM and School Ratings Clash

On the Sandy Hook Tragedy:
I would like to refer my readers to the recent posts by Diane Ravitch concerning the horrible shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Dr Ravitch provides us with an excellent perspective from an educator's point of view on this senseless tragedy. Most educators I know are not surprised by the spontaneous acts of heroism by the principal and faculty of this typically good public school.

On the Issues of School and Teacher Performance:
Barbara Leader of the Monroe News Star recently reported on some of the nonsensical results of Louisiana's school rating and teacher evaluation systems. The reporter has discovered a remarkable disagreement between the accountability rating scores of several of the school systems in Northeast Louisiana and the teacher value added evaluations. That is, in some school systems rated as poor by the Louisiana school performance scores, the value added scores of the teachers are disproportionately high and in some top rated school systems the value added scores are disproportionately low! There are even some school systems with both disproportionate numbers of high value added teachers and low value added teachers. In my opinion, such results reflect poorly on both the letter grades for schools and the new value added teacher evaluation system.

The media and the public have been seriously misled by our amateur education leaders in Louisiana about what constitutes a good school and what makes a good teacher. These strange results are occurring because our school rating system is based purely on student performance, instead of teacher performance and our value added system is based on pseudo science which inaccurately predicts the performance of many classrooms.

Representative Hoffman who authored the new teacher evaluation system is now admitting that the system is flawed. Yet apparently he and the other legislators are still willing to let the program go forward and possibly damage or end the careers of good teachers. Would those same legislators be willing to pass laws that end the careers of doctors, lawyers or accountants based on the mortality rates of patients, the conviction rates of suspects, and the poor money management of businesses? Or would they admit that possibly doctors are not responsible for the smoking habits and unhealthy lifestyles of patients and lawyers can't help it if some of their clients break the law, and accountants cannot always get their client business leaders to follow good money management advice

But in Jindal's war on public education, taxpayers are being led to believe that all schools should be producing great results regardless of parent cooperation and the handicaps faced by students. The public is encouraged to assume that if a school in a poor neighborhood scores a D on the school rating system then the teachers and the principal must not be doing their jobs. Yet the value added system may very well rate the teachers and principal at that school to be above average of even excellent. At the same time newspapers have reported examples of highly rated magnet schools where the teachers are judged by the VAM as below average or poor.

If the legislature really wants to do the right thing, they will junk both the school rating system and the VAM and insist that professional educators take the place of the amateurs at the State Department of Education and that the real educators be allowed to do their job of improving our public schools.


Lottie P. Beebe said...

Mike, great article depicting the real truth about Louisiana's educational report card. How can anyone take pieces of Charlotte Danielson's rubric and believe that the reliability and validity go uncompromised? Danielson was recently quoted in a local paper stating she has serious concerns with her instrument being used in piecemeal fashion (Paraphrasing). Additionally, Act 54 is being violated because Compass was not piloted a year. Dr. Strong’s instrument was piloted—then scrapped in favor of the Danielson instrument which is used piecemeal. Sounds like grounds for contesting results and lawsuits.
In January, Mr. White is proposing to tweak COMPASS. I have been told indirectly this attempt is to ward off critics who are quick to point out the concerns relating to those who are teaching high performing students. If one recognizes the flaws, why not accept responsibility and acknowledge this is the wrong approach and scrap it? (This ,of course, would require leadership and would not be in line with the agenda to have traditional schools appear to be failures.) Wake up, Louisiana!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ms. Bebee. You always tell the truth, and you understand and support public school teachers and students.