On the issue of teacher evaluation, the most important thing that can be done is to fix the defective VAM system for evaluating teachers. The Value Added Model was an attempt to link teacher evaluations to gains in student learning over a specified period of time. However, the actual application of this system shows that VAM is a boondoggle that does more harm than good in evaluating teachers. The last studies done on VAM in Louisiana showed the results to be highly unstable from year to year. A huge percentage of teachers that received an "ineffective" rating using VAM for one year received an effective rating the following year even if they changed nothing at all in their teaching. This means that VAM is highly unreliable as a method for evaluating teachers. It can result in teachers being placed on a path to dismissal for no legitimate reason. That's why the VAM component needs to be removed or severely reduced as a part of teacher evaluation.
As part of Act 1 of 2012, Louisiana doubled down on the defective VAM system by requiring that a portion of each teacher's salary be based on their evaluations. The way the system worked is that in order to receive so called "merit pay" teachers had to be rated "highly effective" on their evaluation. In most cases since the state provided no funding for "merit pay", the system was funded by reducing automatic step increases based on years of experience.
Amazingly, this system created a huge disparity between the approximately one third of teachers who were rated using VAM, and teachers rated using Student Learning Targets. The "highly effective" portion of the VAM rated teachers were arbitrarily limited to only 20% of the whole VAM group. But there was no such limit on "highly effective" for the SLT rated teachers. This has resulted in teachers who teach state tested subjects being arbitrarily punished in the calculation of their salaries. My opinion is that no successful business would ever set up such an unfair system of paying employees. Fortunately VAM was used in the calculation of salaries for only one year in Louisiana, but it is scheduled to go back into effect as soon as baseline scores are set on our new state student tests. This highly unfair system must be corrected if Louisiana is to attract and retain teachers in the basic skills subjects.
Many education leaders agree that multiple measures of student progress could be more effectively used instead of VAM. Even then, the overall percentage of student progress measures as part of the teacher's evaluation should be limited. Several bills to be heard in the House of Representatives would attempt to make those changes. Click on the bill number to see the full text of the bill.
HB 650 by Price would remove the requirement that teacher salaries (merit pay) be based partially on student performance measures. In addition, each local school board or governing authority would be authorized to utilize student performance for between 15 and 25% of each teacher's overall evaluation. This change would significantly reduce the effect of VAM on teacher evaluations. This bill would go a long way toward fixing the problems with VAM in Louisiana.
HB 723 by Price would require multiple measures of student progress to be used for 50% of each teachers' evaluation. Of that 50%, no more than half could be based on VAM. This is simply an effort to reduce the impact of VAM while allowing flexibility to principals in using other measures of student progress as part of a teacher's evaluation. This bill would also reduce the disparities between VAM rated teachers and all other teacher evaluations.
HB 479 by Ivey would further stigmatize the teachers teaching in schools that serve larger portions of at-risk students ("D" or "F" schools) by requiring that a larger portion of the teacher's evaluation (35%) of each teachers' evaluation be based on VAM. BESE would set a lesser percentage related to VAM in schools rated "C" to "A". The problem with this is that there is no evidence whatsoever that teachers in D and F schools are guilty of poor teaching. If you teach in an alternative school for example, you are just about guaranteed to be teaching in an F school even if you have been previously recognized as a superior teacher. To paraphrase James Carville: " It's the poverty stupid!"
This whole idea that teachers are almost solely responsible for the achievement of students has been soundly discredited by the American Statistical Association. This bill needs to be defeated.
See also my analysis of HB 833 in the two posts below this one. It is also scheduled to be debated on Tuesday.
Please consider calling or emailing your member of the House Education Committee now! Ask them to vote "yes" for the bills that in your opinion improve teacher evaluation and vote "no" on any that you believe will not work well. If you call their district office you can leave a message on how you want them to vote with their legislative assistant. The phone number for the House floor is 225-342-6945. The House will be in session at 2:00 P. M. today.