Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why are Teachers Leaving the Profession in Louisiana?

As usual, the biased Advocate reporter, Will Sentell misses the point about the real causes of teacher attrition in recent years following the so called Jindal education reforms. His story about a report on the increase in teachers leaving the profession in recent years, suggests that the main reason for the growing teacher losses is the tougher tenure law rammed through by Jindal in 2012. Sentell fails to point out that the real problem is the attempt by the state to blame teachers for societal problems over which they (teachers) have no control.

Since the passage of the Jindal "reforms", teachers have been forced to spend inordinate amounts of classroom time mostly prepping their students for state tests. Then the results of these tests are used to evaluate teachers and to assign letter grades to their schools. The assumption has been that student test scores are determined primarily by the quality of their teachers in each school. Yet, the American Statistical Association has determined that the quality of the teacher influences at most 14% of a student's test performance. So when the state uses student test scores to determine half of a teacher's evaluation, the result will be a huge loss of teacher morale. Most teachers are very dedicated and fair-minded. They really resent being evaluated by such a flawed process.

The real problem is the defective evaluation system based on student test scores which arbitrarily labels a certain percentage of teachers as failures each year. Professional educators resent being forced to spend most of their classroom time doing little more than rehearsing students for state tests. Tests that are poorly designed, and whose scores from year to year are so erratic that no teacher is guaranteed a fair shake when these results are used to evaluate the teacher.

I just completed an analysis of the student performance on the state LEAP tests given in the spring of 2016. The raw scores on these tests average about 40% statewide. The passing raw scores on these tests are set at a ridiculous average of 32%. The tests are so poorly designed that even with months of practice and test rehearsal, kids miss most of the questions. Then those test scores are used to assign letter grades to schools. All the magnet schools that select their students based on academic ability get rated "A" and all schools that serve the most disadvantaged students and the greatest percentage of students with disabilities get rated "D" or "F". The teachers have no control over these factors, yet they are also labeled as failures no matter how hard they work and how dedicated they are to their students. The study on teacher attrition by Tulane University points out that such a system is driving teachers away from the very schools that are most in need of highly qualified teachers.

So simply blaming the changes in the tenure law for increased teacher attrition misses the point. The problem is that amateurs have taken over the operation of our education accountability system and have reduced teaching and learning into a boring and thankless job! That's why so many teachers are quitting their profession!