Monday, February 9, 2015

LDOE Proposals to Revamp Teacher Evaluation

The LDOE has sent the teacher evaluation subcommittee a total of four recommendations for changing the teacher evaluation program for Louisiana. The subcommittee meets tomorrow, Feb. 10 at 1:00 PM and is expected to consider the proposals. These recommendations contain vary little of the changes proposed by over 200 educators who sent emails to the subcommittee. Here is a summary of the proposals and my best analysis of the probable results of such changes.

#1 Support for Leaders. This would include two initiatives.
(a) Expand TAP program by recommending TAP Best Practices be adopted by schools (in part or in whole). Comment: The Teacher Advancement program is presently used in several parishes, and involves the use of teacher leaders who are relieved of some teaching responsibilities so that they can assist other teachers in improving student performance. This was not recommended by any of the teachers or principals sending recommendations to the subcommittee. Adding more personnel could be a costly unfunded expense for school systems that are already suffering from numerous other unfunded mandates. In addition, some of the TAP best practices require teachers to spend many uncompensated hours in meetings reviewing student progress and planning test prep activities.

(b) The LDOE wants to establish a Fellowship Program to help principals and other school leaders use the Compass tool.  Comment: According to many of the recommendations from educators, the Compass tool is defective. It needs to be fixed before principals are required to attend more training sessions often run by persons who have little experience in managing a school or even evaluating teachers.

#2 Leader Goal Setting: The LDOE wants to recommend to every principal, specific school learning targets or goals based on historical performance of similar schools. Comment: None of the 200 educators responding to the subcommittee recommended this change. This is an attempt by the LDOE to base the entire evaluation of every principal strictly on student test score improvement. Superintendent White announced last fall that there were too many principals of low performing schools getting good evaluations. He suggested at that time that he would ask the Act 240 subcommittee to fix this problem. This is apparently part of his solution.
See the 2014 Compass Report (Page 6) where this statement appears: "The Department will make recommendations regarding principal accountability for student learning and principal capacity to assist teachers in professional learning." 

Even though White apparently does not recognize it, the job of a principal includes much more than raising student test scores. Just a few of these critical duties include supporting teachers in maintaining student discipline, parental involvement, and a healthy positive learning environment that responds to the needs of all students and provides arts, PE, extracurricular activities, good role models, career planning etc. This recommendation if adopted would allow the LDOE to bully all principals into doing nothing but test prep in their schools from August to April each year.

#3 Compass and Leader Empowerment: Leaders would consider multiple measures to determine teacher ratings. Comment: This was recommended by many of the educators to the subcommittee, but the LDOE proposal focuses on only SLTs and VAM. That’s only two measures not multiple measures.

Recommendation #3 would also remove the override provision that required an ineffective rating if either half of the evaluation was rated as ineffective. Comment: Educators also recommended this. This is a positive step forward.
Allow the principal to increase or decrease the VAM score by up to one point if student learning target data contradicts the VAM. Comment: This is a step in the right direction but keeps the VAM as a significant part of the evaluation of some teachers even though both national statistical experts and local educators do not support it.

#4 Observation and Rubric Support: The LDOE would convene a workgroup of principals to consider best practices for making the observation process as efficient and effective as possible. The LDOE and Louisiana Association of Principals would release guidance on alternative rubric process and tools and more effective observations. Comment: This process apparently would not include teachers and there is no suggestion of altering the rubric for different education specialties and for teachers whose jobs now are not adequately addressed by the present COMPASS.
This looks like a weak process that may not change much about the COMPASS. The Principals and teachers on the Act 240 subcommittee have recommended the appointment of a committee of experienced principals and teachers that could make any changes needed to address these concerns.

Even though there are some positive changes proposed, I do not believe that the four proposals recommended by the LDOE would greatly improve the teacher evaluation process. But in my opinion, they would further force all of our educators to do nothing but rehearse students for the annual state tests. I believe we are killing all the joy of teaching and learning.

There were however six solid recommendations for improving the evaluation system made by principal and teacher leaders at the last subcommittee meeting. If these were adopted instead, I believe the evaluation system could improve and both educators and students would benefit!

They are the following:

1. Remove the override provision mandating a teacher be declared ineffective if either the qualitative or the quantitative part of her/his evaluation is rated as ineffective.

2. Suspend the VAM for the quantitative component of the teacher evaluation, indefinitely.

3. Require student learning targets (SLTs) be developed only between the teacher and her/his immediate supervisor.

4. Remove all quotas for various levels of teacher ratings.

5. Revamp COMPASS to allow for different education specialties, as well as different teaching styles and techniques. (Note: This was to be done by a committee composed of experienced teachers and principals)

6. Reduce the amount of time principals must spend evaluating teachers who achieve effective status in their first observation.

The LDOE recommendations do nothing to address items 3, 4, 5, and 6.

I believe these are sound proposals and should be voted upon by the subcommittee before the LDOE recommendations since subcommittee members introduced them at the last meeting.

Here are the email addresses for all subcommittee members. Please try to communicate your concerns to them by tomorrow:;;;;; burnsj@REGENTS.LA.GOV;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; 

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