Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Teachers Speak Up About COMPASS and VAM
The Act 240 subcommittee created by the legislature to review the teacher evaluation system and recommend revisions got much more input than was expected from the teachers in the trenches over the last month or so. The committee received over 200 emails from teachers and principals according to reports given at the November 17th meeting. Most of those emails were not at all complementary of the COMPASS and VAM. Here is the Baton Rouge Advocate report on the meeting.
Those teachers who expressed an opinion about the VAM system were almost unanimous about the inaccuracy of VAM evaluations. Many teachers also pointed out that teachers who teach core subjects and are evaluated using VAM instead of student learning targets (SLTs) are at a great disadvantage for getting a fair score. The statistics support this conclusion. 60% of teachers whose quantitative evaluation is determined by SLTs scored "highly effective", while Department of Education rules only allow 20% of VAM teachers to be rated as "highly effective". This is a 3 to 1 advantage for elective teachers compared to basic skills teachers. The quota system included in VAM is arbitrary and capricious and never rewards the teaching force as a whole for improved student performance. How in the world could such a system be considered fair? Some of the members of the Act 240 subcommittee pointed out that it is becoming more and more difficult to get teachers to teach math and language arts.
The committee members seemed to be getting the message. Carol Price of Zachary High School stated that she believed that most committee members understood that there was by far too much weight given to VAM in the evaluation. She said "I don't think anyone at the table is happy with 50:50. " Debbie Schum, representing principals on the committee said that she thought the weighting of VAM should be reduced from 50% to more like 20%. Representative Hoffmann who originally sponsored the Act 54 evaluation legislation said that he felt that tenure should not be canceled based on one bad year of VAM.
It is also becoming clear that the ranking system that determines a teacher's final VAM score is inappropriate because it always dooms 10% of teachers to an ineffective VAM each year even if student performance improves from one year to the next. This defeats the purpose of the whole evaluation system.
Many special education teachers and teachers from alternative schools have written in to say that the COMPASS rubric does not even come close to measuring what a successful teacher in their specialty must do every day. The one-size-fits-all approach of COMPASS does not work at all for their jobs. Many objected to the "dog and pony show" aspect of COMPASS.
Let's hope the committee will follow through with appropriate recommendations.
Posted by Michael Deshotels