Thursday, September 12, 2013

Can Louisiana's teacher evaluations be trusted?

In Louisiana’s topsy-turvy world of teacher evaluations, over half of the teachers in one of the state’s highest-rated schools are on a fast track to dismissal. In this article, teacher/researcher Herb Bassett raises interesting questions about the process.

by Herb Bassett
State Superintendent John White showed his true colors when he recently praised four FirstLine charter schools that "fell in the top 10 percent of Louisiana schools in terms of improving test scores, yet ranked fewer than 10 percent of their teachers highly effective.

'Amazing results,' he wrote."

He did not mention that one of the four schools, while ranked in the 99th percentile of improvement, declared 68 percent of its teachers Ineffective. Most of its teachers are now on a fast track to dismissal.

In each of the other three schools, at least 69 percent of their Value-added Assessment Model (VAM) teachers ranked Highly Effective, but none received an observation rating of Highly Effective. Not one.

If the VAM computer model ranked so many teachers Highly Effective, why could the principals not find at least one example of Highly Effective teaching in an observation?

These results clearly do not reflect student achievement or teacher quality. They deserve condemnation, not praise.

What does this bode for teachers and students on the coming Common Core assessments? White has predicted that due to the "rigor" of the new standards, achievement scores will go down.

As strange as it seems, teachers will not see lower ratings under VAM - even with the dramatic drop predicted for student scores. The VAM computer model simply ranks the teachers from highest to lowest. No matter whether the scores rise or drop dramatically, there will always be a bottom ten percent ranked Ineffective and a top twenty percent ranked Highly Effective. These quotas were set by the Louisiana Department of Education. Yes, the Department arbitrarily decided that ten percent of teachers are Ineffective and twenty percent should be Highly Effective.

Then why does the Compass Report show that only four percent of all teachers are Ineffective?

The computer model does not rank all teachers. The majority of teachers are not subject to the quotas. The purpose of the Compass Report was to show the discrepancy, and to coerce evaluators of the non-VAM teachers into matching the VAM system quotas.

White, however, seems to relish the thought of evaluations that cut short the quota for Highly Effective teachers.

Superintendent White now controls the cut-off scores for the achievement levels on the new assessments. Having seen him praise unjustifiably low teacher evaluations, should parents trust him to decide whether their children pass or fail the new assessments?

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