Saturday, November 10, 2012

More Jindal Coersion

Governor Jindal intimidated his way to another win over the Legislature and the voters by turning over the administration of group benefits health insurance to Blue Cross Blue Shield. See the excellent post on this travesty in the Louisiana Voice blog.

All employee groups participating in OGB programs spoke against the privatization move. The groups opposing included the Retired Teachers' Association, the LAE, LFT, AFSME, and the School Boards Association. These groups remained in opposition even after the Jindal hand picked administrator for OGB sent out a glowing letter of praise for the Blue Cross contract to all participating School Boards earlier this week. This Coersion has become Jindal's trademark.

Only one school board official from Jefferson Parish testified in favor of the contract. The Jefferson Parish official thanked the Jindal Administration for the one million dollar savings the move would mean for Jefferson Parish. But other testimony before the committee pointed out that the one million savings only was possible because of the huge surplus in the OGB account caused by the excellent management by OGB. The savings in premium would have occurred without the Blue Cross takeover. Upon questioning by Rep. Pat Smith, the Jefferson official admitted that the Jindal voucher program was costing Jefferson two million dollars this year! Wonder why the Jefferson school system would thank Jindal for a net loss of one million?

Rep. Katrina Jackson pointed out that the actuaries are already predicting a huge hundred million dollar increase in payout of benefits for the new plan which will more than wipe out any temporary savings. Get ready for a big premium increase!

The following are the strong legislators who still voted "no" on the privatization plan:
Senate House
Senator Sherri Smith Buffington page1image4404Rep. James Armes
Senator Fred Mills, Senator Edwin Murray
Rep. Jared Brossett
Rep. Roy Burrell
Rep. Katrina Jackson, Rep. Edward “Ted” James, Rep. Walt Leger

Rep. Helena Moreno
Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, Rep. Ledricka Thierry

Please send an email "thank you" to those legislators for standing up to Jindal and for the employees and voters!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jindal Defeat a Lesson for Educators

Breaking News! Another meeting of the joint committee of the House Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committees has been scheduled for 8:30 am, this Friday, November 9. At least two dissenting members of the Appropriations committee have been replaced by Jindal's puppet House Speaker. (Click here for the Monroe NewsStar article) The intent is to ram through the privatization of the Office of Group Benefits just as was done to public education last Spring. I am urging all members of the  Group Benefits plan to call or email members of those committees and ask that they oppose privatization again. This move by Jindal is his most anti-democratic move yet!

Educators (teachers, principals, and school board members) have the power to reverse or correct most of the Jindal damage to public education and the teaching profession! That's the lesson we can take from the decisive defeat suffered by Governor Jindal last Thursday on his effort to privatize the Group Benefits insurance program. The political lesson to be learned and utilized by educators is that when a large group of voters is adversely affected by a government action and they choose to put maximum pressure on their representatives in government, they win!

The action last week was supposed to be a simple rubber stamping by hand picked legislative committee members of the Governor's decision to turn over our successful, cost effective group benefits program to the Governor's friends at Blue Cross. But this time the educators, state workers and particularly the retired educators and retired state workers decided they had had enough of Jindal's bullying. The word spread quickly that the joint committee composed of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees had the power to stop the Governor's latest power play. The Retired Teacher's Association and other interested groups sent out an urgent message to their members listing the members of these legislative committees and their contact information (phone numbers and email addresses). The email urged members to simply tell their legislators on those committees how they felt about this move. One of my readers sent me the LRTA email, and I forwarded it to my Defenders of Public Education data base with the same call to action. The result was overwhelming! Within a matter of hours the Governor's control of the House Appropriations Committee was totally lost. Legislators reported receiving hundreds of phone calls and emails opposing the privatization with not a single constituent in support of the Governor's plan even though his “experts” had predicted that the privatization would save money and result in better service.

The result was a chaotic joint committee meeting with our hero, Rep. Katrina Jackson running parliamentary procedure circles around the Governor's cronies to force a “no” vote on the proposal. By the time the dust settled the vote was going to be firmly 16 against and only 7 in favor of the Governor's privatization plan. The Governor's Commissioner of Administration was allowed to withdraw the plan from the committees' agenda before a final vote could be taken. Senate Finance Committee members were greatly relieved to avoid voting on this losing proposition. This is what happens when the voters are willing to speak forcefully to their elected representatives. Of course the Jindal administration moved quickly to punish two key legislators by removing them from the Appropriations committee. I urge my readers to send an email to Rep Joe Harrison, Rep. Cameron Henry, and especially Rep. Katrina Jackson thanking them for their courage. This fight is not over, but I predict that even if the governor eventually wins this battle by sheer intimidation he will eventually lose the war and his ability to control the legislature.

There is no question in my mind that the education community can do the same thing to dismantle the worst parts of the Governor's ALEC dictated education “deform” blueprint. That's because the average voters never really cared about this plan for vouchers, school takeovers, teacher bashing, VAM evaluations, the stripping of teacher qualifications and dignity, and all the forms of privatization promoted in the Governor's plan. The dozens of legislators whose allegiance was bought by the big money from the privatization and testing interests have realized by now that the “emperor has no clothes”. The educators who work in the trenches and the school board members who have been humiliated and blamed for imaginary failings of our schools who really care about public education now have an opportunity to fight back and win.

The only thing that makes me just a little skeptical is that I wonder how many teachers and maybe even school leaders have never worked up the courage to sit down and talk face to face with their legislator about these critical matters. If many educators have only sent one or two emails and then given up and concluded that they have no power against the forces of the Governor and John White, then I really fear that we are doomed. But those educators were wrong! It is not too late. Why should we let these guys who voted to destroy public education, and who probably know they voted wrong, off the hook? Look. . . both of my legislators were new in their office this year and voted wrong on the education reforms, because they were overwhelmed by the Governor's initial push. But now educators are meeting with them regularly and calling their offices when an important education issue comes up. We are educating them about what is really important in education. Even more importantly they also know that we won't forget their support or lack of support at election time. You and your fellow educators can do the same. If you really care about public education, here is what you need to do now!
  1. Make a short list of the gut issues you care most about in education that you want to communicate to your legislators about and plan to meet with them to discuss those issues. You can see my personal list of important education issues at the bottom of this post.
  2. Use social media and emails to get educators to follow our louisianaeducator blog so all educators can be informed and prepared to deal with attacks on educators and public schools.
  3. Form a committee of educators in your area or school who will meet regularly with local legislators and proceed to educate them about the need to reverse the destructive Jindal reforms. Start small and grow your educator activist group with time and effort. Have faculty meetings to plan strategy and send emails and make phone calls to legislators. Get to know the legislator's legislative aide at his/her home office and get the aide to relay your messages to your legislator.
  4. Join your professional organization/union or administrator group and get active at the local and state levels.
  5. Join our Defenders of Public Education data base today! It is free and you remain in total control of your communications with your legislators. I pledge to work directly with the Louisiana Coalition for Public Education to keep you informed and communicating effectively with your legislators. To join, all you have to do is send me an email at Tell me you want to be part of the “Defenders” data base and either give me the name or district numbers of your state representative and state senator or give me your home address so I can look it up and place you in the correct contact group. Then when an important vote comes up you will get an email about contacting your legislator before the vote happens. We can and will make a difference!
Here is my list of key reform issues that should be reversed if we are to save public education in Louisiana:
  • Stop the vouchers now. Most of the vouchers violate the concept of separation of church and state and needlessly drain critical MFP dollars from our school board budgets. Greedy creationist preachers and rip off artists are making Louisiana education a laughing stock.
  • Freeze the approval of new charter schools and close down the many destructive charters that are paying huge salaries to their administrators without taxpayer supervision and who use any means possible to fake success and continue to raid our public school funds.
  • Stop the out-of-state for-profit virtual schools. They are education failures everywhere in this country, but they are making a few people very rich using taxpayer money.
  • Stop the Course Choice program before it starts. It is impossible to have real accountability in this program. It will rob our MFP and it will do a poor job of educating students.
  • Stop the VAM and COMPASS now. This system is not accurate and will demoralize and divide the teaching profession in Louisiana. It will turn many professional educators into mindless “test teachers” and cheaters.
  • Stop using standardized testing to rate our schools and teachers. This ill advised system narrows our curriculum that turns professional educators into “test teachers”.
  • Stop the failed takeover of schools by the incompetent administrators of the RSD. Instead put extra resources, and provide incentives for our strongest principals to serve in our high poverty schools and for our most effective teachers to teach in our most challenging schools. Work with the community to encourage positive parental involvement in our poorest neighborhoods.
Here is my best advice: Stop complaining and use your skills as an educator and an organizer to win back control of our public schools. This is a fight we must win for our profession and our students!

Friday, November 2, 2012

LDOE Proposing Radical Changes in Teacher Salary Schedules

If you thought that the Governor and John White were through messing with teachers for a while, you were wrong. A recent briefing session for local personnel directors by the State Department of Education on implementation of Act 1 salary mandates proposed radical changes in teacher salary schedules for all parishes. The examples provided by the DOE to local systems are just suggestions. No particular salary schedule is mandated by Act 1. But Act 1does mandate that the teacher salaries in all school systems must be revised to include a performance component based on the new Act 54 evaluation system (COMPASS).  According to the law, all such revised schedules must be adopted by local school boards by January 1, 2013. That means that in less than two months, school systems that are faced with ever tightening budgets will be expected to totally overhaul all teacher salary schedules to go into effect next school year. And since in almost all cases there is no new money, school systems will be expected to "rob Peter to pay Paul".

Local personnel administrators were presented by DOE officials with two suggested models for revamping teacher salary schedules. Both of these models propose huge ( $10,000+) raises for the small number of teachers that will be rated by COMPASS as highly effective. Click here for the LDOE power point presentation on Act 1 compensation models.

For the teachers getting these huge "suggested merit raises" no weight is given to advanced degrees. What Superintendent White wants is for extra compensation to be based solely on the new evaluation system. If you have been taking graduate courses for years and are on the verge of getting your Masters degree in hopes of getting an improved salary. . . “tough!” say the TFA salary gurus at the State Department. Higher degrees for teachers is passe' even though the DOE wants it for our students. National Board Certification status for teachers is passe'. All that matters now is a "highly effective" rating on VAM. But there are serious holes in this reasoning. Consider the following facts that are apparently being ignored by our DOE.
  1. Two thirds of all teachers in the state are teaching non-tested subjects or grades. That means that the VAM portion of COMPASS does not apply to approximately 36,000 of the 55,000 public school teachers. In the place of a value added score, such teachers are expected to develop SLTs (student learning targets) in cooperation with their principal. Such teachers could conceivably achieve a highly effective score by achieving their student learning targets and getting a good evaluation from their principal. This means that if school systems adopt the suggested merit pay plans proposed by LDOE, music teachers, foreign language teachers, kindergarten teachers, physical education teachers and many others may be eligible for huge bonuses without having to go through the trauma of getting the very rare highly effective scores on VAM. One of the models suggested to personnel directors would require that a teacher receive three highly effective ratings before getting the merit pay. This may not be so difficult for a teacher setting his/her own SLTs but almost impossible for the VAM teachers. This serious difference in standards could create great tension among school faculties if the local school board chooses to adopt the large merit pay schedules recommended by the DOE.
  2. The current version of VAM is highly erratic and according to analysis by the creator of the Louisiana VAM, a teacher's VAM score can vary greatly from year to year even if she/he makes no changes in teaching methods. Teachers in Houston, TX who are being paid using performance on VAM jokingly call it “the lottery” indicating how much random factors have to do with teachers getting the merit pay.
  3. In these times of shrinking school board budgets and escalating mandated costs such as increased contributions to retirement and legacy costs, the only way to fund the merit increases is for non-merit teachers to have their salaries frozen. This includes doing away with salary increases for higher degrees and experience. (Note: the law prohibits reducing a current teacher's salary but such salaries may be frozen almost permanently to pay for the merit raises for relatively few teachers.
What do you think will happen to morale when some teachers who are able to game the system receive huge raises while all others have their salaries frozen to pay for those raises? For example, in order for one teacher to get a “merit” raise of $5,000 may require that 10 teachers sacrifice step increases of $500 each.

What can teachers do if they object to these drastic changes in salary based on an untested evaluation system? Here are my suggestions:

The law does not mandate how much teachers' salaries should depend on the new evaluation system. Teachers can recommend that the merit increases be kept minimal ( I don't know, maybe $100) until the evaluation system proves itself to be valid. There should not be great emphasis on the merit raises until we know that the instrument upon which it is based is valid and reliable.

What actions should concerned teachers take?

By all means, teachers should communicate with their local superintendent, if they want to stop this merit system from drastically altering salaries. Teachers should also appeal to their school board members who will make the final decision on any revision in the salary schedule for each parish. School board members are now prohibited by law from hiring and firing teachers but it is still their responsibility to approve salary schedules.

I suggest teachers talk to their school board members now before a decision is made that will have a profound effect on their careers. Better yet, the local teacher association/union should adopt a recommendation based on what most teachers want and present it to the local Board. I am sure that LAE and LFT will have model schedules for teachers and school boards to consider.

Monday, October 29, 2012

VAM Based on False Assumption

“Research has shown that teacher effectiveness is the greatest determinant of student outcomes followed closely by principal effectiveness”. This totally inaccurate statement which is based on an incorrect quote of research findings is included on page 113 of Louisiana's ESEA Waiver proposal as part of the justification for using student value added data as part of the COMPASS evaluation system to evaluate and certify teachers in Louisiana. It is inexcusable that State Superintendent John White would continue to use a bogus assumption for making such serious career decisions for teachers and principals.

The correct quote of research conclusions regarding the influence of teacher effectiveness relative to other factors states that “of all school related factors, teacher effectiveness is the greatest determinant of student outcomes followed closely by principal effectiveness”. While it is difficult to absolutely quantify the effect of various factors on student performance, most researchers have concluded that non-school factors including socioeconomic factors (primarily poverty levels) have approximately an 80% influence on student outcomes while school related factors make up the remaining 20%. That puts teacher effectiveness at a far cry from being the greatest determinant of student outcomes!

While improving teacher effectiveness is highly desirable for improving student performance, it is not the dominant factor. It follows that an evaluation system that makes a teacher's career so overwhelmingly dependent on student outcomes is a huge mistake and can produce many unfair unintended results. Louisiana's Act 54 of 2010 which makes 50% of a teacher's evaluation and therefore career dependent on student performance is counterproductive to say the least. In addition the Louisiana COMPASS evaluation plan allows an “ineffective” rating on VAM to totally invalidate the principals' observation portion of a teacher's evaluation and therefore is a violation of Act 54. It improperly magnifies any errors coming from the highly erratic and inaccurate VAM, and in those cases becomes 100% of a teacher's evaluation.

One of the principals who read my blog on flaws in VAM sent me an email informing me of another serious flaw involving what are called “connections” students. These are students who have failed the 8th grade LEAP but who state policy allows to move to a high school campus in hopes of getting them back on track for graduation. It seems that LDOE policy requires that if a high school teacher is teaching 10 or more of these students, the teacher may be included in the VAM portion of the evaluation system. This principal fears, with much justification, that if such students fail the 8th grade LEAP in the current year, their high school teachers could have their VAM score dragged down to the “ineffective” level. These teachers had nothing to do with moving such students up to the high school level, and may be providing minimal instruction related to the 8thgrade LEAP, yet the teacher's job is being put in jeopardy by factors over which he/she have no control. It seems the examples of VAM flaws are quite numerous rather than highly limited and correctable as suggested by Superintendent John White. But that's on top of the false assumption upon which VAM is based. There is a new slogan going around in Louisiana educator circles. It is stated simply: “White lies”.

White continues hiring non-educators to top administrative positions in LDOE.

Long time investigative reporter Tom Aswell who publishes the blog, LouisianaVoice, recently uncovered the fact that Superintendent White had hired motivational speaker/utilities lobbyist, and all around flimflam man, Dave Lefkowith, to head the “Office of Portfolio” which includes administration of the Choice Course program. (See the October 10th post in the LouisianaVoice)The salary for this non-educator, with no credentials whatsoever will be $144,999 to recruit private companies to teach just about any course they can sell to our public school parents and students. This is the massive course privatization program authorized by Act 2, which is scheduled to go into full operation next school year. Private companies and individuals will be allowed to raid the MFP of all school systems in the state with little or no accountability for results. An email response to several questions I posed recently to BESE President, Penny Dastigue confirmed that choice course providers can be paid up to 90% of the pro-rated amount for one Carnegie unit of credit for some high school courses even though the students do not have to attend any particular number of hours of instruction and do not pass the end of course test. Such a rip-off would raid critical MFP funds while leaving the local school system and parents holding an empty bag. This program which is an open invitation to fraud and abuse using our tax dollars is just the kind of rip-off that Lefty Lefkowith is really qualified to run. How long will our legislators allow this madness to continue?
Have you submitted your name and address to my Defenders of Public Education data base yet? All you have to do to get special emails about upcoming votes of BESE and legislators is to send me a short email at telling me your preferred email address and either your home address or the name or number of your state Representative and Senator. I am not interested in your private information, I just need to know who your legislators are so that we can do some targeting of legislators when key votes are coming up.
Mike Deshotels

Thursday, October 25, 2012

VAM Fix Must Comply with Law

Note: Please read this post as a supplement to the article below it.
A teacher from Caddo sent me an email in response to my post this week on fixing the VAM system for Louisiana. She said the attorney for the Caddo School Board gave his opinion that John White's proposed fix for South Highlands Elementary and similar schools did not comply with Act 54. (The 2010 law setting up the new evaluation system which includes the 50% value added factor). The attorney believes that the law does not allow for such an exemption that removes the value added factor from the evaluation of some teachers. Unfortunately for this situation, I agree with the attorney. I don't think the State Superintendent can go around picking and choosing which teachers can be exempted from VAM, especially not after the fact of getting a bad evaluation. There is a provision for teachers of non-tested subjects and grades to be rated using student learning targets (SLTs) jointly developed by the teacher and his/her principal, but the teachers involved did not fall into this category. This just one more example of what you can expect when you put the careers of professional educators in the hands of an inexperienced unqualified individual. The email I got also pointed out other invalid results that can occur in the evaluation of a teacher using VAM, but there is no legitimate way of tinkering with the VAM formulas to correct these problems.

The same problems are being observed all over the country where a similar value added evaluation is being tried. But the most disgusting example I can think of is the following: A teacher who had previously been recognized as one of the most highly effective in her system, got an ineffective rating because of  VAM and was dismissed. Later, strong evidence was found that the teachers the previous year had cheated on the student testing so that their student scores would help them get an effective rating. Those inflated scores caused the teacher the following year to be rated as ineffective because the students showed little or no growth on state tests. So one highly effective teacher was fired while other unethical or fraudulent teachers were rated as effective!

This is what happens to our formally proud profession when we let amateurs sell the public and the legislature on a "miracle" solution that is not based on sound educational principles. Act 54 is a very bad law that has terrible unintended consequences.  If the legislators from Caddo really want to do the right thing, they need to repeal Act 54 during the next legislative session!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Can VAM be Fixed?

Superintendent John White believes he has a solution to the problem of teachers in top rated schools receiving an “ineffective” because of the VAM portion of the new teacher evaluation system. It was discovered recently that some high performing students in exclusive magnet schools sometimes experience a lull or slowdown in their academic gains caused by factors outside the control of the teacher. Even though such students are normally high performers, in some cases a classroom of high performers may perform below its VAM predicted scores on state tests, thereby placing their teacher in the bottom 10% on the VAM ranking statewide. When simulations showed that several teachers at the top rated elementary school in the state may be classified as ineffective by VAM, the whole community and their state representativewere up in arms. When this story broke in the newspapers, Superintendent White immediately adjusted his schedule to travel to Shreveport and met with teachers and administrators at South Highlands Elementary Magnet School.

Within just a few days of the discovery of the flaw in VAM for high performing schools, Superintendent White had a solution. He will be proposing to BESE that in cases where some teachers who teach high performing students get an “ineffective” from the VAM, the state will simply wipe out the VAM portion of the teacher's score and use the qualitative portion of Compass as the only factor in determining the rating of the teacher. This exemption to VAM will be applied as long as a teacher's students score at the top two levels on state assessments, even if her/his students do not show the growth the VAM formulas demand. That's a great victory for the teachers at South Highlands Elementary school and the teachers there certainly deserve to be exempted from this flaw in the evaluation system.

I believe White's recommended change for South Highlands and other similar schools will be approved by BESE, not because of the extenuating circumstances that may cause an unfair evaluation of those teachers, but because the legislator representing that district is a solid supporter of Governor Jindal and his “reform” programs. White, who has no training in teacher evaluation, no training in statistical analysis, and who has never evaluated teachers, came up with an instant solution that will fix the problem for that select group of teachers. But White's solution will still allow thousands of other teachers in the state to be vulnerable to ineffective ratings based only on the VAM even if they have extenuating circumstances in theirclassrooms.

For example let's look at another teaching situation. (The following is a hypothetical example because I don't have access to actual the value added growth that VAM predicts for various socioeconomic groups.) Lets consider a high poverty middle school in the inner city that has had most of its high performing students transfer to magnet schools. A 20 year math teacher (teacher B) is assigned a group of 25 students where the VAM formulas project that those students should show composite growth of .8 years in math for that year. But during that year, two of the girls get pregnant, 3 of the boys are picked up on drug charges and detained in a juvenile institution for three weeks to a month, and three other students' families were evicted from their home because their unemployed parent could not pay the rent. Those students had to live with relatives and friends where they were lucky to find a bed in which to sleep, much less find a quiet place to study. One other student's mother was murdered by her estranged husband causing traumatic shock waves throughout the community. LEAP testing produced a composite growth in math of this class of only .4 years. I guess you could say this teacher's class also experienced a lull or slowdown in academic gains probably caused by factors outside the control of the teacher. Teacher B received a good rating from her principal on the qualitative portion of Compass, but her low rating on VAM placed her in the bottom 10% statewide, so she received an overall ineffective rating. There is no appeal for an ineffective rating on VAM. That teacher immediately loses her tenure, has her salary frozen, and is placed first on the list to be laid off next year, in the event the school system is forced to reduce teaching staff. That teacher is all alone. She did not have a state legislator who was aligned with the Governor to campaign for her and get a special rule change for her extenuating circumstances. There will be no adjustment in her evaluation.

Here's another example deserving consideration. Some teachers have pointed out that there seems to be a difference in average state test scores for students from one grade level to another. That difference could be caused by several factors. It could be that the state tests do not increase smoothly in difficulty from grade to grade. LEAP and ILEAP tests are constructed by contracted testing companies that make a huge profit regardless of variations of their tests. Or it could be that students in one year where state policy requires retention of students who do not make the state cut off score work a little harder to pass the test that year than they do the previous or succeeding years. That can have both adverse and beneficial effects on ratings for teachers in different grades even if teacher performance is generally the same from grade to grade. Would White recommend a change in the teacher evaluation system in such a case? Specifically using real data if we compare the 4th grade LEAP scores of all students statewide in 2011 to the ILEAP 5th grade scores we find that 24% of students scored below basic in ELA in 2011 while 30% of those students scored below basic in 5th grade in 2012. Statistically this means that more 5th grade ELA teachers are expected to fall in the bottom 10% of VAM than 4th grade teachers because their students don't perform as well on state tests. If a disproportionate percentage of 5th grade teachers are rated as ineffective because of the factors I mentioned above, will some legislator go to bat for those teachers and get them an exemption from VAM?

One more point. It turns out that the Governor's supporters in the legislature generally represent the more affluent areas of the state. Opponents of the Governor generally represent impoverished communities. Which teachers do you think have the best chance of getting exemptions from or adjustments to VAM? The ones teaching in high poverty schools or the ones teaching in more affluent schools?

Can VAM be fixed so that it will be fair to all teachers and still produce the mandatory 10% of teachers rated as ineffective? Obviously not, because for every group of teachers granted special exemptions, the system will have to pull more or the rest of the teachers down to the the ineffective level.

I hope all teachers and administrators will stick together in opposing the continued implementation of this fundamentally flawed evaluation system. Right now I believe most teachers are appalled at the lack of accuracy and now also the lack of integrity in the decision making process relative to this evaluation system. It cannot be fixed. It must be junked. Let's not allow some good teachers to be thrown under the bus while others get an exemption.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Children Can't Wait!

The children can't wait. That was the refrain used over and over by the Jindal reformers to pass huge revamps of education law privatizing and chartering education and forcing the implementation of a new evaluation system for public school teachers before it was proven. Today the Baton Rouge Advocate carries two stories that demonstrate that Louisiana should have waited before these attacks on public education and teachers were launched. Maybe the public and the business community would have realized that charter schools were not a panacea and that school takeover and mass firing of teachers and administrators only creates chaos.

Please read over both of these articles and the comments below them that show that most people are no longer willing to be fed miracle solutions that cause more damage than good. The Advocate stories are about the teacher evaluation system and about the drop in enrollment of takeover/charter schools in the Baton Rouge area.

I am also including a link to a story about the damage being done by vouchers to one of Louisiana's best large school systems.

The following are the reader comments so far on the evaluation article:

1) Comment by Concerned_Parent - 10/16/2012
Mr. White keeps saying "isolated cases" yet you keep hearing from more and more schools across the state with the same exact issues/concerns. What hasn't been clearly pointed out is that the principle's will also be labeled as ineffective b/c of the teachers being wrongly labeled as so. They will also be on the chopping block. And if any teacher is rated a 4(the highest rating) the state dept is going to send in their own evaluator to reexamine the teacher. If for some reason there is an unrully child in class that day that causes the lesson to not go as smoothly, that teacher's rating can be dropped to whatever the state dept evaluator deems it to be. It doesn't matter what the principle who is at school every day thinks, if this one lesson goes bad that teacher will suffer for it. As the teacher in this article stated, why would she want to continue working in that type of environmnent? The focus is NOT on the children. It is on the teachers. You have news articles about communities afraid to be outside once school dismisses b/c of all the fighting and violence that occurs in the streets, but I'm sure Mr. White thinks that's b/c the teachers failed those students. Those students are clearly not going home to study or do homework. Those parents clearly don't have control over their kids, but I guess the teachers should be responsible for raising them 24/7. I see lots of "ineffectiveness", but the vast majority of it is NOT taking place within the walls of the schools.
2) Comment by Noel Hammatt - 10/16/2012
I keep reading this: "Under the new review system, teachers rated as ineffective for two years in a row can be fired." While it is factually true, the real important truth lies hidden. A masterful, caring, high quality, and experienced teacher who is dedicated to changing the lives of her students for the better, will lose any protection she has after ONE year. That's right. If only one year in the Value Added Measurement (and remember, she can get a top rating from the principal portion of the over teacher evaluation, but that is TRUMPED by the wholly invalid VAM score) and she is rated INEFFECTIVE. Once she has this rating, ONE TIME,she is subject to removal for any reason, and her only recourse is that she is allowed to write a letter to the Superintendent to challenge his position. IF, there are "statistics" that show that all these teachers are incorrect, perhaps Superintendent John White could actually release all of the data on the evaluations, WITHOUT NAMES ATTACHED, of course, and let us see for ourselves what the data show, unfiltered by the department. In fact, if the system is so effective, why not allow the public, for the first time, to actually see the evaluation instrument. After all, it was paid for with our tax dollars!
3) Comment by lovemykids - 10/16/2012
Jindal and White believe that all you have to do to be a good teacher is follow a workbook and of course not want a decent paycheck or benefits. Teachers give our children more than Jindal and White combined can give them. A future.
4) Comment by mikedeshot - 10/16/2012
So we should be surprised when an improperly tested evaluation system being run by people with zero qualifications already looks like a disaster? Another article in this edition shows that all the takeover/charter schools in the Baton Rouge area are such failures that parents are pulling their children out in droves. Why don't we have an evaluation system for Whte and Jindal based on the "value lost" by our school systems since they took over. Jindal better hope he gets a cabinet position because he won't be able to run for dog catcher in Louisiana after his education and healthcare reforms run their course. I am really concerned about the lasting damage this will do to our teaching profession as good teachers retire early and bright new teachers go to other states!