Editorial: Value-added model rating system unfair to teachers

Contemplate this scenario: The CEO of the company you work for decides to implement an employee evaluation system in which

only about 10 percent of the total employees will receive annually the highest level of evaluation possible. Job security

and some employee compensation is based on that rating system.

Do you think that’s fair? Neither do we.

Yet that is the prospect that public school teachers in Louisiana face with the fledgling value-added model rating system.

Amazingly, state Superintendent of Education John White defends the system.

The rating system for teachers provides four levels: highly effective, effective proficient, effective emerging and ineffective.

For value-added teachers, the

system uses a bell curve that projects that about 10 percent of the

teachers in the state will

earn the highly effective status in a given year; 80 percent will

earn the effective proficient and effective emerging ratings;

and 10 percent will be labeled as ineffective.

Teachers in grades 3-8 who teach core subjects, as well as high school Algebra I and geometry teachers, will be evaluated

under the value-added model.

This bell curve will make up 50 percent of their total evaluation score.

A rating system that has either predictable results or outcomes has not 1 ounce of credibility. How can an evaluation system

that projects the end numbers be taken seriously?

Additional statistics expose other flaws in the evaluation system.

Less than 6 percent of the fourth- through ninth-grade teachers in Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes

evaluated by the VAM system received a highly effective rating last year.

Traditionally, those four school districts have been ranked in the top 25 percent of all districts in the state. In fact,

Jeff Davis Parish, where only 3.06 percent of the evaluated teachers were rated highly effective, has routinely ranked in

the top eight districts in the state.

Low-performing school districts have, on average, a higher percentage of highly effective-rated teachers than high-performing

school districts.

The numbers don’t jibe with reality.

‘‘It isn’t like if you achieve this, then you will get this rating. It’s where you stand in the overall state rank,’’ said

Jeff Davis Parish Superintendent David Clayton. ‘‘What is the concrete standard for teachers?’’

Under the VAM system, those standards are nebulous at best.

Additionally, to earn tenure, a nontenured teacher must receive a highly effective rating for five out of six years. Based

on trials, that appears to be simply unattainable for most teachers.

In 2009-2010, 715 teachers in the trial received a highly effective rating. In 2010-2011, only 277 of those teachers maintained

the highly effective rating. And last year, that number fell to 149.

Under this new system, the rating system factors into teachers’ compensation.

White is correct when he says the former tenure status was too easily attained. But the pendulum has swung too far in the

other direction.

If White and Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted to abolish tenure, they should have had the political courage to accomplish it through

legislation, not through this sham of an evaluation.

We submit that any evaluation system that has per-conceived or intended results is not only unprofessional, it borders on

immoral.

Such evaluations challenge the very issue of fairness and the motives of White, Jindal and the state Department of Education.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.