State Superintendent White defends evaluation system

By By Ashley Withers / American Press

Teachers working to achieve tenure status will now face a new challenge with its direct tie to the state-required Compass

evaluation system.

Though no current teacher will lose their tenure under this system, teachers without the status will have to earn a “highly

effective” rating for five out of six years to earn tenure.

And teachers rated using the value-added model must contend with a fixed bell curve for their ratings — a process that only

allows for the top 10 percent of teachers in Louisiana to be considered “highly effective.”

“I think that it will make tenure much

more difficult to achieve than it currently is. Frankly, I think that is

a fine thing,”

said State Superintendent John White. “Tenure right now does not

help children in any dramatic way. It does have the potential

to hurt children by keeping a low performing adult in the


Teachers in grades 3-8 who teach core subjects, as well as high school Algebra I and Geometry teachers are evaluated under

value-added model.

The value-added model has been given a trial run for the past three years and data obtained by the American Press shows the difficulty of achieving the high-performing status for multiple years.

In 2009-2010, 715 of the teachers in

the trial received the “highly effective rating.” But by 2010-2011, only

277 of the original

“highly effective” teachers remained in that category. And in the

2011-2012 school year, only 149 remained.

Though the value-added model only makes up 50 percent of the total evaluation of the teacher, it will be hard for scores to

average out to a high performing score without being in the top 10 percent.

The new teacher evaluation system was strongly opposed by many teachers during the legislative session and Teri Johnson, the

president of the Calcasieu Federation of Teachers, said most of them still feel the same way.

She particularly takes issue with the difficulty of achieving tenure.

“Tenure is just due process so we can’t be fired at will. This way lends itself to the ‘good ol’ boy’ system,” Johnson said.

“When you have 50 percent of a teacher’s score based on one test on one day of the year there is something wrong. I’m not

against showing growth, but this particular model has not worked anywhere in the U.S.”

Johnson said she has read several studies debunking the value-added model. She feels as though this model allows the students’

home life to negatively impact the teacher’s score and job security.

“You can take care of the students while they are at school, but you can’t be responsible for what happens when they leave,”

she said.

“You can’t run education like a business. To try and legislate that a teacher is responsible for the students’ whole lives

is very unfair.”

“We all want to talk about fairness,” White said. “It is important that this system be fair to our teachers. The value-added

system is designed to do that. But it’s equally, if not more important, that the system be fair to children.”

Student growth measures and professional practice measures, both worth 50 percent of the total evaluation, comprise the Compass


“For years teacher have been given

pretty meaningless feedback through a very bureaucratic evaluation

system,” White said.

“The intent of the COMPASS system is to produce real and honest

feedback about their successes and their challenges so they

can improve.”

The value-added model is the only part of the system that has been given a trial run. Last school year all districts were

evaluated using the program.

The system rates teachers as highly effective, effective proficient, effective emerging, and ineffective.

The results of the 2011-2012 evaluation

found that around 11 percent of evaluated teachers in Allen Parish were


and 11 percent were highly effective; Beauregard Parish had around

12 percent ineffective and 3 percent highly effective;

Calcasieu Parish had around 11 percent ineffective, 5 percent

highly effective; Cameron Parish had around 10 percent ineffective,

2 percent highly effective; Jeff Davis Parish had around 17

percent ineffective and 3 percent effective; and around 10 percent

of evaluated teachers in Vernon Parish were ineffective and 8

percent were highly effective.

“It’s not always a function of how well

did their student do. The student could have been in school for 12

years before he

ever met this teacher. It’s about measuring how much progress the

student made in a given year. Then you have to ask not only

how much progress did a student make, but how much progress could

we expect that student to make.”

White said the formula factors in

components such as student’s socio-economic status, learning

disabilities, attendance, discipline

history and prior achievement data.

“You’re looking at them compared to how well they did last year and the challenges they face outside the classroom. Each student

has their own profile and we’re looking at how much value did each teacher add to that student.”

All of these values are averaged for each teacher and then the teacher has a score. White said they then line up all of those

scores and the teachers fall into one of the four categories.

“There is a bell curve for purposes of rating,” White said. “You do need to say at one point how people are doing compared

to one another.”

The bottom 10 percent of teachers are ranked ineffective.

Teachers rated as ineffective in either category will receive an overall ineffective rating.

“What does bottom 10 percent mean in

the real world? It translates to your average student dropping two

levels. Dropping from

basic to unsatisfactory. For the bottom 10 percent teachers,

something has gone really wrong in those classrooms,” White said.

Teachers who receive an ineffective rating two years in a row will face termination.

“The odds of scoring in the bottom 10 percent two years in a row puts you in the bottom 2 percent,” White said.

“Frankly when I look at our profession,

we haven’t done a very good job always of making the hard decisions

when adults are

not effective in front of children. It’s rare that it happens, but

it happens and we haven’t always been good about making

the hard decision to say maybe this isn’t the right profession for

you. After two years of being that ineffective, our state

has said it’s time to call that to question.”

But it’s the small percentage of highly effective teachers across the state that has triggered much of the criticism of the

model — criticism that White says is unwarranted.

“It strikes me as a very reasonable thing to say that highly effective is a reward we reserve for people who are truly making

the most dramatic gains with children. We should not want a profession where most people are rated at the highest levels.

We should want a system where we continue to strive and strive for the absolute highest.”

White said the previous teacher evaluation system ranks 98.5 percent of teachers in Louisiana as highly effective.

“Just as we would say it was grade inflation if every student receives an ‘A,’ we should say it’s grade inflation if every

teacher receives highly effective. Right now in today’s system we have grade inflation,” White said.

“I challenge you to justify today’s system which says that 98.5 percent of teachers are at the highest level when we all know

just from our day-to-day experiences at schools that’s not the case.”

Rating Teachers in Southwest Louisiana