The Advocate article “Teachers claim new evaluation system has flaws” suggests that the new teacher evaluation system is flawed because some educators with high-performing students earned an “Ineffective” rating on the student data portion of the assessment.
Before making broad generalizations that the system is flawed, we need to take a close look at the data from the school in question, South Highlands Elementary Magnet School. While “mastery” students across the state increased their score an average of 31 points, “mastery” students at South Highlands declined by 32 points. At a similar school in Baton Rouge, “basic” students grew by 11 points and “advanced” students grew by 45 points.
In contrast, “basic” students at South Highlands decreased by 40 points and the “advanced” students grew 10 points. In fact, at South Highlands, 7 percent of students who were “advanced” in third grade had dropped to “basic” by the fourth grade. Seven percent doesn’t equate to just one or two students who had a bad day. It indicates a systemic problem, and if I were a parent of one of these students, I would be asking a lot of questions.
Let’s be clear: Ineffective teachers don’t just have a hard time making growth with their students. They actually decline their students’ scores by an average of 10 points. If I had been one of those students, I know that my parents would have been asking questions and with good reason. As a young student growing up in Louisiana, I was often at the top of my class, yet my teachers pushed me hard to regularly advance my learning. My teachers could have chosen to let me coast in their courses, but they refused. I was a high-achiever, but they pushed me to be a higher achiever. And my parents wouldn’t have settled for anything less.
It’s understandable that it would come as a shock that a school such as South Highlands has teachers rated “ineffective.” We have long taken for granted that our teachers were being properly evaluated and supported. We assumed that teachers who teach in high-performing schools must be great teachers, and that teachers who teach in low-performing schools are ineffective. However, new sources of data indicate that we need to rethink our assumptions about good teaching.
I think that we can all agree that an essential part of good teaching is being able to help all students regardless of their background and regardless of their incoming knowledge level to grow. That’s why we must work hard not to create a system that lets teachers of high-performing students off the hook. Those students deserve effective teachers as well. It’s what every Louisiana child deserves.
Monica Candal, policy and data analyst
Stand for Children Louisiana