Wednesday, September 4, 2013

LDOE Report on Educator Evaluations

The Louisiana Department of Education issued a press release yesterday basically claiming that the new Act 54 evaluation system has greatly improved the teacher evaluation system in Louisiana. You can view the press release here. The full report is here.

The report claims that the new system is much better than the old system which gave too many teachers a satisfactory evaluation. The new system has spread teacher evaluation results over a wide range using 4 levels of ratings from "ineffective" to "highly effective". The report claims that now teachers will get much more guidance from their evaluators about how to improve their teaching.

The DOE report on the 2012-13 teacher and administrator evaluation results also compares the evaluation results of each local school system to data that shows the progress school systems have made in reducing the number of non-proficient students as measured by state tests. The Department claims that such data shows that the new evaluation system generally aligns with actual results in the classrooms of the state. That is, teachers in parishes where student performance has not improved will more likely get low evaluations and teachers where student performance has improved most get the higher ratings on the evaluation. However when studying the tables we find all sorts of strange results that are difficult to explain. This will be covered in future posts on this blog.

But there are some very important details and results that are buried in the statistics that the Department report chose not to include in the press release or the written narrative. This blog will attempt to bring these issues to light over the next several weeks. For now, here are the most glaring concerns that are raised by just looking at the tables of data that accompany the report.
  1. The VAM portion of the evaluation originally had a mandatory 10% quota of teachers that must be found "ineffective" no matter how well students did statewide or locally on state tests. Also, that 10% "ineffective" on VAM takes precedence over the observation by the principal and overrules the Principal's evaluation to find at least that percentage of VAM rated teachers "ineffective". So there was the preconceived assumption that 10% of the teachers are bad each year no matter how much improvement is occurring with student performance and no matter what the educational leader of the school (principal) has found in his/her observation of the teachers. This is vicious system that ignores the professional judgements of our education leaders.
  2. The actual results of VAM rated teachers in the state report shows that somehow only 8% of the VAM rated teachers were found to be ineffective. This is good news, but the report does not tell us how 20% of the teachers destined for an "ineffective" somehow avoided that fate. We need to know more about how the DOE modifies their own quotas.
  3. Sure enough, as predicted, teachers of gifted and talented students were more likely than other teachers to get an ineffective. The DOE reports that 11.6% of such teachers received an "ineffective" VAM. This is apparently even after a handful of teachers of high performing students statewide were personally exempted from VAM by Superintendent White and allowed to use their SLTs for their student performance rating. We know of no BESE policy that allows such an exemption.
  4. Correction: This post originally stated that Special Education teachers got higher than average "ineffective" ratings from the VAM. That was not correct. Special Education teachers received approximately an average percentage of "ineffectives" and a higher than average rating of "highly effective".The actual higher rating of 10.2%  I reported was for teachers of high poverty students. Their greater than average "ineffective" VAM scores should be an area of concern.
  5. The greatest disparity or inequity in ratings occurs when comparing teachers rated using SLTs to those subjected to VAM. Only 3% of teachers rated by SLTs were rated "ineffective" while 8% of VAM teachers were rated "ineffective".  That's almost three times as great a chance of being rated "ineffective" if you are a VAM rated teacher.
  6. The final result for all teachers is that approximatey 4% were rated "ineffective" and 32% were rated "highly effective."
The DOE report on the evaluation results seems to indicate that only the VAM results are reliable in determining the true ratings of teachers. The report indicates that the DOE would like to see more teachers covered by VAM ratings. I hope that educators continue to strongly object to the assumption that VAM should dominate the evaluations. Remember that the 10% ineffective is an arbitrary quota. It is not based on any scientific study that shows any particular percentage of teachers to be ineffective. The DOE bosses have been trying to bully our principals all year to make their observation part of the evaluation agree with or "align" with the VAM. This is not what the law specifies. The law makes the observation portion of the evaluation an independent assessment of educator effectiveness, that is not supposed to be influenced by the VAM. This effort by DOE to make VAM the dominant factor is just wrong and not supported by any real science.

My concern at this point is that teachers who are evaluated using the VAM are going to want to transfer to other subjects or areas where they do not constantly live their professional lives under the gun of VAM. This will mean that it will be harder than ever to find dedicated teachers who are willing to teach the basic skills.