Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why the COMPASS and VAM Failed Our Teachers and Students

I have been reading dozens and dozens of comments and suggestions made to the Act 240 subcommittee which has been assigned the task of revising the teacher evaluation program. My conclusion is that VAM and COMPASS are a total failure. The new evaluation is a failure for our teachers and also for our students because it is hurting teaching and learning  rather than improving teaching and learning.

The original plan of this evaluation system was to help school administrators to figure out who are the bad teachers and either fix them, fire them,  or convince them to find another career. It was also supposed to help us find out who are the very best teachers and to reward them for their skill and effort. Neither of these objectives have been attained. In fact the opposite has happened, and so far nothing has been done by the LDOE to make the situation better.

Let me give you some examples:
  • ·      Teachers are leaving the profession all right, but it’s mostly the best ones. Dr Lottie Beebe, Superintendent of St. Martin School and BESE member, told the Committee at their first meeting that we are losing large numbers of our best teachers because of the flaws in this evaluation system and it is impossible to fill their positions with qualified persons. Colleges of Education are reporting drops in enrollment of students choosing to go into teaching.
  •      I just analyzed the teacher salary schedule in one parish and found that because of revisions of the teacher salary schedule in response to the teacher merit pay requirements of Act 1 of 2012, teachers who are rated highly effective every single year end up getting lower salaries than they would have gotten using just the step increases in their old salary schedule. All other teachers are getting paid far less then they would have gotten under the old plan.  One school board recently voted to completely change their teacher salary schedule because of the dissatisfaction of most teachers with the new merit pay system based on COMPASS and VAM.
  •      Teachers who have their quantitative evaluation determined by VAM are one third as likely to get a highly effective rating as teachers who are evaluated using Student Learning targets. So the teachers who are teaching the most critical subjects (according to our accountability system) have the lowest chance of getting a good evaluation and the lowest chance of getting paid merit pay.  How is this going to help us attract the best and brightest to teach basic skills subjects?
  •       One school principal wrote to the Act 240 committee that the best teacher at her school went from having the greatest success in teaching math for years to an “ineffective” VAM in only one year because of a flaw in the VAM formula.  That top teacher is now placed on a mandatory remediation plan, has her salary frozen, and has lost tenure just because of one set of student scores that were mostly at the mastery level but still did not meet the VAM requirement.
  •       Teacher after teacher has written in to the Act 240 committee to explain that the new COMPASS rubric is just not at all effective in measuring what they do in their teaching specialty. For example, special education teachers, most of the early childhood teachers, PE teachers, ESL teachers, alternative school teachers, etc.  are reporting that the new COMPASS is not compatible with their every day jobs.
  •       The data collected by the LDOE each year is proving every year that the VAM is totally unreliable in identifying bad teaching and in falsely rating good teachers as bad.
Do you wonder why such a highly anticipated attempt to fix our teacher evaluation system has turned out to be such a train wreck? Here is one clue.

The person who designed the entire evaluation system including how VAM and COMPASS are to be implemented was a person who had never taught a day in her life and had never served as a principal and had never actually used a teacher evaluation system!

What an insult to the teachers who dedicate their careers to real teaching instead of to being part of the education bureaucracy!

Here is a direct quote from one of the teachers writing to the Act 240 Committee:

“We are told as teachers to let the students know the game plan, give them a stake in the lesson, get their buy in, yet we are not treated that way as teachers. Our opinion is never asked, our votes don’t count, and our ideas are not sought . . .”

Maybe the Act 240 Committee will change that!


1 comment:

Jenny said...

I also worry that the legislators are now trying to get unelected commissions together to determine new state standards. Once again, unqualified people determining what is "best" for our children. Why are they pushing this? To take away parents voices by getting rid of local school boards and putting all the power to an unelected commission. Very scary indeed.