Do you sometimes wonder why most of the education reform programs in recent years have been such boondoggles? Why is VAM so erratic and unfair to so many teachers? Why is so much of each school administrator's valuable time being tied up in watching teachers perform a dog and pony show that is not always related to real teaching? Why are some of the teachers in the highest performing school districts getting some of the lowest evaluations? Does the new teacher and principal evaluation system mandated by Act54 of 2010 have any connection to reality in our public schools?
Here are my observations about what may have gone wrong:
- The whole COMPASS and VAM system was designed and implemented under the direction of a person who had absolutely no teaching or school administrator experience and who had no training whatsoever in education. Her name is Rayne Martin and she was appointed to design and administer the new teacher evaluation program by former Superintendent Paul Pastorek. She now heads up one of the fake grass roots organizations (an AstroTurf organization) here in Louisiana called Stand for Children which is almost totally financed by out of state entrepreneurs whose goal is to privatize public education and to allow out-of-state companies to make as much money as possible using our children and our tax dollars. What an insult to the professional educators of this state! Some of the concepts behind the new evaluation system included parts of a pretty good system of teacher observation developed by Charlotte Danielson (except that I think it is much too inflexible to be applied to all types of teaching). But Rayne Martin was certainly not qualified to design a practical system. That's why it is so unworkable. Danielson herself has disavowed any connection with this scheme and does not endorse it in any way.
- The new Director of the evaluation system appointed by John White is almost as poorly qualified as Rayne Martin to run and improve this system. Her name is Jessica Baghian, and her background is (a) 5 weeks training as a TFA corps member with no formal education training, (b) Served as a TFA teacher in a low performing charter school in New Orleans for a couple of years, (c) Has no training as an administrator or teacher evaluator, (d) Has never evaluated teachers herself. Ms Baghian may be a very nice and hard working person but why is she in charge of telling 30 year veteran administrators how to evaluate teachers?
- The Value Added Model was designed for Louisiana by Dr George Noell from LSU who was apparently qualified, at least on paper, to design the technical components of a VAM system. But it is useful to note that he also has never had experience teaching or supervising at the elementary/secondary level. The problem is that his product, the VAM system, does not work consistently in identifying effective and ineffective teaching, and there are all sorts of glitches built in that no one has been able to fix. For example, Dr Noel admits that the reliability of VAM in producing a consistent ineffective rating based on student test scores is extremely low. (See this post) Dr Noell was asked: “What is the probability that a teacher who gets an ineffective rating one year because of VAM data will get an ineffective rating the following year if he/she changes nothing in his/her teaching. The answer he gave is 26.8%. So the VAM method of rating teachers as ineffective is going to be wrong 3 out of 4 times when you try to extend it to a second year. Why would any personnel management system want to use such an unreliable process? In addition to the general problem with VAM, no one can figure out how to use it to evaluate teachers of handicapped children and teachers of gifted children. It simply breaks down when applied to the two extremes.. This is the same result that is being observed in all other states where VAM is being used to rate teachers. There is a simple conclusion here: VAM is totally unreliable and should not be used ever to evaluate teachers. Period.
- Suspend the use of VAM or at least reduce the percentage of VAM in the teacher and principal evaluation to a much lower percentage than the present 50%. But again, my preference would be to suspend VAM indefinitely.
- If VAM cannot be removed, at least remove the requirement that an ineffective rating on VAM overrules the principal's effective rating. This was not part of the Act 54 law but was added by rule.
- Remove the requirement that one bad evaluation nullifies teacher tenure.
- Simplify and allow modifications of COMPASS to fit different situations such as special eduction, PE, early childhood, remedial classes, advanced classes, etc. Stop trying to evaluate many different types of teaching by one inflexible system.
- Stop insisting that teachers perform a dog and pony show where the observer has to document each little component of the COMPASS rubric each time for the teacher to get a good evaluation.
- Stop insisting that the ultimate demonstration of good teaching is the demonstration of student directed learning. Sometimes the teacher just has to take the lead in laying out what is to be learned rather than to always expect to see maximum student participation.
- I guess what I am saying in the 3 points above, is that each major subject area or department in a school system should be able to get together and redesign the COMPASS system to more accurately fit what the folks in that area do every day. Why can't we trust the teachers and administrators to modify COMPASS to do what will work best in different situations?
Note: Just added Appointees by the Legislature to Act 240 subcommittee. This group will sit with the full Accountability Commission for the teacher evaluation review:
Keisha Fleming – 5th Grade Math teacher, Iberville Elementary School; firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Johnson – 8th Grade Social Studies teacher, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Andrew.email@example.com
Heather Lawson – Algebra I teacher, Belle Chasse High School; firstname.lastname@example.org
Miki Wallingsford, Haughton High School; email@example.com
Mary Aulds, Claiborne Elementary School; firstname.lastname@example.org
Legislators serving on the Act 240 subcommittee
Representative Frank Hoffmann, email@example.com
Senator Conrad Appel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Giselle Juneau, Pupil appraisal, St. John, email@example.com
Mickey Landry, Charter School Rep., firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Larriviere, Nonpublic school Rep.; Alarriviere@diolaf.org
Sandra McCalla, Principal, Caddo Parish; email@example.com
Debbie Meaux, LAE President, Debbie.Meaux@lae.org
Steve Monaghan, LFT President, StevemonaghanLFT@aol.com
Brigitte Nieland, Community Rep., LABI; firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Price, High School Math teacher, Zachary HS; Carol.email@example.com
Patrice Pujol, Superintendent of Schools, Ascension; Patrice.Pujol@apsb.org
Debbie Schum, Principal Rep., Principal's Association; firstname.lastname@example.org
Brandy Thomas, Paren Rep; Allen Parish; Theyoncelived@gmail.com
Judy Vail, LEA Administrator, Calcasieu Parish; email@example.com
Lee Ann Wall, A+PEL Rep.; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Magee, Pupil Appraisal Rep.; email@example.com,