Friday, September 28, 2012

Harmful Salary Schedule Mandate

Just as teachers and principals begin grappling with the new Value Added Model of teacher evaluation, school boards will be forced by law to develop possibly radical new salary schedules for teachers in all our public school systems. This is another classic case of an effort by those outside the education business to force the practitioners to adopt a solution to a problem that does not exist! School boards according to a provision in Jindal's  ALEC inspired Act 1 must revise their local teacher salary schedules to add a performance or merit pay component. According to the new law, the revised salary schedules should consider (1) effectiveness as measured by the new evaluation system, (2) job demand/area of certification, and (3) experience, yet no one factor of the three may account for more than 50% of the final formula. This means that results of the new teacher evaluations using VAM data may affect teacher's salaries as a form of merit pay. At the same time some teachers (10% of those evaluated using VAM) will find their salaries frozen based on the new evaluation.

Act I also requires that a new teacher layoff priority list be created for 2013-14 with the teachers that were rated as ineffective by the new evaluation system being first to be laid off without considering their previous evaluations or experience. Seniority of teachers is absolutely banned by Act 1 in the making of employment decisions. Effectiveness as measured by the new VAM system is “king” in the employment and layoff of teachers. As we saw in the editorial by the American Press this week, some schools that are top performers in the state may have disproportionate numbers of teachers classified as ineffective using this new flawed system. Those same evaluations may also cause major changes in the salary schedule for teachers.

So we have a brand new teacher evaluation system whose validity is being seriously questioned by numerous education professionals and now a major Louisiana newspaper, that also may soon have a major impact on teacher salaries. Teachers and school boards will now be forced into possibly adversarial positions just to comply with a law they never needed nor asked for. This is another example of non-educator ideologues dictating new problems for our public school systems. Will such new rules apply to the voucher schools or to the new course choice course providers? Of course not! These unproven competitors with public education as usual are exempted from the heavy handed approach of our ALEC influenced legislature.

According to the new law, a teacher's present salary may not be reduced by the new salary mandate, but a teacher who had looked forward to regular step raises based on experience may no longer receive those incentives to stay in the profession here in Louisiana. Also, some educators who have spent precious dollars and time pursuing higher degrees in expectation of a higher salary rewarding this additional education may now find their plans quashed by the new rules.

One of the perverse incentives to school boards to drop or reduce step increases for experience or advanced degrees are the projected deficits to many school board budgets caused by freezes in the MFP, unfunded mandates by the legislature, and the new drain on the MFP caused by vouchers and Course Choices. School boards may be forced to choose between teacher salaries that were used in the past to attract  and retain experienced and educated teachers or increasing class size. Many Charter schools in Louisiana have already chosen cheap TFA corps members over experienced teachers partly so they could pay their administrators obscene salaries. You see TFA recruits only expect to do this “public service” for just a couple of years, get their college loans paid and then move on to their real careers. Or they may get high paying jobs in our State Department of Education. The Advocate points out today that the Director of the new teacher evaluation program is a two year TFA teacher with no training in education other than the 5 week crash course. You see in our Brave New World of Louisiana education, the advantage goes to persons with no professional training in education but who buy into all the latest reform fads.

If you want to get a good idea about the destructive effects of these mandates take a look at the recent blog by Diane Ravitch about the chaos that has resulted from a similar program implemented in the Washington DC public school system by Michelle Rhea. The main difference is that the DC system had much more funding with which to implement this monstrosity! Louisiana will be attempting to do it at the same time that most school systems are faced with crippling budget shortfalls. Many of my teacher readers have sent me emails confiding that they believe these programs may finally drive them out of the profession or at least cause them to look for employment in another state. Louisiana may soon be faced with a shortage of experienced competent teachers.

Will educators and school boards along with innocent students continue to be helpless victims of our misguided corporate styled reforms?

Why not fight back? Why not have teachers and school boards present a united front to our common enemy; the privatizers of public education? I am suggesting that school boards and teachers propose amendments to these unneeded laws before they are mandated to take effect in the next school year. Teachers and school boards are on the same side in opposing these unprecedented attacks on public education. I hope we can find new hope in cooperation as a united front.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Editorial Blasts VAM

Thank you to the Lake Charles American Press for an excellent editorial and for being willing to take an independent stand on this critical issue!

State superintendent of Education John White. (Donna Price / American Press)

Editorial: Value-added model rating system unfair to teachers

Last Modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 8:59 PM

Contemplate this scenario: The CEO of the company you work for decides to implement an employee evaluation system in which only about 10 percent of the total employees will receive annually the highest level of evaluation possible. Job security and some employee compensation is based on that rating system.

Do you think that’s fair? Neither do we.
Yet that is the prospect that public school teachers in Louisiana face with the fledgling value-added model rating system.
Amazingly, state Superintendent of Education John White defends the system.

The rating system for teachers provides four levels: highly effective, effective proficient, effective emerging and ineffective.
For value-added teachers, the system uses a bell curve that projects that about 10 percent of the teachers in the state will earn the highly effective status in a given year; 80 percent will earn the effective proficient and effective emerging ratings; and 10 percent will be labeled as ineffective.

Teachers in grades 3-8 who teach core subjects, as well as high school Algebra I and geometry teachers, will be evaluated under the value-added model.

This bell curve will make up 50 percent of their total evaluation score.
A rating system that has either predictable results or outcomes has not 1 ounce of credibility. How can an evaluation system that projects the end numbers be taken seriously?

Additional statistics expose other flaws in the evaluation system.

Less than 6 percent of the fourth- through ninth-grade teachers in Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes evaluated by the VAM system received a highly effective rating last year.
Traditionally, those four school districts have been ranked in the top 25 percent of all districts in the state. In fact, Jeff Davis Parish, where only 3.06 percent of the evaluated teachers were rated highly effective, has routinely ranked in the top eight districts in the state.

Low-performing school districts have, on average, a higher percentage of highly effective-rated teachers than high-performing school districts.
The numbers don’t jibe with reality.

‘‘It isn’t like if you achieve this, then you will get this rating. It’s where you stand in the overall state rank,’’ said Jeff Davis Parish Superintendent David Clayton. ‘‘What is the concrete standard for teachers?’’
Under the VAM system, those standards are nebulous at best.

Additionally, to earn tenure, a nontenured teacher must receive a highly effective rating for five out of six years. Based on trials, that appears to be simply unattainable for most teachers.

In 2009-2010, 715 teachers in the trial received a highly effective rating. In 2010-2011, only 277 of those teachers maintained the highly effective rating. And last year, that number fell to 149.

Under this new system, the rating system factors into teachers’ compensation.
White is correct when he says the former tenure status was too easily attained. But the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

If White and Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted to abolish tenure, they should have had the political courage to accomplish it through legislation, not through this sham of an evaluation.

We submit that any evaluation system that has per-conceived or intended results is not only unprofessional, it borders on immoral.
Such evaluations challenge the very issue of fairness and the motives of White, Jindal and the state Department of Education.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby DowerKen StickneyJim BeamCrystal Stevenson and Donna Price.
Posted By: Zach On: 9/26/2012
Title: Most teachers don't use this grading scale
What may work in the business world doesn't always work for everything else. I don't see how it's fair that even if all the teachers in the state work at a high level that 10% will still fail no matter what. This doesn't work in classes with grades. I never had this type of grading scale in K-12 and in my college years I never had a professor use this type of grading scale. In fact I had more than one professor say how much they do not like this scale.

In today's world it is very difficult just to become a teacher. College students in education go through a lot and have to deal with a lot of crap just to graduate. The process to be certified to be a teacher helps weed out most bad teachers. They don't do it for the money or incentives like that like they do in the business world, they do it because they have a passion for teaching otherwise they would not take the time and effort to become a certified teacher. And then the stress involved with teaching usually weeds out any bad ones that make it through being certified because once you start teaching if you don't have a passion for it you won't stay in it long. If the state wants to revise things fine but don't let a dictator strong arm everyone and ruin public education. Let the teachers be involved in the process as well. I'm willing to bet that in the next several years there will be a shortage of teachers in the state or even if not the quality of education will be less because a lot of good teachers will not want to teach here.

Posted By: Glenn Gordon On: 9/26/2012
Title: School is not the real world Kyle
Kyle (above) said that this how he is rated in the "real world"....Well, I too was rated this way in the corporate world before becoming a teacher. Here is why he is wrong. When I was rated this way, I was 100% responsible for all inputs into my product line. There was no part of my evaluation that was not in my handsIn education this is not true. We have these students less than 1/3 of their day. We have no control over any aspect of their lives other than the 1 hour a day we see them. Holding someone 100% responsible for a child's education ignores the reality of real life. Or, as Kyle said..."the Real world"...Absent parents, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and homelessness are all problems that my "products" (my students) have had in the time I have been teaching these young people. I invite Kyle to try teaching for a few years or better yet....let me have access to his inputs and after I screw them up really well....he can see how his evaluations look.

Posted By: Kyle On: 9/26/2012
Title: Welcome To The Real World
There are no new concepts here. This sort of system is how major corporations manage thier employee evaluations. The objective is to reward high performers and weed out under performers. I have worked under this sort of system for 20 years, evaluating staff and being evaluated by my management. My salary and bonus calculations are closely tied to this system. It drives performance! The key to the process is setting clear goals in the beginning of each year and meeting or exceeding (the 10%) those goals. It's usualy those who do not set or strive to meet thier goals that are the complainers about the system.

Posted By: Anne Farrar On: 9/26/2012
Title: Thank you!
As a teacher, I'm so relieved to see that someone other than teachers gets the unfairness of the system. John White doesn't even understand that the scores the teachers worry about are not the levels students achieve on the iLEAP/LEAP tests. It's about the scaled scores. I so appreciate the support for teachers who stood against this system in Baton Rouge last spring. Thank you SO much!

Score One Point for The Advocate

The Advocate finally got it right with this editorial about Supt. White AND BESE adding more expensive PR staff at a time when teachers are being laid off!