Saturday, October 25, 2014

John White Wants Principals to Get Lower Evaluation Scores

White thinks that teachers are being rated too high also.

In the just released annual report on COMPASS, the LDOE makes it very clear that the Department believes that too many principals are being rated too softly on the qualitative part of the evaluation system. The report also claims that there is unwarranted “inflation” of the teacher evaluation scores this year.

Superintendent White believes that the 50% portion of both principal and teacher evaluations that depends on student learning targets were rated too high, now that the state is temporarily not requiring VAM. He also thinks that the qualitative portion which depends on observation of actual instruction was too soft this year. This is coming from a TFA guy who only taught three years and never served as a principal. Somehow he “knows” that the evaluations were too lax this year. Take a look at the title of the press release about the COMPASS report:


Higher expectations for classroom observations? I thought that the classroom observation part of the evaluation did not depend on expectations. It is simply supposed to be an accurate measure of whether or not a teacher or a principal is demonstrating all the components of effective teaching or effective administration. The evaluator makes a judgment as to how well those components were executed in actual application. I did not know that it made a difference what expectations the evaluator had. He/she is simply supposed to accurately rate performance. But White seems to be implying that principals and teachers in schools with low SPS should be graded harder on the observation part of COMPASS. But in fact, BESE policy makes it clear that this part of the evaluation is totally separate from the performance of students. Here is the BESE policy:

A.                  LEAs shall utilize an observation tool to conduct a qualitative assessment of teacher and administrator performance, which shall represent the 50 percent of evaluations that is not based on measures of growth in student learning. (Note: I added the underline for emphasis)

So White is trying to bully local school systems into punishing teachers and principals that happen to serve high poverty, at-risk students. Here is another quote from the COMPASS Report about the evaluation of principals:

"The 2013-2014 results suggest districts can do more to establish consistently high expectations for school leadership. In 2013-2014:"

"28  Districts rated 100 percent of their administrators "proficient" or higher on site visits. Of those 28, 14 districts were below the state average in terms of the percentage of students who achieved Basic and above compared to last year. 63 districts assigned no "ineffective" ratings to any administrators."
Translation: The LDOE would like for school districts where students perform below the state average to give their principals lower evaluation scores no matter how well they meet the criteria of COMPASS. The Department doesn't like these folks getting such good evaluations!
 So contrary to BESE policy, White is suggesting that school districts lower their administrator ratings and match them to the performance of the students. He failed to note however, that the RSD which he has total control over, which has just about the lowest student performance in the state, is also rating almost all their principals as proficient and highly effective. Even so, I believe it is inappropriate for the State Superintendent to tell the evaluators of administrators that their results should be lower and be based primarily on student performance. The law says 50%!

Are the principal evaluations really too high? Here’s how I see this after almost 50 years in the education profession. I know that there are bad eggs in every profession and I have personally known a few bad administrators. Also there are some bad administrators at EXXON-MOBIL which is shoving Common Core down our throats without a shred of evidence that it will work. I know there are bad principals and they should be fired, because their job is so critical to the welfare of our children.
But theoretically a person gets promoted to a principal position because he/she has already demonstrated superior performance as a teacher and often as an assistant principal. Theoretically these folks are the best educators in a school system, and they were promoted because they are good education leaders without considering that some manage schools with high poverty student populations. So would it make sense, as John White suggests, that we give principals who manage schools that serve at-risk, low performing students, a low evaluation score? What about the principals who manage alternative schools that serve the most at risk students? Did you know that recently all such schools in Louisiana were rated as “F” schools? Should all those principals be rated as “ineffective”? What about the School for the Deaf, and the School for the Visually Impaired, and the LA Special Education Center? (All managed by the LDOE) Should their principals be rated “ineffective”? Of course not! Not unless a fair evaluation shows them to be ineffective. In turn, White should not try to bully the Parish schools systems into giving low ratings to principals, because if the local superintendent and the school board have done their job, most of these administrators should be high performers. It is totally out of line for John White to demand that their evaluation scores be lowered.

The same goes for the teachers teaching in a school with a large percentage of high poverty, at-risk students. Just the fact that a teacher can survive in such a situation may be an indication of strong qualities. To constantly hammer away at these teachers and try to guarantee that they will get bad evaluations because of student performance is criminal. It is also driving away the very teachers we need who can support and help at-risk students to be more successful.
 What does White plan to do to insure "higher expectations" for principal evaluations? Here is an excerpt from his press release on the COMPASS report:

"To address current challenges, the Department will take the following steps:

  • Work with a special sub-committee of the Accountability Commission convened by Representative Frank Hoffmann (R-Monroe) to make recommendations to BESE for the use of value-added data after the conclusion of the “time to learn” transition period.

  • Make recommendations regarding principal accountability for student learning and principal capacity to assist teachers in professional learning."

It is clear that White intends to use the Accountability Commission and his rubber stamp BESE to ram though more punitive evaluations of teachers and principals. I wonder when will the education profession say, "enough is enough" and fight back against these destructive attacks on the profession?  


Kimberly Kunst Domangue said...

Upon reading the links provided, I'm wondering if perhaps the improvements seen in leader/teacher evaluations can be somewhat causally-attributed to 1) Turn-over/faculty changes involving those less proficient, and/or 2) Districts improving THEIR leadership/professional development of district leaders/teachers, and/or 3) Leaders and teachers improving performance based upon site-based PD.

Michael Deshotels said...

Kimberly, I would go mostly with your #2. Since the purpose of evaluation is to help teachers get more effective, professional develpment based on the eval from the year before should have produced better evals this year. This should be hailed by White as success instead of inflation. I am sorry to inform him that improved instruction may not always result in better test scores if you keep changing the tests. The shift to Common Core is certainly not making it easy.

Anonymous said...

You make a very strong argument here mike. why would any teacher in their right mind consider for even one second teaching in a school where kids won't perform well on tests?...that teacher could very well hit each and every box during the observations for the danielson rubric , but return low test scores. A teacher could teach in a neighboring district with less poverty, perform worse on the observation, but inherit a group of kids who perform better on the tests and be graced with the protection the kids provide through strong test scores. How quickly white forgets the seabaugh solution...strong teaching does not always produce growth when students are already working at their personal maximum potential!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, let me clarify...strong teaching usually produces growth...but not necessarily on test scores.

Victoria said...

I work in a low-performing, high-poverty school. Many of my colleagues fear this scenario happening. We have some great teachers on staff. These ladies and gentleman come to work everyday--even at the expense of their personal health and sadety--and bust their butts. Our workload is double that of a better performing school, and we make it work. We stay because we love these kids. However, there is only so much a person can take. These great teachers will soon be leaving for better pastures, and only the ineffective will remain, which is only going to hurt the students even more.

Also, teachers were provided with a COMPASS rubric showing how they were going to be graded. Any teacher worth his/her salt is going to go home and study it and figure out what is required to get an effective rating. I know I did. I'm sure many others did too. John White shouldn't be mad that he showed us what he wanted and we delivered. I honestly don't know what he expected to happen.