Are Teachers Evaluated, Correctly?

In the regular session of 2012, the Louisiana Legislature passed and enacted HB-974, also known as Act 1. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed it into law. The bill made dramatic changes to teacher tenure, evaluation, and compensation, and also limited powers of local school boards while giving superintendents more autonomy. The bill was challenged in court because it encompassed too many statutes. While portions of the bill were stricken, the bill remains in effect. Since being enacted, a couple of amendments have been made. I won’t go into all of the details of the bill. Instead, I’ll simplify the evaluation and compensation parts, as they are, now.

Act 1 amended Revised Statute 17:3902, the teacher evaluation process, with a very specific framework that is to be used in evaluating the performance of everyone from the classroom teacher up to the superintendent. Fifty percent of the evaluation is derived from qualitative measures. This is a measurement of the quality of teaching practices, and comes from actual classroom observations. This portion of the evaluation is not that different from the old evaluation system; except that a rubric is incorporated that has many components that are not applicable to every classroom.

The remaining 50% is derived from quantitative measurements. Quantitative measurements can be anything from student/parent surveys, student work samples, scores on assessments, etc. Typically, it comes from student scores on assessments. On the quantitative side, 35% of the score comes from Value-Added Measures (VAM), and 15% comes from multiple measurements including but not limited to the methods previously mentioned. In Louisiana, VAM only applies to teachers who teach 4th-8th grade ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies, and high school Algebra and Geometry teachers.

Teachers who are not VAM teachers are measured by Student Learning Targets (SLT). VAM has actually been deferred for the last few years, and came back into effect, this year; however, this year is being used as a baseline year, so all teachers will be measure by SLTs, again this year.

Section 5 of R.S 17:3902 details the methods of measuring effectiveness as follows:

            (5) Measure of effectiveness. Fifty percent of such evaluations shall be based on evidence of growth in student achievement as determined by the board. Data derived from a value-added assessment model, as determined by the state board, shall be a factor in determining evidence of student growth for grade levels and subjects for which value-added data is available and shall comprise thirty-five percent of the overall evaluation. For grade levels and subjects for which value-added data is not available and for personnel for whom value-added data is not available, the board shall establish measures of student growth. The model shall take into account important student factors, including but not limited to special education, eligibility for free or reduced price meals, student attendance, and student discipline. However, neither the value-added model nor the measures of student growth for grade levels and subjects for which value-added data are not available shall, in any given year, include a test score or data of a student who has ten or more unexcused absences in any school semester in that year. The state board shall develop and adopt a policy to invalidate such student growth data for any teacher for any school year in which there is a natural disaster or any other unexpected event that results in the temporary closure of the school.

I have highlighted a few important points. 1.) what VAM is supposed to measure. Growth. 2.) what to use to measure growth where VAM is not available. 3.) Students who have missed more than ten days of school shall not be included in the measurement. Not 10% of school days. Not 15%. Ten days, which amounts to about 5% of school days.

Now, if you visit the Louisiana Believes VAM page, which I am providing a pic of in case it disappears, you’ll find a description of VAM. Notably, you’ll see the following statement shown in highlight.

That statement is contradictory to what R.S 17:3902 says VAM is supposed to measure. The statute clearly states that the measurement of effectiveness is “student growth.” In addition, if you visit the policies in Bulletin 130 established by BESE via the rule-making process, you’ll find the following.

  • 305. Measures of Growth in Student Learning Learning Targets
  1. The department shall expand the value-added model, as new state assessments become available.
  2. For teachers and administrators, progress towards pre-determined student learning targets, as measured by state-approved common assessments, where available, shall inform the student growth component of the evaluation. Student learning targets shall include goals which express an expectation of growth in student achievement over a given period of time, as well as common measures for assessing attainment of those goals, such as an identified assessment and/or a body of evidence.
  3. Teachers. A minimum of two student-learning targets shall be identified for each teacher. The department shall provide an evaluative tool for evaluators to use in assessing the quality and attainment of student learning targets.
  4. State-approved common assessments shall be used as part of the body of evidence measuring students’ attainment of learning targets, where available.
  5. Where no state-approved common assessments are available, evaluatees and evaluators shall decide upon the appropriate assessment or assessments to measure students’ attainment of learning targets.
  6. LEAs may define consistent student learning targets across schools and classrooms for teachers with similar assignments, provided that they allow for ample flexibility to address the specific needs of students in each classroom.
  7. Principals and Administrators. A minimum of two student learning targets shall be identified for each administrator.
  8. For principals, the LDE shall provide recommended targets to use in assessing the quality and attainment of both student learning targets, which will be based upon a review of “similar” schools. The LDE will annually publish the methodology for defining “similar” schools.
  9. For principals, at least one learning target shall be based on overall school performance improvement in the current school year, as measured by the school performance score.
  10. For principals, at least one learning target shall be based on growth in a component (e.g., ELA or math improvement) of school performance score.
  11. Principals at schools with special populations (e.g. alternative schools) or those that do not have grades with standardized testing and available value-added data (e.g., K-2 schools) may define learning targets based on LDE guidance.

Again, I’ve bolded the particular parts that I want to bring attention to, and I’ve included the sections addressing principal’s SLT to clarify a point. In section 2, a clear definition of what will inform the “student growth” portion of the evaluation is given. Section 4 is irrelevant because there are no state approved common assessments. Section 5 states that the person being evaluated, and the person doing the evaluation shall decide on the appropriate assessment. Section 6 states that it is okay to establish SLTs across schools, or teachers with similar assignment, as long there is flexibility to address the needs of each specific class. Finally, I included Section 10 because in the 16-17 school year, it was determined that two school districts had implemented “course failure” SLTs for high school teachers. The problem with a “course failure” SLT is that there is no measurement of growth. When formerly stated, SLTs are student students such as…The students will, etc., etc,. The “course failure” SLTs, when formerly stated, are teacher statements such as…I will have, etc., etc. That is clearly not a target for student growth. In fact, when president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, Debbie Meaux, asked Supt. John White if he approved of “course failures” being used as SLTs for teachers. He stated that he did not because course failures are a component of the high school SPS score, and that is a principal’s SLT. This year, three districts are using a “course failure” SLT.

Debbie Meaux, asked Supt. John White if he approved of “course failures” being used as SLTs for teachers. He stated that he did not because course failures are a component of the high school SPS score, and that is a principal’s SLT.

In summary, when SLTs are being used as the method of measuring student growth, the assessment and goal should be determined by the teacher and their evaluator, and it should measure growth from point A to point B. I surveyed Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis, Rapides, Lafayette, Vermilion, St. Tammany, East Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish school districts to see how they were complying with the policy. Only three of the ten complied with both the process of determining SLTs and appropriate SLTs. The rest had missed the mark on one, or both, of the requirements.

Teachers…are you being evaluated, correctly?

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