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 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.
In contrast, the evaluations of how much the students of any teacher in our public schools have learned (or not) are confidential. The Virginia “Education” Association says that the public is too stupid (or biased or something) to properly evaluate those data. The evaluation is left to the school systems, who are free to ignore bad teaching, and do so with gusto. So the parents of Virginia are left without the information to evaluate their children’s teachers or to oversee the school divisions’ management of the inadequate teachers.
Brian Davison of Loudoun sued the Department of Education and punched a small hole in this conspiracy against Virginia’s schoolchildren. So, now, the VEA has threatened to sue VDOE, Brian, and me, seeking court orders to prevent, among other things, Brian’s and my disseminating and commenting upon SGP and, perhaps, other data regarding teacher effectiveness (or lack thereof).
At the outset, this demonstrates that the VEA is too stupid to count to “one”: The First Amendment bars this attempted prior restraint of Brian’s and my truthful speech. (Could it be that the manifest insecurity of the VEA’s lawyer stems from a recognition, however faint, of that stupidity?)
As well, the information already available provides a window into what VEA is trying to hide.
For three or four years, VDOE calculated Student Growth Percentiles (“SGPs”). They calculate the SGP by looking at student progress compared to other students who were similarly situated in the previous year(s). The score change of each student in the group is then reported as a percentile rank from 1 (worst 1% of the group) to 99 (best 1%).
The 2014 statewide distribution of average reading SGPs by teacher approaches the ideal normal distribution.
The orange curve fitted to the data shows an average of 48.0 with a standard deviation of 9.7
The Richmond distribution that year leans toward the low end (no surprise there).
The fitted curve has a mean of 44.0 and a standard deviation of 11.4.
The distribution of individual student reading SGPs in Richmond, again for 2014, also leans toward the low end.
Since we know that students who have shown more progress than their peers get higher SGP scores, this is not good news for Richmond.
Let’s turn to some specifics. First some Good News.
The (fifth grade) teacher No. 74414 (anonymized identifier from VDOE) whose students averaged a 78 SGP shows a much different distribution.
That teacher got even more splendid results in math (average = 93).
We could hope this teacher would be in line for a big raise and a task to mentor other teachers.
And we have to wonder why the VEA would want to hide this teacher’s name.
Then we have a large number of teachers near the middle of the pack. For example, here is No. 76273 with SGPs for 21 fifth grade reading students and a 48 average.
This same teacher did much better in math, with an 81 average.
This is a fine math teacher who might benefit from some work on his/her (average but lesser) skills for the teaching of reading.
The VEA says the adequacy of this teacher should be concealed from the parents of the students in his/her classroom because the information “can be used or misused to make prejudicial judgments about teacher performance.”
Then we have the teachers who are actively harming their students. As one example, here is Richmond teacher No. 74415, with 25 fourth grade students averaging a reading SGP of 8:
Then we also have No. 75318, averaging 8 for 22 fourth grade reading students:
The parents of the affected students are not allowed to know who these teachers are. Indeed, the Virginia “Education” Association would prohibit even my revealing that these teachers exist.
OFFER: I’ll bet you a #2 lead pencil that no child of an RPS teacher, principal, administrator, or School Board member was or will be in 74415’s or 75318’s class. (But, of course, you are not important enough to have the information to avoid that hazard to your kid.)
Without information for the public to oversee the schools, we know nothing will be done about these and other ineffective teachers: The assessment system is so pitiful that in 2011 Richmond teachers met or exceeded expectations in 99.28% of the measurements.
Yet VEA says, in effect, “Damn the students! These teachers might be embarrassed if the parents knew enough to demand their retraining or replacement.”
On its Web site, VEA says:
The mission of the Virginia Education Association is to unite our members and local communities across the Commonwealth in fulfilling the promise of a high quality public education that successfully prepares every single student to realize his or her full potential. We believe this can be accomplished by advocating for students, education professionals, and support professionals.
As to the students who are suffering under inept VEA members and as to the whole notion of “high quality public education,” the threatened VEA suit confesses that this “mission” statement is a shameless lie. Indeed, the honest name for the organization would be “Virginia Association for the Protection of Incompetent Teachers.”