Friday, May 6, 2016

Teacher Opinion and Rights Are Often Ignored by the Legislature!

I want to urge my readers to read this post by Ganey Arsement with the Educate Louisiana blog.
Mr. Arsement got to participate in the legislative process and to see first hand how teachers are treated at the capitol. Very often legislators give lip service about having great respect for teachers when they meet with teachers in their home districts. But what they do at the capitol where it really counts may be something totally different. For years some legislators have completely fooled local teachers by promising them full support while stabbing them in the back at the capitol.

Don't continue to be an uninformed victim! Study the issues. Read this blog and others that give you the facts about what is really going on behind the scenes at the capitol and how decisions are really made. You may be shocked to see how laws that take away the rights of teachers are made.

For example, most experts agree that VAM is one of the worst, least dependable ways of evaluating teachers. But the big business bosses at LABI and CABL are determined that they will keep trying to force school administrators to use VAM to measure your worth as a teacher. You see, in their minds, teachers are somehow responsible when parents don't do their job of guiding their children and insuring that they do their best in school. Teachers must be to blame so they must be punished. VAM is sold by LABI and CABL as the way of making teachers and principals accountable for producing student achievement without regard to socioeconomic factors and the obligations of parents and students themselves.

Sometimes the legislature has an opportunity to really value teachers by insuring their rights to fair pay for the work they do. The following is a description of an important vote of the House Education Committee that will possibly affect your profession and maybe even your personal benefits and rights in a negative way.

HB 1045 by Miller was legislation supported by LAE and LFT designed to prevent school authorities from requiring teachers to work extra hours or extra days without compensation. As the pressure builds for administrators to constantly improve student performance, some administrators are scheduling extra faculty meetings and extra training or other activities where teachers are required to work beyond normal school hours without compensation. Some administrators simply find it convenient to require teachers to sell tickets or serve other functions at football games, or other events without compensation. This bill would have allowed teachers to continue to volunteer for some activities but would have prevented mandatory attendance at extra events or training days without compensation. As Arcement explains in his blog, some of the same legislators who voted to cut teacher pay when their hours are reduced, voted against paying them extra when extra hours or days are added. This is hypocrisy! Here are the votes on HB 1045:

Vote: 4-8 
5/4/2016 12:46:06 PM 
Landry, Nancy Nay; Amedée, Beryl Yea; Bouie, Joseph Yea; Broadwater, Chris Nay; Carter, Stephen F. Nay; Edmonds, Rick Nay; Emerson, Julie Nay; Falconer, Reid Nay; Hall, Jeffrey "Jeff" Yea; Hilferty, Stephanie Nay; Price, Edward J. Yea; Simon, Scott M. Nay. 

Suspension Suppression Bill Now listed as HB 1159

An amended version of HB 833 passed the House Education Committee this week. (See post below) HB 833 by Leger has been amended by substitution and is now renumbered as HB 1159. This bill was originally proposed with the best intentions to reduce suspensions and to keep more students in school. But as you can read in the previous posts on this blog, the end result could be negative to both teachers and students, since not one penny of funding will be provided to pay for alternative discipline systems. This bill could actually result in the erosion of discipline in some schools. These points were made to the committee in testimony by myself, administrators and school board representatives. This was obviously not a clear cut issue of supporting or opposing teachers because some of the legislators who are normally true friends of teachers wanted to make a special effort to support at-risk students. I would not use this vote as a clear indication of friends or enemies of public education.

A serious problem with this bill is that it arbitrarily forces any school with a suspension rate at 150% of the state average rate for suspensions to implement a plan to reduce suspensions. Then each year the average rate is recalculated, probably resulting in a lower average rate as the targeted schools reduce suspensions. Then a new batch of schools would be targeted for suspension reduction. Such a process would practically eliminate suspensions as an option for administrators over time. This would mean that teachers would be forced to deal with extremely disruptive students in their classrooms or  that schools would have additional unfunded expenses for simply housing extremely disruptive students on the school campus. Meanwhile parents would be relieved of any responsibility for disciplining their children for violation of school rules. 

I think that the proponents of this legislation and the legislators voting for it would have a totally different attitude if they would be required to spend just one day substitute teaching in a classroom where disruption is an everyday occurrence. Implementing alternative disciplinary measures always seems more feasible if you don't actually have to do it yourself.

I am suggesting to my readers that we contact our Representatives in the House, and request that they vote "no" on HB 1159 unless adequate funding is provided to school systems struggling to work with disproportionate numbers of disruptive or at-risk students. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

More erosion of teacher rights approved by the House Education Committee

An amended version of HB 833 passed the House Education Committee today.  This is the suspension suppression bill by Leger which was pushed by student disability and anti-suspension advocacy groups. LABI, the big business lobby also supported this erosion of teacher and principal authority on discipline. The amended version is not quite as harsh in punishing schools that have above average numbers of student suspensions, but it will still require that a plan be implemented in such schools no matter the financial cost and no matter the negative impact on each teacher's dignity! I say that because these phony alternatives to discipline almost always tear down a teacher's authority in the classroom. There are teachers being disrespected and humiliated every day in public schools classrooms right now, even before these arbitrary limits on suspensions go into effect. The lack of support on discipline is the biggest single reason teachers leave the profession today!

Another slap in the face of teachers was the rejection of HB 1045 by the education committee also today. This bill would have prevented teachers being assigned extra hours or days of work without compension. Teachers had such a protection in state law before the adoption of Jindal's Act 1 of 2012 and both LAE and LFT had asked Rep. Miller to propose this legislative restoration of teacher rights. Act 1 of 2012 in my opinion is the single law that was the most drastic example of teacher hating I have ever seen in the legislature. You can go back to the archives of this blog to see the warnings I issued at that time. That's the bill that also took away most of a teacher's tenure rights, all seniority rights, and set up a defective merit pay system funded by robbing the funding from teacher step raises. Proponents of this law said that these changes would "empower" great teachers. If you are a great teacher do you feel empowered when your principal requires you to sell tickets at a football game on Friday night?

Act 1 of 2012 provided that teachers could be assigned an unlimited amount of duties, extra hours, and extra days of work as part of their annual contract and have no right to extra pay for the extra work. Some legislators today commented that they could not imagine any teacher being abused in this way, but they still refused to give teachers the protection of law. HB 1045 was defeated by a vote of 8 to 5 against the bill. I will get the official record of how each member of the Education Committee voted on this bill and HB 833 and publish it here tomorrow or Friday.

When are legislators going to be held accountable by teachers and their friends and relatives? Please read also this post in the Louisiana Voice about the continued disrespect of teachers by the legislature. I am guessing that many teachers did not know that Nancy Landry was their enemy even though this blog and the teacher unions published her record.

HB 833 will go to the House floor for approval some time next week. Please contact your State Representative and ask that he/she vote to defeat it on the floor.

Accountability, Teacher Eval., Debate Shifts to Senate

The House Education Committee leaders and bill authors have deferred all bills related to teacher evaluation and VAM for the time being. It looks like the real action and possible compromises on accountability and teacher evaluation will now shift to the Senate Education Committee on Thursday morning May 5. SB 262 by Morrish seems to be the instrument that will be used for defining the new blueprint for accountability using state tests, and any changes in teacher evaluation.

A big issue to be worked out will be the use of VAM as part of the evaluation of about one third of K-12 teachers. At this point it looks like VAM will still be mandated for teacher evaluations in one or two years, but will be reduced as a percentage of the overall evaluation. The original VAM percentage was 50% of the evaluation with the exception that if a teacher received an "ineffective" VAM rating, then the teacher's entire evaluation would be deemed "ineffective". This little rule of course made a mockery of the alleged 50:50 split between the quantitative (VAM) portion and the qualitative (observation) portion.

Studies of VAM have shown it to be so unreliable that it should not be used for even 1% of the evaluation in my opinion. In addition, teachers rated using VAM were at a disadvantage in getting a highly effective rating for the purpose of being granted tenure and for qualifying for  merit pay bonuses. That was because the John White imposed rules said that only 20% of the VAM group could be rated as highly effective on their quantitative portion. There was no such limit placed on teachers who were rated using Student Learning Targets (SLTs), so they had an automatic advantage in getting merit pay and achieving tenure over the teachers teaching  basic skills subjects. I wonder if the "compromise" legislation will fix this problem.

The truth is that the entire accountability system for both schools and educators which was supposed to be "data driven" is so riddled with incorrect assumptions and built in errors that it should be entirely scrapped. (Have I mentioned lately that the school letter grading system automatically rates some schools as D or F primarily because they happen to serve a high proportion of high poverty students?)  This rating system is inherently unfair to both the schools and teachers serving high poverty areas. But of course that's not how education reform works. The reformers can never admit that their schemes are failures; they just need minor adjustments.

This is the contact information for the Senate Education Committee members:
Remember that they are supposed to represent your concerns, not the concerns of big business and lobbyists. You have a right to give them your recommendations.
Senate Education Committee Members

Dan “Blade” Morrish: Phone: 337-824-3979
Represents: Jeff Davis, Cameron, Calcasieu and Cameron

John Milcovich: Phone: 318-676-7877
Represents: Caddo, Desoto

Conrad Appel: Phone: 504-838-5550
Represents: Jefferson

Gerald Boudreaux: Phone: 337-267-7520
Represents St. Landry, Lafayette

Beth Mizell: Phone: 985-839-3936
Represents: Washington, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany

Mike Walsworth: Phone: 318-340-6453
Represents: Union, Claiborne, Morehouse, Ouachita, W. Carroll, Lincoln

Mack “Bodi” White: Phone: 225-272-1324 Represents: Tangipahoa, St. Helena, E. Baton Rouge

Suspension repression bill is up again today!

HB 833 on limiting student suspensions has been amended and is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee today, The amendments would now include the charter schools in this very bad legislation, and the representation of the advisory committee on discipline has been revised slightly to include supervisors of child welfare and attendance, but there is still no representation of parents of regular students who often are deprived of instruction by the behavior of a few disruptive students.  At least 14 of the members of the advisory committee are chosen from groups who will want to protect the interests of the students who disrupt classrooms. Every effort is being made to find a way to keep disruptive students in the classroom no matter how much they misbehave. Somehow it has become the responsibility of the teacher who just wants to teacher her/his class without disruption, to "deescalate" the response to misbehavior instead of stopping it. Under this legislation, the rights of the disrupters overrule the rights of the 95% of the students who follow the rules and want to learn.

HB 833 if passed is designed to put tremendous pressure on schools to arbitrarily reduce suspensions even if they happen to have a disproportionate number of disruptive students. Every school is supposed to magically control misbehavior without the need to remove disruptive students. Yet, I still can't find anyone who can tell me what a teacher is supposed to do when one or more students continue to prevent instruction or pose a threat to the safety of other students or the teacher. They keep talking about lessor penalties such as loss of privileges or counseling or restorative justice or PBIS. Some of these processes take so long that a teacher could lose half of their instruction time for a semester before something is actually done. Not to mention the fact that with looming budget cuts, schools will have no new money to hire more interventionists and special masters that are supposed to be approved by the LDOE and will have power over the school principal to force suspension educations.

Please ask your House Education member to vote "no" on HB 833.
The committee members are listed on the previous post below.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teacher Evaluation Bills Rescheduled

I attended the House Education committee meeting this morning. All of the teacher evaluation bills have been rescheduled. The word at the capitol is that there is an attempt by all interested parties to reach a compromise on the issue of teacher evaluation and the use of VAM as part of the evaluation system.

I will continue to monitor developments and keep my readers informed.

Again, it is always appropriate for you to contact your legislator and explain your preferences on the evaluation issue.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Bills Designed to Change Teacher Evaluations in Louisiana

This week: On Tuesday May 3, the House Education committee will consider several bills that could greatly improve teacher and principal evaluations in Louisiana. One bill could do more harm than good.

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.

Name                          Parishes                    email              district phone
Nancy Landry (Lafayette, Vermil.)  337-262-2252
Ed. Price (Ascen., Iberv., St. James)       225-644-6738
Beryl Amedee (Terr. Asup. St. Mary) 985-858-2967
Joseph Bouie Jr. (Orleans)   504-286-1033
Chris Broadwater (Tangi.) 985-543-4900
Stephen Carter (EBR) 225-362-5305
Rick Edmonds (EBR) 225-295-9240
Julie Emerson (Laf., St. Landry) 337-886-4687
Reid Falconer (St. Tammany) 985-792-5185
Jeff Hall (Rapides)  318-487-5661
Stephanie Hilferty (Jeff., Orleans) 504-885-4154
Walt Leger III  (Orleans) 504-556-9970
Gene Reynolds (Bossier, Web.) 318-371-3092
Scott Simon (St. Tam., Tangi., Wash.) 985-893-6246

Pat Smith (EBR) 225-342-7106

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Possibly the two most important hearings on education bills

This week, Tuesday May 3 and Wednesday May 4, the House Education Committee will debate some of the most important bills of the legislative session relative to teacher evaluation and discipline. If you care about the teaching profession and its future in Louisiana you will review the bills and contact your State Representative to give him/her your recommendations on these bills. If you don't speak up, you should not complain later when bad decisions are made on education!

HB 833, (click on the bill number to see the amendments) the discipline bill by Leger that proposes to limit student suspensions is to be heard Tuesday, May 3. Please read the amended version of the bill carefully and decide whether it will help or hurt discipline in our schools. Let your legislator know how you feel they should vote on this. My personal opinion is that we have had too much interference by John White and his State Department of Education in the running of our schools. This bill would continue letting the Department second guess our teachers and administrators in the use of discipline. Click here to see the full agenda for the two days of hearings on the listed bills.