Sunday, March 17, 2013

Muddying the Narrative on VAM

In the old days before the Jindal reforms, educators could count on our State Department of Education to provide us with the facts about various education programs. If a program was new and needed to be evaluated to see if it was really working, we could generally count on our DOE to give us a legitimate evaluation, without bias and spin. Sadly this is no longer the case. John White set the standard last year around the time of his confirmation hearings when it was discovered by Monroe News Star reporter, Barbara Leader that there were no standards at all originally for the approval of the new voucher schools. She next uncovered secret emails between White and Jindal's staff where White suggested that steps should be taken to "muddy the narrative".

More recently the State Department and BESE are required to make a report to the Legislature on the new teacher evaluation program which includes the controversial VAM component. Last year the report appropriately described the stability or reliability of VAM by giving statistics on how consistent the VAM was in identifying teachers as being ineffective from year to year. The data showed huge changes from year to year even if teachers taught exactly the same way each year. Now the new report approved this month by BESE muddies the narrative by changing the report to include irrelevant data. Here is an analysis of the new report by Wayne Free who is the Assistant Executive Director for Instructional and Professional Development for the LAE.

BESE Ratifies Report Designed to Mislead the Legislature

On March 8th 2013 the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) ratified a report to the Senate and House Education Committees on the state evaluation system including information on the Value Added Model (VAM) used to evaluate many teachers. The report was purposely designed to hide the true ineffectiveness of the VAM system when used as dictated in ACT 54 and BESE Bulletin 130

The report that was produced by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) dated March 1, 2013 (no Author listed) described the top and bottom 10% stability as moderate based on a 75% score in mathematics and 78% score in language arts. What the LDE did was to change their reporting practice from last year. They reported that teachers who fell in the bottom 10% would remain in the bottom 50% 75-78% of the time or that teachers at the top 10% would remain in the top 50% 75-78% of the time. The new analysis confuses the issue by starting off discussing the accuracy of the bottom 10% category and then switches to the entire bottom 50%. The same bait and switch is used in examining the top 10% by expanding the discussion to the entire top 50%!

In actuality, the DOE data indicates that any teacher who scores in the bottom 10% moved out of that level 75% of the time for a “poor” stability rating of only 25%. (And that happens without the teacher changing any of his/her teaching from one year to the next. The change in rating from year to year is due totally to the instability of VAM!) Teachers who scored in the top 10% rating moved out of that level 60% of the time for a “poor” stability rating of only 40%.

In other words… if 1,000 teachers were listed in the bottom 10% one year, 750 would no longer be in the bottom 10% the next year based on the weakness of the value added process. If 1,000 teachers were listed in the top 10% one year, 600 would no longer be in the top 10% the next year based on the weakness of the value added process. This lack of stability is one of the reasons almost all states have refused to use VAM as it is being used in Louisiana and why the recently released MET report (Bill Gates Foundation) recommend the use of VAM at the 33% level rather than the 51% level currently being used in Louisiana.

The LDE changed the report to purposely hide the true nature of the VAM stability from the legislators and public. Unfortunately this is not the only time that the LDE has manipulated data to hide the true facts of the current reform initiatives. While I find many of the LDE decisions unconscionable, the willingness of the LDE to purposely miss-inform the legislative committees is more than unconscionable … it is also constitutes malfeasance. (mal·fea·sance NOUN: Misconduct or wrongdoing, especially by a public official.)

Wayne Free
Asst. Exec. Director
Louisiana Association of Educators

For my readers who prefer a multimedia presentation, I offer the following superb 5 minute video created by Herb Bassett:


Robert Trudeau said...

Makes me ill to see this devolution of info sources.

But I'd like to ask parents to look at the Value Added Measurement plan and see whether it is relevant to their needs.

VAM began as a concept beloved by Republican policy writers. Sadly, the ideologues have not found a reasonable way to apply the concept.

Communities don't need education voodoo such as VAM to put pressure on teachers who don't meet expectations. Concerned parents simply get together, organize their facts and sit in the principal's office and superintendents office until change is effected. It is a simple and direct process and I have seen it work.

Meanwhile the other teachers go about their business not being hampered by evaluation systems that seem ridiculous.

We're all in this for the sake of children and their learning. VAM is a deeply flawed plan.

Time to say No to VAM.

Anonymous said...

Parents getting together to put pressure on teachers who don't meet their expectations is not always because the teacher is ineffective. Getting rid of just VAM will still not solve the issue of teachers without due process or principals without principles.
If the teacher works for an ethical and professional pricipal, then it may be a simple process, but if it takes THREE years to get the right to due process how did that teacher pass three years of evaluations?
I have seen this process far from simple. Rather is was a complex attempt by parents to get rid of a teacher with high expectations, and parents who wanted "A's" and no interference with this child's athletic participation.
Like many other professions, teacher need due process, solid authentic evaluations and a process that doesn't enable administrators to discard them. In many professions whatever was considered not meeting standards was evaluated and retraining vs firing was done because one area of ineffectiveness doesn't always indicate an entirely useless individual.
Dr's, nurses, attorneys, engineers do make mistakes but have a process of evaluation that considers both sides and also is a peer review process. This shows the person is valued for their entire skill set and knowledge, and is respected.
Teachers need to be able to teach without fear of being fired or judged ineffective or incompetent based on one incident or an administrator or peer who dislikes them. Sometimes it is as simple as a personality conflict and the teacher is harassed and fired. Especially in smaller parishes working with people you don't like seems to be a problem in teaching where everyone is constantly told they are a family and expect to like each other and socialize together.

Robert, I am glad you saw it work where you are, I have yet to see it work here. I have seen a few teachers rightly fired for blatantly unprofessional conduct and others just got on the wrong side of an administrator and they were "allowed" to resign.

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