Thursday, February 26, 2015

White Changes Teacher Evaluation Reform Recommendations

State Superintendent John White and his staff have now released their recommendations to BESE based primarily on the Act 240 subcommittee that was originally set up to correct major problems with the teacher and principal evaluation programs. The legislation in Act 240 by Rep. Hoffmann was originally intended to address serious complaints from the field by teachers and principals relative to VAM and COMPASS. Unfortunately the whole process for improving the evaluation system has been hijacked by White to do almost the opposite of what hundreds of teachers and principals recommended in emails to the Act 240 committee. Click here for the Baton Rouge Advocate story.

Instead of reducing the reliance on student test scores to evaluate teachers and principals as was recommended by large numbers of educators, the recommendations going to BESE actually enslaves teachers and principals to do almost nothing but teach to the annual tests.
White added his own new recommendations to the report from the Act 240 subcommittee (without consulting the subcommittee) and even ignored some of what was actually proposed by a unanimous vote of the subcommittee in the actual recommendations going to BESE.
This is an insult to the teachers, principals and other educators who served on the subcommittee.

Far from entirely removing VAM as was recommended by the subcommittee for at least one more year, White's recommendations would require the use of a combination of VAM and Student Learning Targets (SLTs) in teacher evaluations starting in 2016-17. (This even though the state testing is constantly changing)

Every principal's evaluation from now on would be absolutely tied to increasing the School Performance Score (SPS) every year. Since the school SPS for every grade from K-8 is totally dependent on student test scores, both principals and teachers will be slaves to annual testing and will be forced to do almost nothing but test prep all year long.

White refers to the new rules as a way of "empowering" school leaders to do their job better. But make no mistake about it, these new rules are really about enslaving all educators to test teaching!
The plan is this: Starting in 2015-16 White and his staff will divide all schools into similar groups and will "recommend" Student Learning Targets and a resulting SLT target for each school. (The Act 240 subcommittee had voted to change BESE rules so that Student Learning Targets could not be dictated to principals. This motion is nowhere to be found in the Act 240 report) These LDOE designed learning targets will become mandatory if a school fails to improve its SPS consistently. The LDOE wants to overrule local superintendents in the supervision of local schools by imposing these targets for each school. (One reporter at the LDOE press conference asked it this was interfering with local authorities to manage their own employees. White simply said that BESE had power to set these rules).

This process is cheerfully referred to by White as "empowering" principals.

Here are the key items in the report going to BESE next week. Each school will be mandated to have:

  • One learning target based on overall school performance improvement in the current year, as measured by SPS
  • One learning target based on a component of school performance improvement (e.g., ACT improvement for high school, math achievement for an elementary school)
  • To insure the above happens, the LDOE will "support and guide" school leaders by recommending targets based on historical performance of similar schools.
  • For teacher evaluations, leaders will consider multiple measures, including value-added (where available) and student learning targets for the student growth score (note that VAM is not optional but must be used in conjunction with SLTs. This is not what the subcommittee intended)
  • The override provision that required that a teacher be rated "ineffective" based only on VAM would be removed. (Comment:This is a good step recommended by teachers and principals)
  • For value-added data, leaders may adjust student outcomes scores by plus or minus one level from the VAM based on learning targets. (again this underscores the continued use of VAM)
Now here is how pressure will be applied to principals. (This part was never submitted to the subcommittee for its consideration) These two recommendations come directly from White.

  • If the school performance score (SPS) declines for two consecutive years for any principal, the local superintendent shall provide justification, in writing, to the Department in order for the principal to set learning targets lower than the LDE recommended targets beginning in the third year. (I believe this is an attempt to embarrass local superintendents into doing White's bidding)
  • If the SPS declines for three or more consecutive years by any principal, the principal's learning targets shall be set at or above the LDE recommended targets beginning in the fourth year.
Here is the problem I see with the above rules:
For all recent years, the LDOE has totally controlled the overall school performance scores by setting the cut scores on the annual standardized tests and by allowing bonus points to schools based on constantly changing rules. The principals are totally at the mercy of changing rules over which they have no control. For example, in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 years, according to White, schools are being graded on the curve with the LDOE insuring that the number of A,B,C,D, and F schools remain constant. This makes SPS scoring a zero sum game. The only way for one school to improve its score is for another school to go down. So for these two years at least, White is insuring that approximately half the schools will have a lowered SPS. We don't know how he will manipulate the school performance scores for 2015 and beyond. He could choose to let the average scores trend upwards or downwards.

My opinion is that this entire scenario where all educators, instead of being empowered, are being enslaved to the highly questionable annual testing (PARCC will probably be junked by the legislature and an equally onerous test will take its place) is being dictated by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). The bosses at LABI, who have no experience in education whatsoever, have determined that the lack of high test scores by some students is because of laziness and incompetence of educators. If enough pressure is put on principals, if more teachers and principals are fired based on test scores, and teachers are forced to get off their lazy a_ _ _ _, student scores will finally go up and education reform will have succeeded. If not, then LABI and their allies on BESE and the Legislature will mandate more charters and vouchers to receive more public school students.

All of this, even with clear statistics and reports from the legislative auditors, that such schools do not improve performance and squander our tax dollars!

Educators and parents do not need to accept these atrocities to our public education system. We must tell BESE and the legislature that these rules are insane and will only harm children. How would you like for your child to be subjected to constant test prep just to appease a bunch of rich business lobbyists who do not even send their children to public schools?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many good teachers and administrators will be sacrificed each year to make it look like bad teachers are being purged. To try and convince BESE and our legislature that OUR parish is working hard to improve. The competition between schools that years ago involved sports and sometimes LEAP, Graduation rates, EOC scores or ACT scores is now a desperate 24/7 activity to save your job as an administrator or educator.
Principals who really care about their staff will soon have to pick which educator can be sacrificed each year for a couple years until White and and the majority of idiots at BESE (not Beebe and Hill) are replaced or fired, or a new Secretary of Education tells the truth; poverty and the destruction of public education will bring about the demise of the United States unless as a nation we face the truth.