Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Accountability, Teacher Eval., Debate Shifts to Senate

The House Education Committee leaders and bill authors have deferred all bills related to teacher evaluation and VAM for the time being. It looks like the real action and possible compromises on accountability and teacher evaluation will now shift to the Senate Education Committee on Thursday morning May 5. SB 262 by Morrish seems to be the instrument that will be used for defining the new blueprint for accountability using state tests, and any changes in teacher evaluation.

A big issue to be worked out will be the use of VAM as part of the evaluation of about one third of K-12 teachers. At this point it looks like VAM will still be mandated for teacher evaluations in one or two years, but will be reduced as a percentage of the overall evaluation. The original VAM percentage was 50% of the evaluation with the exception that if a teacher received an "ineffective" VAM rating, then the teacher's entire evaluation would be deemed "ineffective". This little rule of course made a mockery of the alleged 50:50 split between the quantitative (VAM) portion and the qualitative (observation) portion.

Studies of VAM have shown it to be so unreliable that it should not be used for even 1% of the evaluation in my opinion. In addition, teachers rated using VAM were at a disadvantage in getting a highly effective rating for the purpose of being granted tenure and for qualifying for  merit pay bonuses. That was because the John White imposed rules said that only 20% of the VAM group could be rated as highly effective on their quantitative portion. There was no such limit placed on teachers who were rated using Student Learning Targets (SLTs), so they had an automatic advantage in getting merit pay and achieving tenure over the teachers teaching  basic skills subjects. I wonder if the "compromise" legislation will fix this problem.

The truth is that the entire accountability system for both schools and educators which was supposed to be "data driven" is so riddled with incorrect assumptions and built in errors that it should be entirely scrapped. (Have I mentioned lately that the school letter grading system automatically rates some schools as D or F primarily because they happen to serve a high proportion of high poverty students?)  This rating system is inherently unfair to both the schools and teachers serving high poverty areas. But of course that's not how education reform works. The reformers can never admit that their schemes are failures; they just need minor adjustments.

This is the contact information for the Senate Education Committee members:
Remember that they are supposed to represent your concerns, not the concerns of big business and lobbyists. You have a right to give them your recommendations.
Senate Education Committee Members

Dan “Blade” Morrish: morrishd@legis.la.gov Phone: 337-824-3979
Represents: Jeff Davis, Cameron, Calcasieu and Cameron

John Milcovich: milkovitchj@legis.la.gov Phone: 318-676-7877
Represents: Caddo, Desoto

Conrad Appel: appelc@legis.la.gov Phone: 504-838-5550
Represents: Jefferson

Gerald Boudreaux: boudreauxg@legis.la.gov Phone: 337-267-7520
Represents St. Landry, Lafayette

Beth Mizell: mizellb@legis.la.gov Phone: 985-839-3936
Represents: Washington, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany

Mike Walsworth: walsworthm@legis.la.gov Phone: 318-340-6453
Represents: Union, Claiborne, Morehouse, Ouachita, W. Carroll, Lincoln

Mack “Bodi” White: whitem@legis.la.gov Phone: 225-272-1324 Represents: Tangipahoa, St. Helena, E. Baton Rouge

Suspension repression bill is up again today!

HB 833 on limiting student suspensions has been amended and is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee today, The amendments would now include the charter schools in this very bad legislation, and the representation of the advisory committee on discipline has been revised slightly to include supervisors of child welfare and attendance, but there is still no representation of parents of regular students who often are deprived of instruction by the behavior of a few disruptive students.  At least 14 of the members of the advisory committee are chosen from groups who will want to protect the interests of the students who disrupt classrooms. Every effort is being made to find a way to keep disruptive students in the classroom no matter how much they misbehave. Somehow it has become the responsibility of the teacher who just wants to teacher her/his class without disruption, to "deescalate" the response to misbehavior instead of stopping it. Under this legislation, the rights of the disrupters overrule the rights of the 95% of the students who follow the rules and want to learn.

HB 833 if passed is designed to put tremendous pressure on schools to arbitrarily reduce suspensions even if they happen to have a disproportionate number of disruptive students. Every school is supposed to magically control misbehavior without the need to remove disruptive students. Yet, I still can't find anyone who can tell me what a teacher is supposed to do when one or more students continue to prevent instruction or pose a threat to the safety of other students or the teacher. They keep talking about lessor penalties such as loss of privileges or counseling or restorative justice or PBIS. Some of these processes take so long that a teacher could lose half of their instruction time for a semester before something is actually done. Not to mention the fact that with looming budget cuts, schools will have no new money to hire more interventionists and special masters that are supposed to be approved by the LDOE and will have power over the school principal to force suspension educations.

Please ask your House Education member to vote "no" on HB 833.
The committee members are listed on the previous post below.

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