by John Butcher
It’s a strange state we live in. The meetings of our legislators are open to the public; their work product goes in the newspaper and on the Internet. The public is free to evaluate their positions, express opinions, and hold them accountable by voting them in or out of office.
Virginia’s judges perform in open court. Their work product is public and subject to legal review by the appellate courts. Judicial Performance Evaluations based on feedback from attorneys and jurors go to the General Assembly, which has the power to fire judges, and to the public, which can fire members of the General Assembly.
By contrast, the data showing how effectively public school teachers are educating our children are treated as a state secret.
The Virginia “Education” Association says that performance data might let the public make “prejudicial judgments about teacher performance.” They want teacher evaluation to be left to the school systems, which are free to ignore ineffective teaching — and do. So, Virginia parents are deprived of information to evaluate their children’s teachers or even to gauge how school divisions are managing — or mismanaging — inadequate teachers whom parents are taxed to pay.
Brian Davison of Loudoun sued the Department of Education and punched a small hole in this conspiracy against Virginia’s schoolchildren. (See Davison v. Virginia Education Dep’t, No. CL14 -4321; circuit court, city of Richmond, final order, 12 April 2016). Now the Virginia “Education” Association has threatened to sue VDOE, Brian, and me, seeking court orders to prevent, among other things, our disseminating and commenting upon Student Growth Percentiles (SGPSs) and, perhaps, other data regarding teacher effectiveness.
At the outset, this demonstrates that the Virginia “Education” Association is too stupid to count to “one.” The First Amendment bars this attempted prior restraint of our truthful speech.
As well, the information already available provides a window into what the Virginia “Education” Association is trying to hide.
We know that the Standards of Learning are an imperfect measure of teacher performance. The scores go down as there is a strong correlation between SOL scores and the socioeconomic disadvantage of students increase. In contrast, the Student Growth Percentile (“SGP”) provides an indicator of effective instruction, regardless of a student’s scaled score. Indeed, the SGP, which measures improvement, not absolute scores, appears to be insensitive to economic disadvantage.
VDOE calculated SGPs in reading and math for three or four years, ending in 2014. Here are the 2014 statewide distributions of average SGPs by teacher.
The 2014 data allows us to take a close-up look at individual teachers, albeit with personal identification data stripped away.
The students of this fifth grade teacher show outstanding progress; three showed more reading progress than 99% of the students who started where they did, and only one of the twelve achieved below average progress.
This teacher should be in for a big raise and a lot of work as a mentor.
This teacher is getting average results and should receive an average raise. While performance always can be improved, this one should not cause the principal any heartburn.
The Virginia “Education” Association says the performance of this teacher (and the previous one) should be concealed from the parents of the students in his/her classroom because [pdf at ¶ 46] the information “can be used or misused to make prejudicial judgments about teacher performance.” In fact, of course, the internet is alive with prejudicial judgments about teacher performance. Here, for example. But the Virginia “Education” Association wants to conceal actual performance data, collected by a state agency and paid for with our taxes.
Then we have the teachers who may be actively harming their students. As an example, Loudoun County fourth grade math teacher No. 56835 showed a much different distribution, as seen at left. The reading data for this teacher looked a bit better but still not good.
Any principal worth the salary would face a decision whether to retrain this teacher or to direct him/her to work more suitable to his/her talents
The parents of the affected students are not allowed to know even who this teachers is or whether the principal is acting to prevent more schoolchildren being exposed to this teacher’s dearth of effective teaching skills. Indeed, the Virginia “Education” Association would like to prevent even my revealing that this teacher exists.
I’ll bet you a #2 pencil that no child of a teacher, principal or school board member was among the unfortunate sixteen in this teacher’s math class in 2014.
Without information for the public to oversee the schools, we know that nothing will be done about this and other ineffective teachers: The current assessment system is so pitiful that in 2011 Richmond teachers met or exceeded expectations 99.28% of the measurements; in 2014, 99.32 of the teachers in Loudoun were proficient” or better.
Nonetheless, the Virginia “Education” Association says, in effect, “Damn the students! Some teachers might be embarrassed if the parents knew enough to demand their retraining or replacement.”
Seems to be the honest name for the organization would be “Virginia Association for the Protection of Incompetent Teachers.”
John Butcher publishes CrankysBlog.There are currently no comments highlighted.