Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New VAM Rules Result in Favoritism


"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

John White continues to try to muddy up the narrative relative to the highly erratic VAM component of teacher evaluation. But he can't fool Herb Bassett.

Mr Bassett is a band and music teacher who also has a minor in math. In my opinion Herb is a major math expert. He also knows how to use higher level thinking skills to question some of the screwy politically motivated decisions coming out of our DOE. Herb has noticed that one of the most recent changes in VAM rules ends up giving preferential treatment to some teachers while unfairly punishing other teachers. The rule change recently issued by Superintendent White may actually reward some teachers with the lowest VAM scores while punishing some teachers of the same type of students who have higher VAM scores. (This is really just the latest chapter in the DOE soap opera called the Seabaugh Solution)

This is part of the email Mr Bassett sent to Superintendent White on July 15:

Superintendent White,

This email regards the Compass Process FAQ July 8 update addressing a concern that the VAM system did not accurately reflect the effectiveness of certain teachers:

(Here is part of what the July 8 DOE advisory states)
A very small number of teachers’ scores (roughly 50 statewide) are undergoing further study before they are finalized. In these cases, the majority of students were performing at 'advanced,' 'mastery, or 'excellent,' but the ratings placed the teacher as Ineffective. These teachers’ value-added data will not appear in the Compass Information System. Evaluators should use student learning targets to assign the student growth rating for these teachers.”


1) You did not give the necessary context to support the contention that the VAM rankings inaccurately reflected those teachers' effectiveness. LDOE materials have specifically stated that it is a myth that "teachers of high-achieving students are at a disadvantage because they may not show growth with students on the value-added model."

What was the total count of teachers AT ALL LEVELS (Ineffective, Effective Emerging, Effective Proficient, and Highly Effective) who had a majority of students score Excellent, Advanced, or Mastery? This information is needed to show that VAM disproportionately ranked this class of teachers as Ineffective.

2) The decision is unfair to similar teachers in the 11th to 20th percentiles of VAM. Their highest possible score would be lower than that of the teachers in the bottom decile.

Some of the teachers whose VAM rank was Ineffective (1st-10th percentile) will receive the final Compass rating of Highly Effective since they will be evaluated on their SLTs instead of their VAM rank.

Similar teachers in the 11th to 20th percentiles could at best receive the final Compass rating of only Effective: Proficient. By current Compass rules, they must receive a score of 2.00 on the Student Growth Rating. Given a perfect Professional Practices score of 4.00, such a teacher has a maximum possible overall Compass rating of 3.00 - Effective: Proficient. These teachers would be affected by the same inaccuracy (if it exists) and arguably be better teachers.

(Mr Bassett also pointed out other inequities of VAM in his letter to White and ends up with the following:)

The best solution would be to make VAM results be for informational purposes only to all teachers and administrators - not just the teachers of high-performing students.

Herb Bassett

White finally answered Bassett's email on July 27 and ignored the inequity issue raised by Bassett. Here is White's email:

Herb, thanks for the note. Out of 50,000 teachers, and out of 16,500 who received value-added data, there have been a small number of instances where I have asked for the data to be reviewed further. In the aggregate, yes, there are not pronounced biases of the kinds you discuss. But, whether as a matter of policy or a mater of procedure, there are bound to be some instances in which we really need to understand better what has happened and whether the data should be used to determine someone's rating.

I think that's a fair position to take.”

John White

Louisiana Department of Education

It looks to me like these teachers who have been left out of the Seabaugh solution have two choices if they want equity: (1) Contact your State Representative (if he is a Jindal supporter) and raise holy hell telling him/her you want a Seabaugh solution too or (2) If you have the misfortune of living in a district represented by a person who is not a Jindal puppet you have the option of filing a lawsuit that will probably end up helping a bunch of other teachers who are in the same predicament. You could call Herb Bassett as an expert witness. Thank you Herb for revealing this major flaw in the ever changing VAM rules as dictated by politics instead of fairness. You are one of the heroes of Louisiana public education for having the guts to tell truth to power.

Now all we need is for someone to point out how special education teachers and how teachers of high poverty students and how teachers of average students are being shortchanged by VAM. Hmmmm . . . seems like I got a letter from a special education teacher pointing out a serious flaw affecting special education teachers several months ago. I Need to look that up.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Talk about inequities in VAM for sped teachers! I'm a sped teacher, and I know many of my fellow sped teachers feel like they're getting screwed with the test scores. Anywho, this is all ridiculous. Way to avoid the questions in the email, J.W.

Anonymous said...

we have 6 hours of mandatory training on Compass. To tell us what? That some of us will be fired and some rated excellent in a system that doesn't even make sense. If I am a poor teacher in some areas I want to know...so I can improve! Now I just try not to get panicked over thinking about being fired.