How Long Must a Pregnant Teacher Stand in Order to Be Rated “Effective”?
Corporate reform is laced with asinine expectations. Five weeks of training is all it takes to be an “excellent” teacher if one is “talented” enough. Under-regulated, market-driven schools will ensure educational quality and opportunity. More standardized testing improves both teaching and learning.
And here’s one that is the focus of profound foolishness in New York:
Teachers control student testing outcomes to the degree that teacher evaluations should closely parallel testing outcomes.
New York is not alone in test-score-aligned, teacher-eval lunacy.
On October 22, 2014, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released the 2013-14 evaluation results for Louisiana teachers, and the Times-Picayune wrote about it.
Not surprisingly in the current national atmosphere of standardized-testing idolatry, the main thrust of the article is that the increase in percentage of teachers rated as “effective” must be compared to the percentage increase of students passing state tests in order to evaluate the integrity of the evaluations.
The rate of teachers rated as “effective” rose three percentage points. The rate of students passing state tests rose one percentage point.
And here it comes:
Teacher ratings were declared as “inflated” and “subjective ratings,” as the “culprit.” Value added modeling (VAM)– which had not been demonstrated to work even based upon Louisiana’s 2011 miserable pilot— had been removed from the 2013-14 evaluations in order to be “reworked”, and that VAM absence must be the reason for the “inflation.”
Lest anyone should think that VAM removal means Louisiana teachers are not graded using test scores, let me note that test scores still comprised 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. What is used in place of VAM is something called “student learning targets” (SLTs). It’s the “crap shoot” I wrote about here. Via SLTs, in my case, the district sets the parameters on what percentage of my students must score a certain way on upcoming tests.
As a teacher, such negotiations are out of my control. And I know that my performance as a teacher cannot honestly and ethically be directly reflected in my students’ test scores.
Even the Times-Picayune had a flash of this truth.
Yep. Right smack in the middle of the paper’s “teacher rating inflation” propaganda is a brief quote and paraphrase by VAM-book-author Doug Harris, a moment of sense, just enough for the Times-Picayune to purport having presented by token a “balanced” article, should anyone ask:
Given the changes (the 2013-14 removal of VAM), it’s unsurprising that more teachers are now considered effective, said Education Research Alliance for New Orleans director Doug Harris, who has long studied value-added education measures. “If you take the value-added out, it’s going to tend to increase the scores,” he said.
Still, he said that test score improvement rates shouldn’t be linked so closely to teacher effectiveness ratings improvement. That’s because there is much that makes a teacher effective that has little to do with test scores, he said. “We don’t have any reason to think that it should be a one to one relationship between those two things,” he said. [Emphasis added.]
Wow. There it is: the corporate reform expectation of a one-to-one correspondence of teacher-rating-to-student-test-score, openly refuted, and by a VAM promoter, at that.
I have written some rather hard words about Harris, who is in charge of a June 2015, ten-year, post-Katrina charter event that even in December 2014 appears to be biased in favor of New Orleans charter promotion.
In the case of the October 2014 Times-Picayune declaration of teacher eval “inflation,” Harris dropped a nugget of truth, and it ended there. The rest of the lengthy article continues with the teacher-eval-to-test-score, tragic blunder.
As one might expect when the false, direct relationship of teacher evaluation-to-student-test-score is promoted as truth to school administrators who are themselves rated by even higher, district, administrators– and whose ratings are compared to school-wide test scores– there will be additional, top-down pressure placed on teachers and their daily work in the classroom.
Time to flunk some more teachers and prove “rigor.”
This brings me to a story about a public school in Lake Charles, Louisiana. It seems that the administration is seeking out “data” that it might use to “prove” its “subjective” teacher evaluations are “rigorous.” However, all that they seem to be doing is tipping over into the ridiculous– and cruel.
I mean, when one notes on a clipboard how long a pregnant teacher sits during an administrative visit– that’s proof of a ticket purchased at the train station called Idiocy. It is also lends credence to the stance that corporate reform is a war on women.
Nevertheless, that is what is happening according to a teacher who came to me with his/her story– and to whom I offered the opportunity to remain anonymous if I might publish his/her experiences.
Much of the rest of this post is the Lake Charles teacher’s story. It should be used in K12 administrator training as a model on how to not evaluate classroom teachers.
Teachers have had it rough for the past few years. CCSS (Common Core State Standards), VAM, SLT, PLC (professional learning community), along with new curricula every year for the past three years in a row has teachers strained and uncomfortable. My friends and colleagues in education have had to seek medical treatment (both counseling and chemical) just to deal with the stress. This year, there are a lot of new, stressful practices at a school in Lake Charles. To be fair, it seems that not both administrators feel as apt to stack on requirements. Many of these have come down from one in particular. The main administrator seems much more understanding of a teacher’s present condition than the other [administrator].
Teachers are having weekly pop-in visits (lasting from 10 to 20 minutes). We were given that update at our beginning of the year meeting just before school began. Walk throughs are not a bad idea, but our pop in observation rubric grew to include many noninstructional requirements for which teachers were given less than 24 hours notice to prepare. In an email sent after 2:00 pm, teachers were told to include visible standards on the wall, a visible class agenda, standards on their bulletin boards, have student work in the classroom and on bulletin boards. Some teachers scrambled to buy already made signs with standards from teacher websites, others quickly improvised. Some had not read the email until the next morning. That very next morning, these tasks were checked for completion.
On the pop-in visit rubric, there is a section where the observer checks off where the teacher was or what s/he was doing during the observation: sitting at desk, at computer, circulating among students, etc. One truly blessed teacher is expecting a child this spring. She is not being allowed to rest during these pop-ins. She is being timed if she sits at any point while they’re in her room. They then write down on her form how long she sat while they were there. This is undue stress for any expecting mother and unborn infant.
Another teacher who is not a technologically inclined sort received a new network printer this year but is not comfortable enough to install it herself. She was told by an administrator, after a few weeks of waiting for support, that if she failed to have it hooked up within 48 hours, it would be taken back. She fell ill very quickly after this incident and was home sick on the day for which her deadline was set. Another teacher in the school, to whom she had informed of this encounter, hooked it up for her during her planning time. If I were a school leader, I would think the proper way to address this concern over unused technology would be to not wait weeks and ask the teacher if she needed help to install the printer. Any busy teacher in the middle of an already hectic school year would need a bit of support with that task. Any leader should be willing to help before threatening to take away resources provided for the benefit of students.
This school is very lucky to have a Curriculum Coach at school. She goes in and models lessons, helps create manipulatives, and researches possible projects and corresponding literature for teachers. More traditional teachers who are unaccustomed to all the new requirements need her help more often than others. Our “PROGRESS Grant Lead Teacher” (the Curriculum Coach) was told she was spending too much time with a certain teacher. That teacher is now afraid to ask for advice and support when she needs it from the person in our school whose sole job it is to support teachers.
Apparently, bulletin boards are the newest instructional tool as teachers are required to justify student work hanging on them with correlating standards and are required to change the bulletin board’s content regularly. I do not believe that students, parents, or teachers will benefit from this practice. Administrators are already aware of standards being taught on weekly lesson plans, which are evaluated every Monday.
Lesson plans are due each Saturday and checked for possible improvements. Teachers receive recommendations every Monday for their plans. Though research has not shown their value in the educative process, the lesson plans are now a focal point and yet another way of critiquing (or perhaps criticizing) teachers. They had also best be printed and visible in the room for observers along with any print assessments for that week. Even if administrators receive them via email, they need to physically see the lesson plans during a pop-in.
Teachers are required to have not one, but two, 45 minute meetings during their planning time each week, a PLC and a grade level meeting (GLM). These are to happen even if 50% of participants are absent. These incessant and often unproductive meetings are yet another control in place at the school. The PLC meetings seem to have more effect when put in place at strategic points in the year, but having them every week only serves to “document” a meeting and not really track improvements of any kind.
The teachers are afraid to question these practices openly. They are afraid of what the administration will require of them should they speak out, but it is time that this was made public. Everyone is under enough stress. Why compound it in ways such as these? Morale is so low. Productivity will be low as well if teachers do have the proper support they need in order to be successful. How will causing teachers more stress help their students? How do the practices described here help students?
What is being called a “pop-in” in this Lake Charles school is not designed to help either teachers or students. It is designed to Cover the Administrative Behind. However, what it might well do is usher both school-level and district-level administrators into unanticipated litigation.
I’m thinking that pressuring a pregnant teacher by timing her being seated will not go over well should such information enter the courtroom.
Pause and reflect on that one, o clip-boarded administrators!
Let me close by repeating VAM-book-author Doug Harris’ words as quoted and paraphrased in the October 22, 2014, Times-Picayune article.
Perhaps they will lead these Lake Charles admins toward a moment of teacher-humane enlightenment:
[Harris] said that test score improvement rates shouldn’t be linked so closely to teacher effectiveness ratings improvement. That’s because there is much that makes a teacher effective that has little to do with test scores, he said. “We don’t have any reason to think that it should be a one to one relationship between those two things,” he said. [Emphasis added.]
Louisiana, catch the hint.
You, too, New York.