Jefferson Davis Superintendent David Clayton. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 10:51 AM
The new teacher effectiveness rating system is designed to encourage teacher improvement and growth, but area superintendents believe its implementation has had the opposite effect.
“Our teachers have anxiety build up. They’re very uneasy and confused,” said Allen Parish Superintendent Michael Doucet. “The new evaluation process is really complex. I don’t think our teachers or the public fully understand it.”
“Teacher morale because of this is as low as it’s ever been. Not because they are afraid to be evaluated, but it’s the fairness of this formula,” said Calcasieu Parish Superintendent Wayne Savoy.
As of this school year, the state Department of Education will use the Compass method to assess teachers’ effectiveness.
Recent education reform legislation has made assessments of teacher effectiveness more vital. The new laws allow districts to use measures of teacher effectiveness to guide personnel decisions and the ratings are directly tied to their tenure status.
Two equal components of evaluation, student growth measures and professional practice measures, comprise the Compass model.
One of the student growth measures is the value-added score — a ranking system that has local educators particularly concerned.
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 model has been tested on various districts in the state for the past three years and 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.
The findings surprised school district officials.
“I was certainly disappointed in seeing the numbers where they were because I feel our teachers do a good job and work toward being effective,” said Beauregard Superintendent Timothy Cooley.
Cameron Parish Superintendent Stephanie Rodrigue found the percentages to be “very disconcerting.”
All of the superintendents in Southwest Louisiana have varying concerns over the program, but most center around what they perceive as unfairness in the system.
“A value added system is that you take a child where he is and see how that child has progressed under the direction of a teacher. What this formula does is that it takes that child’s performance and throws it into a group of ‘like children’ in other parts of the state. So you’re really not getting a real indicator, in my opinion, of how well that teacher did because you are comparing it to other children and other teacher performance in the other part of state, so you get a distorted picture,” Savoy said.
All of the teachers’ scores in the state are placed in order to form a type of bell curve. State officials said around 10 percent of teachers in the state will fall at the bottom of the curve in the ineffective rating and around 10 percent will be in the highly effective category. The rest of the teachers are split between the two middle categories.
“So much of it is subjectivity. A label that a teacher gets in Allen Parish, would that teacher get that same label in another parish?” Doucet said.
“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 Superintendent David Clayton. “What is the concrete standard for teachers?”
All of the districts in Southwest Louisiana are ranked in the top 20 in the state for district performance scores and Savoy feels these scores should play a role in the teacher evaluation process.
“My thoughts have been there is no relationship between value added and performance scores. That’s alarming to me. There really needs to be a better explanation of the formula and its uses,” Savoy said. “A value added system is good if it’s used and set up correctly to give everybody an opportunity.”
Jackie Self, the Vernon Parish superintendent, said he attributes the discrepancy between the district’s high performance score and the teacher’s scores to the different types of evaluation models.
“The Value Added Model is more closely related to student growth rather than how students rank on Louisiana test scores,” he said. “Our focus continues to be on improving student achievement.”
Despite this year’s results and concerns over the system, most superintendents believe their scores will improve for the 2012-2013 school year.
“I do expect to see an increase in the number of highly effective teachers, as our teachers have certainly stepped up to the plate and are incorporating the new standards as they become available,” Rodrigue said. “They have researched and are implementing new methods to introduce new materials while, simultaneously, meeting the individual needs and learning styles of their students.”
“Teachers are very conscientious about the job that they do and certainly if they receive an ineffective they are very concerned. Any of them are concerned even if they get emerging or proficient because they all strive to be highly effective. They are going to work very hard to be effective. We will continue to work on that,” Cooley said. “We don’t anticipate that there will be any rise in ineffective ratings and we certainly strive for that to be much lower percentage. We certainly hope our highly effective percentage increases, but there are many variables that go into that process.”
But lingering questions keep one superintendent from being too hopeful.
“The districts that are the worst have the most room to grow and their teachers are going to be able to achieve highly effective more readily than the districts who are performing. You get to the point where you really are fighting hard for small gains, whereas these districts that aren’t doing very well have a wide open window to go through,” Clayton said.
“Statistically, I don’t think this thing is ready to go.”
Posted By: Tired of the Whining On: 9/24/2012
Title: Stick with the Real issue
What guarantees are there that every teacher will truly apply their best effort in teaching (e.g. preparing lesson plans, delivering the information, assessing the student's learning and revising/redelivering if and when needed)? The issue goes both ways.
Fact is, NOT ALL teachers apply their best just as NOT ALL students apply their best. Another fact is that the edcuational system has continually, over the past several years, raised the requirements for students with nothing done to raise the evlauation requirements for teachers. Thus the need to evaluate as it should be; from the top down, and not the bottom up.
Posted By: Stressed Out On: 9/23/2012
Teachers being evaluated in this manner is a travesty. The old adage "you can take a horse to water, but you cna't make him drink" applies here. Teachers prepare lessons, deliver the information, assess the student's learning, revise and redeliver if and when needed. What guarantees are there that a student will truly apply their best effort?