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Southwest Louisiana ,
State Education Supt. John White. (Donna Price / American Press)

State Education Supt. John White. (Donna Price / American Press)

State Superintendent White defends evaluation system

Last Modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 10:50 AM

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 classroom.”

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 model.

“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 ineffective, 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

Posted By: Answering citizen On: 9/25/2012

Title: Chicken little

Citizen, you have it completely backwards. Teachers of students at the top end of the scale have much less room to show 'progression' (what do you do when your students already max out the test??), making it hard, if not impossible, to hit tat top 10%.

Posted By: Unoga On: 9/24/2012


what makes this guy so damn valuable?

Posted By: Concered Citizen On: 9/24/2012

Title: Chicken Salad

Mr. White is certainly sure that the value added system of teacher evaluations is the best way to go. This was touched on in the article, but let's take it a step further. Teachers in magnet school (schools who allow only the smartest children as students) will have an easy time show student progression. Teachers who must teach the "leftovers", those children who are the majority and are not the best and brightest children, will have a much harder time getting and keeping the attention of the child who does not want to be there in the first place, and who's parents do not value education. Those are the teachers who must contend with the unfairness of the system put into place by a political appointee who was hired to make his boss look good in the voter's eyes. Teachers have the good and the bad children 6 hours a day, their families have them the rest of the time. If education isnt a priority and isn't important to the parents, it wont be to the children. There will ALWAYS be a percentage of children who will not go to college, ever. No desire to, not smart enough to, were not pushed to go, discipline problem, ADD/ADHD and other excuses. These are the children who are now not being "left behind" by the PhDs in the education system. These children are reading at 2nd and 3rd grade levels in the 5th grade because they were not held back until they could read at the correct grade level. Mr. White, maybe your mama never told you, but you can't make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t.

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