Saturday, October 25, 2014

John White Wants Principals to Get Lower Evaluation Scores

White thinks that teachers are being rated too high also.

In the just released annual report on COMPASS, the LDOE makes it very clear that the Department believes that too many principals are being rated too softly on the qualitative part of the evaluation system. The report also claims that there is unwarranted “inflation” of the teacher evaluation scores this year.

Superintendent White believes that the 50% portion of both principal and teacher evaluations that depends on student learning targets were rated too high, now that the state is temporarily not requiring VAM. He also thinks that the qualitative portion which depends on observation of actual instruction was too soft this year. This is coming from a TFA guy who only taught three years and never served as a principal. Somehow he “knows” that the evaluations were too lax this year. Take a look at the title of the press release about the COMPASS report:


Higher expectations for classroom observations? I thought that the classroom observation part of the evaluation did not depend on expectations. It is simply supposed to be an accurate measure of whether or not a teacher or a principal is demonstrating all the components of effective teaching or effective administration. The evaluator makes a judgment as to how well those components were executed in actual application. I did not know that it made a difference what expectations the evaluator had. He/she is simply supposed to accurately rate performance. But White seems to be implying that principals and teachers in schools with low SPS should be graded harder on the observation part of COMPASS. But in fact, BESE policy makes it clear that this part of the evaluation is totally separate from the performance of students. Here is the BESE policy:

A.                  LEAs shall utilize an observation tool to conduct a qualitative assessment of teacher and administrator performance, which shall represent the 50 percent of evaluations that is not based on measures of growth in student learning. (Note: I added the underline for emphasis)

So White is trying to bully local school systems into punishing teachers and principals that happen to serve high poverty, at-risk students. Here is another quote from the COMPASS Report about the evaluation of principals:

"The 2013-2014 results suggest districts can do more to establish consistently high expectations for school leadership. In 2013-2014:"

"28  Districts rated 100 percent of their administrators "proficient" or higher on site visits. Of those 28, 14 districts were below the state average in terms of the percentage of students who achieved Basic and above compared to last year. 63 districts assigned no "ineffective" ratings to any administrators."
Translation: The LDOE would like for school districts where students perform below the state average to give their principals lower evaluation scores no matter how well they meet the criteria of COMPASS. The Department doesn't like these folks getting such good evaluations!
 So contrary to BESE policy, White is suggesting that school districts lower their administrator ratings and match them to the performance of the students. He failed to note however, that the RSD which he has total control over, which has just about the lowest student performance in the state, is also rating almost all their principals as proficient and highly effective. Even so, I believe it is inappropriate for the State Superintendent to tell the evaluators of administrators that their results should be lower and be based primarily on student performance. The law says 50%!

Are the principal evaluations really too high? Here’s how I see this after almost 50 years in the education profession. I know that there are bad eggs in every profession and I have personally known a few bad administrators. Also there are some bad administrators at EXXON-MOBIL which is shoving Common Core down our throats without a shred of evidence that it will work. I know there are bad principals and they should be fired, because their job is so critical to the welfare of our children.
But theoretically a person gets promoted to a principal position because he/she has already demonstrated superior performance as a teacher and often as an assistant principal. Theoretically these folks are the best educators in a school system, and they were promoted because they are good education leaders without considering that some manage schools with high poverty student populations. So would it make sense, as John White suggests, that we give principals who manage schools that serve at-risk, low performing students, a low evaluation score? What about the principals who manage alternative schools that serve the most at risk students? Did you know that recently all such schools in Louisiana were rated as “F” schools? Should all those principals be rated as “ineffective”? What about the School for the Deaf, and the School for the Visually Impaired, and the LA Special Education Center? (All managed by the LDOE) Should their principals be rated “ineffective”? Of course not! Not unless a fair evaluation shows them to be ineffective. In turn, White should not try to bully the Parish schools systems into giving low ratings to principals, because if the local superintendent and the school board have done their job, most of these administrators should be high performers. It is totally out of line for John White to demand that their evaluation scores be lowered.

The same goes for the teachers teaching in a school with a large percentage of high poverty, at-risk students. Just the fact that a teacher can survive in such a situation may be an indication of strong qualities. To constantly hammer away at these teachers and try to guarantee that they will get bad evaluations because of student performance is criminal. It is also driving away the very teachers we need who can support and help at-risk students to be more successful.
 What does White plan to do to insure "higher expectations" for principal evaluations? Here is an excerpt from his press release on the COMPASS report:

"To address current challenges, the Department will take the following steps:

  • Work with a special sub-committee of the Accountability Commission convened by Representative Frank Hoffmann (R-Monroe) to make recommendations to BESE for the use of value-added data after the conclusion of the “time to learn” transition period.

  • Make recommendations regarding principal accountability for student learning and principal capacity to assist teachers in professional learning."

It is clear that White intends to use the Accountability Commission and his rubber stamp BESE to ram though more punitive evaluations of teachers and principals. I wonder when will the education profession say, "enough is enough" and fight back against these destructive attacks on the profession?  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

School Performance Scores Controlled by "Adjusting" LEAP Scores

38% is now a passing score on one of the new Common Core aligned state iLEAP tests. The raw cut scores for basic and mastery on LEAP and iLEAP were lowered significantly over the last 3 years. That’s how John White has been able to pretend that our student performance has remained “steady” even though students are taking harder tests.  What would happen to a 7th grade math teacher who set the passing score on his/her final at 38% and still had 27% of the students fail the test?  What should Louisiana do with a State Superintendent who claims that student scores are steady when he has really lowered the cut scores on some state tests by 28%? That’s what John White and his staff have done with some of the LEAP/iLEAP test scores over the last 3 years. The school performance scores are determined each year much more by the adjusting of the LEAP scores than by actual student learning.

John White got his training in education reform in New York State as one of the bright young administrators running the New York City public school system for Mayor Bloomberg. I believe his job there amounted to finding buildings to house the new charter schools that were springing up there at the time. Another thing that was springing up in New York State at that same time were the student test scores.  Right before John White left New York to take a job running the Recovery District in Louisiana, the education reform leaders in the Bloomberg administration including Commissioner of Education for New York city, Joel Klein, White’s boss, were celebrating their amazing turnaround of the performance of New York city schools. Joel Klein and his Lieutenants were hailed nationwide as successful education reformers.

There was only one problem. The standardized test scores had been manipulated by lowering the standards for passing the tests. Either the tests were made easier or students needed to answer  fewer of the test questions correctly in order to get a passing score.  When this “error” was found and corrected it turned out that the students in the New York City public education system were doing just barely above where they were before Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein took over. Two years ago, when the students in New York started taking the Common Core aligned tests, the scores plummeted again to produce a failure rate of 69%. This terrible result was hailed as a victory by the new administrators of the New York State system who claimed to be finally telling parents the truth about the lack of preparation of New York students for college and careers. That’s because the new State Chancellor, John King, had just started his term of office and he wanted to show how much his version of school reform were needed.

Now let's go back to this year’s LEAP testing results announced by John White after being on the job for 3 years in Louisiana. The results of the new Common Core aligned tests were considered a victory by the LDOE in that the percentage of students passing the new tests had remained "steady" despite the fact that the new tests were more rigorous and therefore supposedly harder to pass. But a public records request uncovered the fact that the raw passing scores had been drastically reduced in the last 3 years, and particularly reduced in 2014. How much have the passing scores been “adjusted” you ask?

In 5th, 7th, and 8th grade math the percentage of correct answers needed to pass have been reduced by 25%, 20%, and 28% respectively. The 3rd grade ELA cut score has been reduced by 11.5%. How low is that? For the 2014 LEAP/iLEAP testing, a 7th grade student only needed to get 38% of the math questions correct in order to pass the test, and still 27% of the students failed it. A student in 8th grade only needed to get 41% of the questions right to pass that test, but 35% of those students failed the test.  For 3rd grade ELA the students needed to know only 48% of the material to get a passing grade.

So what happened to all those students who still could not pass the tests with the drastically lowered passing scores? Because John White and BESE decided students should not be penalized as Louisiana goes through  the process of transitioning to the more difficult Common Core standards, most of the students failing LEAP and iLEAP have been passed on to the next grade.

Now imagine you are an 8th grade math teacher this year and 27% of your 2014-2015 class is made up of students who could not score at least 38% on the 7th grade iLEAP. What kind of a challenge are you going to face in getting them to pass the 8th grade LEAP which is supposed to be even more “rigorous” than the one Louisiana gave this last Spring? Since math is a subject where you have to build on previous knowledge, students who failed the test in 7th grade have to first learn the 7th grade material before they are ready to learn the 8th grade material. Yet the teacher is expected to bring those kids up and still keep all the other students from being bored to death. Do you wonder why Louisiana may soon be facing a severe shortage of 8th grade math teachers? Could it be because soon teachers will be rated again on how their students do on the standardized tests?

John White has announced that he wants to move our students up to the level of mastery instead of just basic. No problem. Would it surprise you to learn that the cut scores for mastery have been lowered significantly too?

It’s easy to understand how “Louisiana Believes” that John White can make it happen.  Just remember that John White got his training in school reform in New York.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Now is the Time to Recommend Changes to the COMPASS/VAM Evaluation System!

Important Reminder!

Representative Frank Hoffmann of Monroe, who was the author of Act 54 which originally created VAM and COMPASS has had second thoughts based on numerous accounts of problems with VAM and COMPASS. As a result, he authored Act 240 this last legeslative session which mandated that the Accountability Commission with the addition of practicing teachers would form a subcommittee to  conduct a review of the entire evaluation system and report their recommendations to BESE and the legislature.

Rep. Hoffmann has requested that any teacher or administrator who has experienced problems or knows of examples of how the system has malfunctioned or incorrectly rated teachers should communicate those examples directly to this special subcommitte. Senator Appel has also requested to hear about the successes of the program. The subcommittee meets in Baton Rouge on November 3rd. (the meeting date was changed from November 7). This is probably your best chance to have your concens heard if you have been unairly burned by VAM or COMPASS.

That's why I am listing for you the email addresses of all the subcommittee members as a group so that you can compose one email and use the group in your address line and send it to all of them at once. Don't expect someone else to carry the ball for you on this. I am hopeful that the subcommittee members will hear from real educators who are working in the trenches. Please refer anyone you know who has a legitmate gripe about the evaluation system to this blog so that they can also use the email list below to contact the subcommittee members.,,,,,,,, burnsj@REGENTS.LA.GOV,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Rep. Hoffmann and Senator Conrad Appel are also voting members of this subcommittee and it is critical that they receive your recommendations. They are included in the group of emails above.  Knowing the attitude of BESE, our best chance for meaningful change is for the legislature to take action.

Please click here to review my post of September 27 which will give you more details about the problems with VAM and COMPASS.