State Superintendent of Education John White. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:33 AM
The Louisiana Association of Educators met Tuesday at the Lake Charles-Boston Academy of Learning to discuss changes taking place in the public school system. A panel of education stakeholders spoke with community members about issues that have effected them and their students in the K through 12 education system.
“We need all stakeholders interested in public education to understand our plight to know it is a right that every child gets a free public education and that they use it wisely so that they can be productive citizens,” said LAE President Joyce Haynes.
Panelists opened up with public education from their perspective. One of the biggest changes in the Louisiana education system that stood out was the implementation of the ACT for a school’s score. This year all juniors and any seniors who have not taken the ACT will now be required to take the test which will then reflect the rating of each school.
“It is impossible to close any achievement gap with a normalized standardized test,” said Acadia Parish Dist. Technology Coordinator Bryan Alleman.
Sulphur High Principal Chuck Hansen said one of the main issues he has with this is that many of the seniors who didn’t take the test opted out because they do not plan to go to college. He said these new Common Core standards are being forced upon students who may not be ready for them. Panelists also criticized the development of other tests such as the PARCC which also asses student’s readiness for college or careers.
“There is no accountability for a student taking the ACT; the high stakes are for the school and that’s extremely unfair,” said Calcasieu Parish Superintendent Wayne Savoy.
Vinton Elementary School Teacher Jennifer Spell said she was concerned about the Value Added Model. The VAM uses standardized tests to measure students growth which is turned rates each teacher’s performance. Value added teachers are placed under a bell curve that predicts 10 percent will be ineffective—labeling them as failing.
The new evaluation system has received negative feedback for no longer using advanced degrees as part of the rating system as well as using student scores for a teacher’s effectiveness.
“I have never encountered a teacher that hasn’t grown professionally because they have gotten an advanced degree,” said Chief Technology Officer Sheryl Abshire. “In this state we have now decided to say that the compensation model is no longer valuing any professional development beyond a basic degree.”
Abshire said not only the teacher evaluation system but the whole COMPASS system needs to be reexamined at and presented with a research based approach.
Savoy agreed with Abshire and said there is nothing wrong with holding off on these new changes. He said teachers aren’t afraid of accountability as long as it is fair.
LeBleu Settlement Elementary School Teacher Vicky Johnston said another area needing improvement is charter schools. She and Jeff Davis Parish Superintendent-Elect Brian LeJeune said the scores of these schools are not where they need to be. LeJeune said the problem is that charter schools have three years before a score is published but they then reconstitute themselves by another name keeping them in a continuous cycle that doesn’t move forward.
“Some of the charter schools have not had a score published in their existence although you can’t find out what their existence is because their name changes every three years,” he said.
Panelists agreed there needs to be more accountability in Louisiana’s education system and that ultimately community members and those in the education system need to voice their concerns to the LDOE and legislators.
“I still think there’s work that needs to be done in the state,” said Abshire. “In the 40 years that I’ve been in public education the thing that continues to plague me is the lack of our ability to communicate effectively to policy makers about what the issues are in our public schools.”