Labeling “Ineffective Teachers” in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Dan Gecker, President, VBOE – picture credit: VBOE

My last post about new legislative attempts at reforming public education led to a very appropriate discussion of the term “ineffective teacher” used in that legislation.

Bestowing the “ineffective teacher” tag with some patina of objectivity requires a major effort that does not exist in Virginia.

The studies that showed the Virginia Board of Education how it might combine subjective (principal evaluations) and objective (tracking individual students through their education to see which teachers advanced their learning and which retarded it) measures to which it referred in using the “ineffective teacher” terminology requires data that are not available in Virginia.

If we go down this road, years of collection and assessment will be required before data-supported evaluations meet the test of statistical significance and then are subjective to political tests.

We will have to start an entirely new (doable at the costs of considerable expense and time) data collection and mining effort in Virginia to give such tags a tinge of objectivity.

The truth on the ground is that principals make such assessments now every day, but Virginia doesn’t have an official, policy-sponsored labeling process.

If we try to go forward with public policy that relies upon the exclusivity of subjective principal evaluations, the new respect we plan to give teachers unions will wipe that out at the first contract negotiation.

This is a great example of the danger of moving what generally but not always work in the real world into the realm of public policy that then brings in to play endless political considerations.

Does anyone think that both objective and subjective measures would not be then subject to protected class oversight?

Perfect is in this case the enemy of good enough when perfect is not possible.

I personally think the light is not worth the candle.

Dump the term and let this dog sleep.


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Comments

96 responses to “Labeling “Ineffective Teachers” in Virginia”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    So – you could go about this the other way, i.e. identifying the effective teachers and rewarding them and despite some beliefs, teachers do get fired for not being effective.

    interesting read (has some age on it)

    How to measure teacher effectiveness fairly?

    excerpt:
    ” The Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition brought renewed attention to teacher evaluation, as did The New Teacher Project’s 2009 landmark report, “The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness.” (TNTP’s report found that the vast majority of teachers in America—upwards of 99 percent in some districts—are rated as “satisfactory,” usually by their own principals. And such ratings or evaluations have tended to be infrequent and pro forma. That is beginning to change, however.)”

    https://hechingerreport.org/how-to-measure-teacher-effectiveness-fairly/

    maybe some food for thought…

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Teachers are the beneficiaries of a seller’s market. Lot’s of vacancies. While most teachers are great, some are fired for incompetence, but it is much easier to fire than hire. So systems and principals generally work with teachers to help them improve until it is clear that it won’t work out.

      Some of the poorer performers get transferred around, officially to see if they can improve in a different environment, but in large government bureaucracies, that is hardly unique to school teachers.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Seems like an issue that public charters might address, i.e. they can tout the fact that their teachers ARE evaluated AND Proven performers and they only hire and keep them if they are.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    When I was a department chair at Briar Woods HS I had a say in the evaluation process. I recall one teacher who always had a 100% passing rate in the SOL tests. People hailed the teacher as the greatest. Not in my book. Constant complainer, whiner, backstabber, and never went the extra mile. How did this teacher get a 100% then? Teacher used the guidance counselors to move out special education students, ESL students, and discipline problems all in the first month of school. This was done until all that was left were the brightest and best behaved. Always rated highly on evaluations yet I zero respect for this teacher and the methodology to get that perfect rating.

    1. idiocracy Avatar

      There should have been some metrics on a spreadsheet showing that this teacher had an inordinately high rate of student transfers. And that information should have been acted upon.

      Oh, what am I talking about? They won’t even do this for their financials, which is how people get away with embezzling funds.

    2. Nancy_Naive Avatar
      Nancy_Naive

      Proof of some sort then that teacher effectiveness is a combination of the student-teacher relationship.

      There is a similar problem with doctor effectiveness. You have a tough medical condition requiring a surgery. Do you pick the surgeon with the best record or the one who has done the most procedures?

    3. LarrytheG Avatar

      Had no idea a teacher could do that. Must have had support from the guidance counselor and the principle, no?

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead V

        James Taylor explains it best with this line from one of his songs:

        “I think it’s true what they say about the squeaky wheel
        Always getting the grease”

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    So – you could go about this the other way, i.e. identifying the effective teachers and rewarding them and despite some beliefs, teachers do get fired for not being effective.

    interesting read (has some age on it)

    How to measure teacher effectiveness fairly?

    excerpt:
    ” The Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition brought renewed attention to teacher evaluation, as did The New Teacher Project’s 2009 landmark report, “The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness.” (TNTP’s report found that the vast majority of teachers in America—upwards of 99 percent in some districts—are rated as “satisfactory,” usually by their own principals. And such ratings or evaluations have tended to be infrequent and pro forma. That is beginning to change, however.)”

    https://hechingerreport.org/how-to-measure-teacher-effectiveness-fairly/

    maybe some food for thought…

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Teachers are the beneficiaries of a seller’s market. Lot’s of vacancies. While most teachers are great, some are fired for incompetence, but it is much easier to fire than hire. So systems and principals generally work with teachers to help them improve until it is clear that it won’t work out.

      Some of the poorer performers get transferred around, officially to see if they can improve in a different environment, but in large government bureaucracies, that is hardly unique to school teachers.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Seems like an issue that public charters might address, i.e. they can tout the fact that their teachers ARE evaluated AND Proven performers and they only hire and keep them if they are.

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    When I was a department chair at Briar Woods HS I had a say in the evaluation process. I recall one teacher who always had a 100% passing rate in the SOL tests. People hailed the teacher as the greatest. Not in my book. Constant complainer, whiner, backstabber, and never went the extra mile. How did this teacher get a 100% then? Teacher used the guidance counselors to move out special education students, ESL students, and discipline problems all in the first month of school. This was done until all that was left were the brightest and best behaved. Always rated highly on evaluations yet I zero respect for this teacher and the methodology to get that perfect rating.

    1. idiocracy Avatar

      There should have been some metrics on a spreadsheet showing that this teacher had an inordinately high rate of student transfers. And that information should have been acted upon.

      Oh, what am I talking about? They won’t even do this for their financials, which is how people get away with embezzling funds.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Had no idea a teacher could do that. Must have had support from the guidance counselor and the principle, no?

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead V

        James Taylor explains it best with this line from one of his songs:

        “I think it’s true what they say about the squeaky wheel
        Always getting the grease”

    3. Nancy_Naive Avatar
      Nancy_Naive

      Proof of some sort then that teacher effectiveness is a combination of the student-teacher relationship.

      There is a similar problem with doctor effectiveness. You have a tough medical condition requiring a surgery. Do you pick the surgeon with the best record or the one who has done the most procedures?

  5. Nancy_Naive Avatar
    Nancy_Naive

    Would have been easier to have called the original use/reference a typo or brainfart.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    there was a metric being touted a couple years back and I cannot remember the name but it involved looking at how much each student progressed in a school year under a given teacher. Like other things these days, it’s gone hiding in the grey matter.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      That was what I referred to in the article. Virginia has never collected the data on each student’s personal progress through the school system that is necessary to calculate that metric on the effectiveness of each teacher in the system.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        What might that be besides their SOL scores?

        I wonder what Matt would say.

    2. Nancy_Naive Avatar
      Nancy_Naive

      Don’t worry, like everyone our age, it will produce a gaseous mass that will escape from the grey matter.

      I view the Liberal-Conservative divide as coming down, not to issues of race, age, structure, etc., but to a problem solving mindset.

      The Liberal will turn to a new solution that might work with no previous implementation, whereas Conservatives will turn to a previous solution with known implementation that haven’t worked.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        you might be poking hot coals here… 😉

        1. Nancy_Naive Avatar
          Nancy_Naive

          MAGA. See? The last Republican to make America this great was Herbert Hoover. He lost the Congress and White House to the Republicans simultaneously too.

          I always loved the expression “lost to”. It reads both ways.
          “The jewel was lost to him”
          Does that mean he doesn’t possess the jewel, or he won the jewel?

          1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V
          2. Nancy_Naive Avatar
            Nancy_Naive

            Jo Jorgensen and Green nominee Howie Hawkin, Pot in every chicken.

          3. Steve Haner Avatar
            Steve Haner

            Hoover, easily the most underappreciated Great American today. His role is saving Europe from starvations post WW I and WW II should be standard reading. Can you imagine You Know Who lending his “business genius” to such an enterprise? I can’t.

          4. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Don’t forget Hoover’s role during the WWI Food Administration. The US supplied the nutritional needs for the Dough Boys, the Brits, and the French thanks to the conservation efforts of Hoover. Can the Kaiser!
            https://live.staticflickr.com/4566/37410777774_3a51306b51.jpg

    3. Matt Hurt Avatar

      That would be the Student Growth Percentiles. These statistics were a measure of how well individual students progressed from one year to the next relative to peers who took the same test and who had similar assessment histories. These datasets were provided to school divisions in late fall each year from approximately 2011 through 2016 or 2017 (these years may not be exact, as my CRS is acting up). This data was not aggregated to the teacher, school, or division level by the Department of Education, just provided in student level extracts. A few of us figured out how to make some use of the data, and it was good, but most folks didn’t have the time to make heads or tails of it. However, all of that came to an end when a parent from Loudoun foia’ed the data and eventually won the lawsuit. VDOE has not produced these statistics since.

      Luckily, we were able to reproduce this process. This type of data is extremely helpful in triangulating performance on the SOL test. Kids begin each year in the same grade at so many different levels of readiness, it is really nice to have this statistic to consider the growth that occurred (or didn’t), especially when pass rates are below expectation. More than once, this data has vindicated teachers’ excellent work that would have been denigrated if pass rates were the only data point that was considered. The drawback to this data source is that since we have to have a previous SOL score to start the process, and the SOL tests and associated skills must be sequential, we can only look at these statistics in grade 4-8 reading and math as well as Algebra I.

  7. Matt Hurt Avatar

    Virginia’s Board of Education had a fairly decent evaluation plan that was implemented sometime around 2011, save for one flaw. This was amended a couple of years ago, and they mitigated some positives of one of the most effective components, at least regarding the assurance of student growth and achievement. In 2011, the then new plan added a 7th performance standard, student growth and achievement, and required that standard comprise 40% of the summative evaluation rating. In the last year or two, the Board changed the weights of Standard 7 to make it consistent with all other standards.

    The flaw in this evaluation system is that it does not effectively control for the impact school and division leadership has on student achievement at the classroom level. Studies have shown (and I have witnessed with my own eyes), that the single greatest factor of student achievement at the classroom level is the teacher. When we look at our data, identify the most successful students of the most at-risk students, they tend to exhibit three characteristics- they align their curriculum to the state’s Standards, they exhibit wonderful relationships with their students (and parents), and they have very high expectations of their students (as measured by a correlation of their final grades and SOL scores).

    Similarly, the greatest single factor in the performance of a school is the leadership. Relationships, support, focus on data, high expectations, paring down initiatives to make the main thing the main thing, and etc typically yield higher performance. I find the same thing is true at the division level.

    Now, here lies the rub. With ineffective leadership at the school or division level, student achievement suffers. Do we hold teachers accountable? How do we parse out the effects of leadership versus the quality of teaching in the classroom when considering the data? To be sure, there are several ways to do this, but I haven’t happened upon many folks who care to go down that rabbit hole.

    At the end of the day, the final evaluation of the educational program is conducted by the school board. They evaluate the superintendent, and evaluation within the division is a component of his/her evaluation.

    In most places, it seems that there is not the political will present to effectively address this issue. I have seen it done well, and initially, school boards had to take some heat over it. However, when teachers realized they were being held to a reasonable standard, they were eventually OK with it. They appreciated the consistent high standards that were applied up and down the halls of their schools. They appreciated the fact that now more of their colleagues were required to carry their own weight, which helped to spread the load to become less burdensome on those who had shouldered most of the load before.

    This is a very nuanced topic, and folks cannot simply apply a specific algorithm and expect everything to end well. Without a student centered culture, this cannot work. Without positive relationships and trust among teachers and administrators, this cannot work.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Brilliant, Matt. Seriously. If you want to post something like this as a column so more people see it, let Jim know.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I find Matts’s thoughts almost always thoughful and useful.

      Could you expand a little on your views of using student growth models for evaluation?

      Also. At the top level, if the School Board lays down goals along the lines of some percent of the economically disadvantaged meeting SOL standards, then responsibility for doing that flows down throughout the system – it becomes the marching orders of principles and teachers.

      1. FYI – principal is the word to use in this case.

        1. Matt Adams Avatar
          Matt Adams

          Hey now, stop with the “nitpicking”. bahaha

          1. Once is a typo. Twice is… …something else.

          2. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Third times the charm?

      2. Matt Hurt Avatar

        Yes sir, hopefully this will prove thoughtful and useful.

        The growth model that has been used the most has been to give the kids a test at the beginning of the year on all of the stuff you intend to teach that year, give them the same test (or one covering the same skills) at the end of the year, then find the difference between the two. If the kid did better the second time around, they demonstrated growth, right????? Teachers like this one, but it really doesn’t demonstrate anything really. Yes, kids are likely to do better on the second, but they hadn’t been taught the material at the beginning of the year, and they had by the end of the year.

        I recommend that SOL pass rates comprise at least a healthy portion of Standard 7 (student growth and achievement) for teachers of SOL tested subjects, as well as administrator evaluations. The trick here is how the evaluator and the evaluatee negotiate what pass rate is acceptable/reasonable. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, because it can be done and is done well via a number of different methods in different places. But a good place to start would be how does the state pass rate compare to the division, the school, and the teacher pass rates, not just with all students, but each subgroup as well. How well does this teacher’s scores compare to other teachers in the school/division? It is important that you pay close attention to the demographics in the comparisons in order to be fair. For example, while it’s not entirely reasonable to expect teacher pass rates to be comparable when one has all of the students with disability in the grade and the other has none, but I have witnessed the teacher with all of the SPED kids outperforming the other without any.

        The reason for using SOL pass rates is a practical one. For example, our schools are accredited by the state based in part on whether or not the school meets the SOL pass rate benchmarks set by the state. However, the “school” is not a benign capable of being held accountable to those standards. The principal can (and should) be held to account for the school’s performance. However, the principal, while accountable for all students under his/her watch, does not work directly with students. If we expect certain outcomes at the school level, we must also expect certain outcomes at the classroom level in order to aggregate that success back to the school. If teachers don’t carry their share of the accountability load, how can anyone expect things to magically work out at the school level? If the school is working towards accreditation (75% pass rates in English and 70% in math and science), but all of the teachers are pulling 60%, it will never happen. If a teacher receives an acceptable rating on his/her evaluation, would you really expect this individual to change anything for the next year?

        Please keep in mind that the objective here is not to come up with an optimal number, and then crucify the teacher if he/she comes in a half point below that. Unless we want to run teachers off, this process must incorporate a sense of reasonableness and compassion for the teacher as well as the high expectations. It is unreasonable in a school with 50% pass rates to expect teachers to provide 90% pass rates in one year. Incremental improvement is preferable to none at all.

        For courses that are not SOL tested, the teacher and the principal can agree on a metric that they both feel best encompasses the desired learner outcomes for the course, whether that course be band, PE, art, etc. Some teachers, such as Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, English 9, and English 10 don’t administer SOL tests in their grades, but their courses are all prerequisites for courses that are SOL tested (3rd Grade Math, 3rd Grade Reading, and EOC Reading 11). In these instances, the student outcome goals should be aligned so that students master skills in these grades in order to be prepared to begin the SOL tested grade with all of their prerequisite skills intact.

        As it turns out, evaluations and evaluation goals are the most reliable measure of expectations for teachers (and administrators). I truly believe that expectations drive outcomes, either positively or negatively. Whenever you have large percentages of teachers with exemplary ratings and their students pass the SOL test at a rate of less than 70%, you’ve got problems. And in this scenario, the problem you have is not one of teacher quality.

  8. Nancy_Naive Avatar
    Nancy_Naive

    Would have been easier to have called the original use/reference a typo or brainfart.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    there was a metric being touted a couple years back and I cannot remember the name but it involved looking at how much each student progressed in a school year under a given teacher. Like other things these days, it’s gone hiding in the grey matter.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar
      Nancy_Naive

      Don’t worry, like everyone our age, it will produce a gaseous mass that will escape from the grey matter.

      I view the Liberal-Conservative divide as coming down, not to issues of race, age, structure, etc., but to a problem solving mindset.

      The Liberal will turn to a new solution that might work with no previous implementation, whereas Conservatives will turn to a previous solution with known implementation that haven’t worked.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        you might be poking hot coals here… 😉

        1. Nancy_Naive Avatar
          Nancy_Naive

          MAGA. See? The last Republican to make America this great was Herbert Hoover. He lost the Congress and White House to the Republicans simultaneously too.

          I always loved the expression “lost to”. It reads both ways.
          “The jewel was lost to him”
          Does that mean he doesn’t possess the jewel, or he won the jewel?

          1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V
          2. Nancy_Naive Avatar
            Nancy_Naive

            Jo Jorgensen and Green nominee Howie Hawkin, Pot in every chicken.

          3. Steve Haner Avatar
            Steve Haner

            Hoover, easily the most underappreciated Great American today. His role is saving Europe from starvations post WW I and WW II should be standard reading. Can you imagine You Know Who lending his “business genius” to such an enterprise? I can’t.

          4. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Don’t forget Hoover’s role during the WWI Food Administration. The US supplied the nutritional needs for the Dough Boys, the Brits, and the French thanks to the conservation efforts of Hoover. Can the Kaiser!
            https://live.staticflickr.com/4566/37410777774_3a51306b51.jpg

    2. sherlockj Avatar

      That was what I referred to in the article. Virginia has never collected the data on each student’s personal progress through the school system that is necessary to calculate that metric on the effectiveness of each teacher in the system.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        What might that be besides their SOL scores?

        I wonder what Matt would say.

    3. Matt Hurt Avatar

      That would be the Student Growth Percentiles. These statistics were a measure of how well individual students progressed from one year to the next relative to peers who took the same test and who had similar assessment histories. These datasets were provided to school divisions in late fall each year from approximately 2011 through 2016 or 2017 (these years may not be exact, as my CRS is acting up). This data was not aggregated to the teacher, school, or division level by the Department of Education, just provided in student level extracts. A few of us figured out how to make some use of the data, and it was good, but most folks didn’t have the time to make heads or tails of it. However, all of that came to an end when a parent from Loudoun foia’ed the data and eventually won the lawsuit. VDOE has not produced these statistics since.

      Luckily, we were able to reproduce this process. This type of data is extremely helpful in triangulating performance on the SOL test. Kids begin each year in the same grade at so many different levels of readiness, it is really nice to have this statistic to consider the growth that occurred (or didn’t), especially when pass rates are below expectation. More than once, this data has vindicated teachers’ excellent work that would have been denigrated if pass rates were the only data point that was considered. The drawback to this data source is that since we have to have a previous SOL score to start the process, and the SOL tests and associated skills must be sequential, we can only look at these statistics in grade 4-8 reading and math as well as Algebra I.

  10. Matt Hurt Avatar

    Virginia’s Board of Education had a fairly decent evaluation plan that was implemented sometime around 2011, save for one flaw. This was amended a couple of years ago, and they mitigated some positives of one of the most effective components, at least regarding the assurance of student growth and achievement. In 2011, the then new plan added a 7th performance standard, student growth and achievement, and required that standard comprise 40% of the summative evaluation rating. In the last year or two, the Board changed the weights of Standard 7 to make it consistent with all other standards.

    The flaw in this evaluation system is that it does not effectively control for the impact school and division leadership has on student achievement at the classroom level. Studies have shown (and I have witnessed with my own eyes), that the single greatest factor of student achievement at the classroom level is the teacher. When we look at our data, identify the most successful students of the most at-risk students, they tend to exhibit three characteristics- they align their curriculum to the state’s Standards, they exhibit wonderful relationships with their students (and parents), and they have very high expectations of their students (as measured by a correlation of their final grades and SOL scores).

    Similarly, the greatest single factor in the performance of a school is the leadership. Relationships, support, focus on data, high expectations, paring down initiatives to make the main thing the main thing, and etc typically yield higher performance. I find the same thing is true at the division level.

    Now, here lies the rub. With ineffective leadership at the school or division level, student achievement suffers. Do we hold teachers accountable? How do we parse out the effects of leadership versus the quality of teaching in the classroom when considering the data? To be sure, there are several ways to do this, but I haven’t happened upon many folks who care to go down that rabbit hole.

    At the end of the day, the final evaluation of the educational program is conducted by the school board. They evaluate the superintendent, and evaluation within the division is a component of his/her evaluation.

    In most places, it seems that there is not the political will present to effectively address this issue. I have seen it done well, and initially, school boards had to take some heat over it. However, when teachers realized they were being held to a reasonable standard, they were eventually OK with it. They appreciated the consistent high standards that were applied up and down the halls of their schools. They appreciated the fact that now more of their colleagues were required to carry their own weight, which helped to spread the load to become less burdensome on those who had shouldered most of the load before.

    This is a very nuanced topic, and folks cannot simply apply a specific algorithm and expect everything to end well. Without a student centered culture, this cannot work. Without positive relationships and trust among teachers and administrators, this cannot work.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Brilliant, Matt. Seriously. If you want to post something like this as a column so more people see it, let Jim know.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I find Matts’s thoughts almost always thoughful and useful.

      Could you expand a little on your views of using student growth models for evaluation?

      Also. At the top level, if the School Board lays down goals along the lines of some percent of the economically disadvantaged meeting SOL standards, then responsibility for doing that flows down throughout the system – it becomes the marching orders of principles and teachers.

      1. FYI – principal is the word to use in this case.

        1. Matt Adams Avatar
          Matt Adams

          Hey now, stop with the “nitpicking”. bahaha

          1. Once is a typo. Twice is… …something else.

          2. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Third times the charm?

      2. Matt Hurt Avatar

        Yes sir, hopefully this will prove thoughtful and useful.

        The growth model that has been used the most has been to give the kids a test at the beginning of the year on all of the stuff you intend to teach that year, give them the same test (or one covering the same skills) at the end of the year, then find the difference between the two. If the kid did better the second time around, they demonstrated growth, right????? Teachers like this one, but it really doesn’t demonstrate anything really. Yes, kids are likely to do better on the second, but they hadn’t been taught the material at the beginning of the year, and they had by the end of the year.

        I recommend that SOL pass rates comprise at least a healthy portion of Standard 7 (student growth and achievement) for teachers of SOL tested subjects, as well as administrator evaluations. The trick here is how the evaluator and the evaluatee negotiate what pass rate is acceptable/reasonable. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, because it can be done and is done well via a number of different methods in different places. But a good place to start would be how does the state pass rate compare to the division, the school, and the teacher pass rates, not just with all students, but each subgroup as well. How well does this teacher’s scores compare to other teachers in the school/division? It is important that you pay close attention to the demographics in the comparisons in order to be fair. For example, while it’s not entirely reasonable to expect teacher pass rates to be comparable when one has all of the students with disability in the grade and the other has none, but I have witnessed the teacher with all of the SPED kids outperforming the other without any.

        The reason for using SOL pass rates is a practical one. For example, our schools are accredited by the state based in part on whether or not the school meets the SOL pass rate benchmarks set by the state. However, the “school” is not a benign capable of being held accountable to those standards. The principal can (and should) be held to account for the school’s performance. However, the principal, while accountable for all students under his/her watch, does not work directly with students. If we expect certain outcomes at the school level, we must also expect certain outcomes at the classroom level in order to aggregate that success back to the school. If teachers don’t carry their share of the accountability load, how can anyone expect things to magically work out at the school level? If the school is working towards accreditation (75% pass rates in English and 70% in math and science), but all of the teachers are pulling 60%, it will never happen. If a teacher receives an acceptable rating on his/her evaluation, would you really expect this individual to change anything for the next year?

        Please keep in mind that the objective here is not to come up with an optimal number, and then crucify the teacher if he/she comes in a half point below that. Unless we want to run teachers off, this process must incorporate a sense of reasonableness and compassion for the teacher as well as the high expectations. It is unreasonable in a school with 50% pass rates to expect teachers to provide 90% pass rates in one year. Incremental improvement is preferable to none at all.

        For courses that are not SOL tested, the teacher and the principal can agree on a metric that they both feel best encompasses the desired learner outcomes for the course, whether that course be band, PE, art, etc. Some teachers, such as Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, English 9, and English 10 don’t administer SOL tests in their grades, but their courses are all prerequisites for courses that are SOL tested (3rd Grade Math, 3rd Grade Reading, and EOC Reading 11). In these instances, the student outcome goals should be aligned so that students master skills in these grades in order to be prepared to begin the SOL tested grade with all of their prerequisite skills intact.

        As it turns out, evaluations and evaluation goals are the most reliable measure of expectations for teachers (and administrators). I truly believe that expectations drive outcomes, either positively or negatively. Whenever you have large percentages of teachers with exemplary ratings and their students pass the SOL test at a rate of less than 70%, you’ve got problems. And in this scenario, the problem you have is not one of teacher quality.

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    These ARE good . Informative and thoughtful and I thank you much for the time and effort you put into explaining the ying and yang of it!

    For myself, I will have to go back and re-read it to get more of it really well understood.

    I did find myself thinking and wondering what you have said here might apply to schools that currently are poor performing … where is the ball getting dropped?

    1. Matt Hurt Avatar

      Here are some things that I have commonly witnessed in schools/divisions that were struggling to meet state expectations.

      Lack of positive, professional relationships between students, teachers, parents, administrators, community

      Without these positive relationships in place, there cannot be trust. Education is a people business, and as such it is very messy. We cannot employ an algorithm or program that will magically make everything better. Leaders have to lead their folks from the front (not from their office) and be there with them to listen to, understand, hold their hand, and help them through their frustrations. If teachers or administrators feel that their superiors will throw them under the bus at the first sign of conflict, how likely are they to stick their neck out and take the risks necessary to make great strides in achievement. Lack of positive relationships also seem to contribute to the relatively low retention rates of teachers and administrators.

      Lack of sufficiently high expectations from the top

      Self explanatory- expect little, get little. Most of the time when one encounters this problem, the low expectations are usually an artifact of the culture of the organization. Since this has been the way it has worked out in the past, folks expect to get the same results in the future. Often one will also hear pitiful stories about how students as well as the community struggle with problems, and these stories tend to reinforce the low expectations. Culture is a living, breathing being that ferociously resists change.

      Over reliance on directives and under reliance on distributed leadership at all levels

      This was alluded to in #1 above- one cannot implement a program, or issue specific directives and expect everything to magically work out. A good example of this can be found in WWII (I know we have some history folks who participate in this blog, so please feel free to call out any horrendous misstatements of the facts). From my understanding, Hitler was very much a micromanager. He tried to direct many aspects of the war from his office, far from the front lines. I assume he didn’t trust his command structure very much. The American military on the other hand tended to rely on the initiative of the officers and soldiers in the field. They were given and objective, and told to make it happen. History shows us which strategy was more effective.

      Similarly, in some divisions/schools that are struggling to meet state expectations, there is a certain degree of micromanaging that takes place. Oftentimes, the decisions made in the central office or the principal’s office don’t take into account the concerns of the teachers, nor do they seem to have enough faith and trust in teachers to allow them to do their best with their students. If the scores are bad, it’s assumed that the teachers don’t know how to teach. It may be that the scores are bad for other reasons (which is likely the case). In schools and divisions that are doing well, especially those with more at-risk students, you’re much more likely to hear the following- “I don’t care how you get it done so long as it’s done in a morally, ethically, and legally correct manner”.

      Of course, there are lots of reasons why things don’t work out as we would like in certain schools/divisions, but these are some of the fairly consistent issues that I have come across. I will say that while it’s easy to identify the problems, it’s quite another matter to fix them. As we have witnessed, these places have chewed up and spit out many administrators who valiantly marched in to try to make things better. If the culture of the place doesn’t change, the educational outcomes won’t either. The culture of a school or division is not tangible, but it is palpable- you can really feel it when you talk to folks. It is almost like the culture is a spirit that is embodied by the folks of that organization (employees, parents, community), and you can see the culture push back against the change via the actions of those individuals. This is a positive feature when the results of an organization are desirable, but a horrible bug in the system when the results are subpar.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead V

        Amen Mr. Hurt. The key ingredient is vigilance.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Again, thank you Matt.

        In looking at places with academic performance issues, like Richmond, but also parts of places like Henrico, Fairfax and other places, a common thread seems to be some correlation of entire neighborhoods that are economically depressed and the schools that serve those neighborhoods having poor academic performance.

        All of the things you said about “trust” and professionalism, relationships are true but I’m somewhat skeptical that these kinds of problems somehow occur at higher rates in economically depressed neighborhood schools, i.e. the staffing, work environment, leadership, etc… are deficieint and correlates to “poor neighborhoods” schools.

        I don’t know. I’m still chewing on it… but some skepticism, in part, because, for instance, Henrico also has some of the best schools in the state so it’s the same top-level administrators who are assigning staff to each school and the correlation of academic problems seems to correlate more with low-income demographics unless one thinks that somehow the administrative leaders of Henrico schools are purposely or accidently chronically assaigning ineffective princples and staff to low-income schools – at the same time they are assigning high quality leaders and staff to schools in higher income neighborhoods.

        still chewing…….and still appreciative of your willingness to share your own experiences and views.

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar

          I’ll bet you dollars to donuts you’ll find that one of the big problems in those places you describe is low expectations. The way to measure that is to compare the final grades to the SOL outcomes. You will find a significant percentage of students who make A’s, B’s, and C’s that fail their SOL tests. Grades are a measure of student success relative to teacher expectations. SOL scores are a measure of student success relative to the state’s expectation. When those two things do not align, there will be lower pass rates.

          It’s easy to assume that since our kids are worse off according to their zip code compared to others, that they experience all kinds of trauma based on their neighborhoods, that they don’t have the capacity to be as successful as other kids in more affluent places. Besides that, we have years of data to demonstrate that those kids haven’t been successful, so why should we expect different outcomes in the future? Since the adults don’t believe the students are capable of higher achievement than has been historically demonstrated, they tend to not hold the students as accountable, which is reflected in the inflated grades compared to SOL scores.

          When the students bring home A’s and B’s, parents think everything is OK. When their kid then fails his/her SOL test, they either don’t understand what that means, if they’re even aware of it at all. I guarantee that few if any parents raise Cain that their kids are making higher grades but failing their SOL tests.

          Our teachers across the Commonwealth got into this business to do good things for kids. In these schools, where everyone believes the historical performance is all you can get out of these kids, they feel they have to work with kids “on their level”, rather than at the level the state expects. There is some merit to that thinking, but when those kids never approach grade level expectations, it holds the kids back from achieving their potential. Many of these teachers feel that it is demoralizing to expect kids to do grade level work that they will struggle with, and therefore feel justified in awarding higher grades for below grade level work.

          The reality is that this is an example of the soft bigotry of low expectations. What is especially troubling about this problem is that the inequity of expectations is very well highlighted when comparing the grade/SOL relationships between different subgroups of kids. You will find greater differences in these metrics for disabled kids than nondisabled kids. You will also find greater differences between white and black kids. These low expectations are especially damaging to our traditionally underperforming subgroups because they aren’t provided the same opportunities to succeed as other students.

          If expectations are more closely aligned to the state’s expectations, grades will suffer at first. Then teachers would problem solve to help more kids achieve success. The lower grades would signal to administrators and parents that something’s wrong, and we need to do something about it.

          Low expectations cause inflated grades which whitewashes the problem throughout the school year. If the kid is making good grades, everything’s great, right? If everything’s great, why should we change what we’re doing.

          I’d bet any amount of money that you’ll find a misalignment of expectations in those places.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Okay, I can see how that might happen in a place like Richmond where from the top on down, there may be a culture of low expectations but how is it explained in a place like Fairfax where you same school district leadership presides over both very excellent and very poor schools and the main correlation seems to be low income demographics?

            Does Fairfax County school leadersip play a role in the schools in it’s district that are low performing? Are the low performing schools a result of the top leadership having low expectations for those schools and that attitude comes from the top all the way down to the individual school level, principal and teachers?

            Others here, Sherlock and Bacon seem to think that some schools low performance correlates with higher discipline issues… is that also an expectation thing?

          2. Matt Hurt Avatar

            That’s simple. Folks in places like that expect the more affluent neighborhood schools to produce better outcomes, and the less affluent neighborhood schools to produce outcomes that are not as good. If you don’t believe me, compare the final grades to SOL outcomes across those schools.

            Unfortunately, some folks believe that demographics are determinants of student achievement, period. Their experience in their school/division has consistently demonstrated this. If that’s all we know, why would we expect any different from what we’ve seen year in, year out.

            Many of the folks from Region VII used to think this way also. However, when you’re faced with data showing that other kids, some of whom may be worse off than yours, are performing, it removes the excuse that our kids can’t perform at those levels. This kind of thing has certainly changed expectations for the better.

          3. Nancy_Naive Avatar
            Nancy_Naive

            This assumes that teachers add a subjective component to their grading, does it not? Which, of course, is both the root and the fruit of the problem. Can teachers encourage their students fairly and uniformly across the student body? It’s almost as if the grade should consist of an ordered pair, an objective component and a teacher’s grade of effort, e.g., (C+,+), this student performed at “just above average and above expectations — a rolling “letter of recommendation “. But then, that could result in condemnation with faint praise…

          4. Matt Hurt Avatar

            That’s part of the problem- what should grades include. Ideally, grades should telegraph to the student and parent how well the student is achieving relative to the standard. The more you vary from student attainment of grade level expectations, the more the whole thing gets out of whack. Now that being said, what grades should be is a matter of educational philosophy, but not all philosophies produce the same student outcomes.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            Matt – are school classroom grades an available metric from VDOE? How would such a correlation be demonstrated?

          6. Matt Hurt Avatar

            No sir.

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    These ARE good . Informative and thoughtful and I thank you much for the time and effort you put into explaining the ying and yang of it!

    For myself, I will have to go back and re-read it to get more of it really well understood.

    I did find myself thinking and wondering what you have said here might apply to schools that currently are poor performing … where is the ball getting dropped?

    1. Matt Hurt Avatar

      Here are some things that I have commonly witnessed in schools/divisions that were struggling to meet state expectations.

      Lack of positive, professional relationships between students, teachers, parents, administrators, community

      Without these positive relationships in place, there cannot be trust. Education is a people business, and as such it is very messy. We cannot employ an algorithm or program that will magically make everything better. Leaders have to lead their folks from the front (not from their office) and be there with them to listen to, understand, hold their hand, and help them through their frustrations. If teachers or administrators feel that their superiors will throw them under the bus at the first sign of conflict, how likely are they to stick their neck out and take the risks necessary to make great strides in achievement. Lack of positive relationships also seem to contribute to the relatively low retention rates of teachers and administrators.

      Lack of sufficiently high expectations from the top

      Self explanatory- expect little, get little. Most of the time when one encounters this problem, the low expectations are usually an artifact of the culture of the organization. Since this has been the way it has worked out in the past, folks expect to get the same results in the future. Often one will also hear pitiful stories about how students as well as the community struggle with problems, and these stories tend to reinforce the low expectations. Culture is a living, breathing being that ferociously resists change.

      Over reliance on directives and under reliance on distributed leadership at all levels

      This was alluded to in #1 above- one cannot implement a program, or issue specific directives and expect everything to magically work out. A good example of this can be found in WWII (I know we have some history folks who participate in this blog, so please feel free to call out any horrendous misstatements of the facts). From my understanding, Hitler was very much a micromanager. He tried to direct many aspects of the war from his office, far from the front lines. I assume he didn’t trust his command structure very much. The American military on the other hand tended to rely on the initiative of the officers and soldiers in the field. They were given and objective, and told to make it happen. History shows us which strategy was more effective.

      Similarly, in some divisions/schools that are struggling to meet state expectations, there is a certain degree of micromanaging that takes place. Oftentimes, the decisions made in the central office or the principal’s office don’t take into account the concerns of the teachers, nor do they seem to have enough faith and trust in teachers to allow them to do their best with their students. If the scores are bad, it’s assumed that the teachers don’t know how to teach. It may be that the scores are bad for other reasons (which is likely the case). In schools and divisions that are doing well, especially those with more at-risk students, you’re much more likely to hear the following- “I don’t care how you get it done so long as it’s done in a morally, ethically, and legally correct manner”.

      Of course, there are lots of reasons why things don’t work out as we would like in certain schools/divisions, but these are some of the fairly consistent issues that I have come across. I will say that while it’s easy to identify the problems, it’s quite another matter to fix them. As we have witnessed, these places have chewed up and spit out many administrators who valiantly marched in to try to make things better. If the culture of the place doesn’t change, the educational outcomes won’t either. The culture of a school or division is not tangible, but it is palpable- you can really feel it when you talk to folks. It is almost like the culture is a spirit that is embodied by the folks of that organization (employees, parents, community), and you can see the culture push back against the change via the actions of those individuals. This is a positive feature when the results of an organization are desirable, but a horrible bug in the system when the results are subpar.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead V

        Amen Mr. Hurt. The key ingredient is vigilance.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Again, thank you Matt.

        In looking at places with academic performance issues, like Richmond, but also parts of places like Henrico, Fairfax and other places, a common thread seems to be some correlation of entire neighborhoods that are economically depressed and the schools that serve those neighborhoods having poor academic performance.

        All of the things you said about “trust” and professionalism, relationships are true but I’m somewhat skeptical that these kinds of problems somehow occur at higher rates in economically depressed neighborhood schools, i.e. the staffing, work environment, leadership, etc… are deficieint and correlates to “poor neighborhoods” schools.

        I don’t know. I’m still chewing on it… but some skepticism, in part, because, for instance, Henrico also has some of the best schools in the state so it’s the same top-level administrators who are assigning staff to each school and the correlation of academic problems seems to correlate more with low-income demographics unless one thinks that somehow the administrative leaders of Henrico schools are purposely or accidently chronically assaigning ineffective princples and staff to low-income schools – at the same time they are assigning high quality leaders and staff to schools in higher income neighborhoods.

        still chewing…….and still appreciative of your willingness to share your own experiences and views.

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar

          I’ll bet you dollars to donuts you’ll find that one of the big problems in those places you describe is low expectations. The way to measure that is to compare the final grades to the SOL outcomes. You will find a significant percentage of students who make A’s, B’s, and C’s that fail their SOL tests. Grades are a measure of student success relative to teacher expectations. SOL scores are a measure of student success relative to the state’s expectation. When those two things do not align, there will be lower pass rates.

          It’s easy to assume that since our kids are worse off according to their zip code compared to others, that they experience all kinds of trauma based on their neighborhoods, that they don’t have the capacity to be as successful as other kids in more affluent places. Besides that, we have years of data to demonstrate that those kids haven’t been successful, so why should we expect different outcomes in the future? Since the adults don’t believe the students are capable of higher achievement than has been historically demonstrated, they tend to not hold the students as accountable, which is reflected in the inflated grades compared to SOL scores.

          When the students bring home A’s and B’s, parents think everything is OK. When their kid then fails his/her SOL test, they either don’t understand what that means, if they’re even aware of it at all. I guarantee that few if any parents raise Cain that their kids are making higher grades but failing their SOL tests.

          Our teachers across the Commonwealth got into this business to do good things for kids. In these schools, where everyone believes the historical performance is all you can get out of these kids, they feel they have to work with kids “on their level”, rather than at the level the state expects. There is some merit to that thinking, but when those kids never approach grade level expectations, it holds the kids back from achieving their potential. Many of these teachers feel that it is demoralizing to expect kids to do grade level work that they will struggle with, and therefore feel justified in awarding higher grades for below grade level work.

          The reality is that this is an example of the soft bigotry of low expectations. What is especially troubling about this problem is that the inequity of expectations is very well highlighted when comparing the grade/SOL relationships between different subgroups of kids. You will find greater differences in these metrics for disabled kids than nondisabled kids. You will also find greater differences between white and black kids. These low expectations are especially damaging to our traditionally underperforming subgroups because they aren’t provided the same opportunities to succeed as other students.

          If expectations are more closely aligned to the state’s expectations, grades will suffer at first. Then teachers would problem solve to help more kids achieve success. The lower grades would signal to administrators and parents that something’s wrong, and we need to do something about it.

          Low expectations cause inflated grades which whitewashes the problem throughout the school year. If the kid is making good grades, everything’s great, right? If everything’s great, why should we change what we’re doing.

          I’d bet any amount of money that you’ll find a misalignment of expectations in those places.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Okay, I can see how that might happen in a place like Richmond where from the top on down, there may be a culture of low expectations but how is it explained in a place like Fairfax where you same school district leadership presides over both very excellent and very poor schools and the main correlation seems to be low income demographics?

            Does Fairfax County school leadersip play a role in the schools in it’s district that are low performing? Are the low performing schools a result of the top leadership having low expectations for those schools and that attitude comes from the top all the way down to the individual school level, principal and teachers?

            Others here, Sherlock and Bacon seem to think that some schools low performance correlates with higher discipline issues… is that also an expectation thing?

          2. Matt Hurt Avatar

            That’s simple. Folks in places like that expect the more affluent neighborhood schools to produce better outcomes, and the less affluent neighborhood schools to produce outcomes that are not as good. If you don’t believe me, compare the final grades to SOL outcomes across those schools.

            Unfortunately, some folks believe that demographics are determinants of student achievement, period. Their experience in their school/division has consistently demonstrated this. If that’s all we know, why would we expect any different from what we’ve seen year in, year out.

            Many of the folks from Region VII used to think this way also. However, when you’re faced with data showing that other kids, some of whom may be worse off than yours, are performing, it removes the excuse that our kids can’t perform at those levels. This kind of thing has certainly changed expectations for the better.

          3. Nancy_Naive Avatar
            Nancy_Naive

            This assumes that teachers add a subjective component to their grading, does it not? Which, of course, is both the root and the fruit of the problem. Can teachers encourage their students fairly and uniformly across the student body? It’s almost as if the grade should consist of an ordered pair, an objective component and a teacher’s grade of effort, e.g., (C+,+), this student performed at “just above average and above expectations — a rolling “letter of recommendation “. But then, that could result in condemnation with faint praise…

          4. Matt Hurt Avatar

            That’s part of the problem- what should grades include. Ideally, grades should telegraph to the student and parent how well the student is achieving relative to the standard. The more you vary from student attainment of grade level expectations, the more the whole thing gets out of whack. Now that being said, what grades should be is a matter of educational philosophy, but not all philosophies produce the same student outcomes.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            Matt – are school classroom grades an available metric from VDOE? How would such a correlation be demonstrated?

          6. Matt Hurt Avatar

            No sir.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: “high grades” and low SOL scores.

    that’s pretty intersting. Is there some way with available metrics to show that for low performing schools?

    I had no idea, I just assumed the curriculum mapped with SOL standards especially in the same school district – one might presume that all schools in a single district followed the same grading protocols.

    So, I’m not disputing what you are saying but I am looking at what seems to be some seemingly contradictory things – at least in my mind – which probably indicates I do not fully understand the issue yet.

    Obviously, we seem to know what makes a good school – a good school and we seem to know the indicators of not good schools but we seem to have no clear idea of how to “fix” the low performing schools.

    I watched a poor performing school in Spotsylvania – have the principle replaced with a “take over specialist” from VDOE a few years back and she got rid of some teachers she thought were not performing, then others left over other changes, and then word got out there was trouble at that school and the SB then had trouble getting replacements there. Shortly after that the “takeover specialist” was gone. Replaced with a guy who moved up from teaching to principle and turned out to be a collaborator who worked with the teachers on a variety of issues to include monitoring specific kids who were not doing well on their SOLs but the classroom grades did align with the SOLs and it was the SOL scores themselves that resulted in action taken. Every kid who was in danger of failing the SOLs was identified and put on a special track. In two years that school went from next-to-last to 2nd in the county on academic performance.

    Now, the school system was so impressed with him, they then sent him to the last place school where he failed to repeat his success.

    Now… the first school he succeeded at was a rural school with mostly white kids and the school he failed at was more urban with a large number of kids of color and english learners.

    He got promoted to administration by the way.

    1. Matt Hurt Avatar

      The curriculum is mapped to the standards, but most teachers have discretion of the specific assessments and activities that they use with their kids. Even in those divisions that try their best to lock down everything and require teachers to only use approved materials, teachers still find a way to make changes to those activities and assessments they feel are too difficult for their students. Even if they don’t make any changes to the mandated materials, they may curve the grades, provide extra credit opportunities that are not on grade level rigor, and etc.

      As far as standardized grading practices, a division may mandate that tests are weighted x percent, classwork is weighted y percent, and etc. However, the examples provided in the paragraph above can provide a variable which all but erases any attempt at uniformity.

      Think about the incentives in place. Teachers want their students to be successful. If they also feel that these students cannot perform acceptably on grade level tasks, there is a great incentive to make it easier on the students so that the grades reflect that the students are successful. Similarly, principals and district administrators would not welcome the outcry from parents if a significant number of students received failing grades and failed their courses to repeat the next year. Again, if these administrators don’t believe that these students can be successful, or their teachers can’t assure student success on grade level work, why would the administrators ensure that teachers were holding kids to the grade level standard only to receive failing grades?

      Again, I think the culture of the place has a lot to do with it. It informs expectations, maintains cultural norms, and works diligently to maintain the status quo.

      As far as the example of the principal that was successful turning around one school and not the other, I can see in my mind how that could be, but who really knows. In my mind, it could easily work out like this. In school A, the principal comes in and effectively works with the school community to change the culture to be more student and achievement centered. When he got to that school, he was able to engage with and earn the support of the unofficial leaders of that school community. Those folks could be some of the teacher leaders in the building, influential parents, or etc. Since he won their favor, they supported him, and he was allowed to make the necessary changes, and everything worked out well. When he was transferred to school B, he either was unable to earn the favor of the unofficial leadership, or he misidentified who that was. In either instance, the real unofficial leadership wasn’t having it, and they outlived him in that school.

      Well, what about the fact that school A and school B were in the same division, does not culture emanate from the top? To a certain degree it does, but there are also variations. Please keep in mind that very few divisions actually have as the true, implemented institutional priority to ensure that all students are successful on the SOL test. There are tons of conflicting priorities, and there are other priorities that the board and community put a lot more emphasis on. For example, which will cause more uproar in most communities- failing schools or maintaining losing football coaches? Unless the division keeps the main thing the main thing (student performance), you can certainly have high performing schools in more affluent areas, and much lower performing schools in others.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        much appreciate the conversation – when you do have the time…

        on grading versus SOLs

        If a student gets an A and fails the SOL
        or an entire class gets high grades and half fail the SOL

        doesn’t that cause “something” to happen?

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar

          Anytime.

  14. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: “high grades” and low SOL scores.

    that’s pretty intersting. Is there some way with available metrics to show that for low performing schools?

    I had no idea, I just assumed the curriculum mapped with SOL standards especially in the same school district – one might presume that all schools in a single district followed the same grading protocols.

    So, I’m not disputing what you are saying but I am looking at what seems to be some seemingly contradictory things – at least in my mind – which probably indicates I do not fully understand the issue yet.

    Obviously, we seem to know what makes a good school – a good school and we seem to know the indicators of not good schools but we seem to have no clear idea of how to “fix” the low performing schools.

    I watched a poor performing school in Spotsylvania – have the principle replaced with a “take over specialist” from VDOE a few years back and she got rid of some teachers she thought were not performing, then others left over other changes, and then word got out there was trouble at that school and the SB then had trouble getting replacements there. Shortly after that the “takeover specialist” was gone. Replaced with a guy who moved up from teaching to principle and turned out to be a collaborator who worked with the teachers on a variety of issues to include monitoring specific kids who were not doing well on their SOLs but the classroom grades did align with the SOLs and it was the SOL scores themselves that resulted in action taken. Every kid who was in danger of failing the SOLs was identified and put on a special track. In two years that school went from next-to-last to 2nd in the county on academic performance.

    Now, the school system was so impressed with him, they then sent him to the last place school where he failed to repeat his success.

    Now… the first school he succeeded at was a rural school with mostly white kids and the school he failed at was more urban with a large number of kids of color and english learners.

    He got promoted to administration by the way.

    1. Matt Hurt Avatar

      The curriculum is mapped to the standards, but most teachers have discretion of the specific assessments and activities that they use with their kids. Even in those divisions that try their best to lock down everything and require teachers to only use approved materials, teachers still find a way to make changes to those activities and assessments they feel are too difficult for their students. Even if they don’t make any changes to the mandated materials, they may curve the grades, provide extra credit opportunities that are not on grade level rigor, and etc.

      As far as standardized grading practices, a division may mandate that tests are weighted x percent, classwork is weighted y percent, and etc. However, the examples provided in the paragraph above can provide a variable which all but erases any attempt at uniformity.

      Think about the incentives in place. Teachers want their students to be successful. If they also feel that these students cannot perform acceptably on grade level tasks, there is a great incentive to make it easier on the students so that the grades reflect that the students are successful. Similarly, principals and district administrators would not welcome the outcry from parents if a significant number of students received failing grades and failed their courses to repeat the next year. Again, if these administrators don’t believe that these students can be successful, or their teachers can’t assure student success on grade level work, why would the administrators ensure that teachers were holding kids to the grade level standard only to receive failing grades?

      Again, I think the culture of the place has a lot to do with it. It informs expectations, maintains cultural norms, and works diligently to maintain the status quo.

      As far as the example of the principal that was successful turning around one school and not the other, I can see in my mind how that could be, but who really knows. In my mind, it could easily work out like this. In school A, the principal comes in and effectively works with the school community to change the culture to be more student and achievement centered. When he got to that school, he was able to engage with and earn the support of the unofficial leaders of that school community. Those folks could be some of the teacher leaders in the building, influential parents, or etc. Since he won their favor, they supported him, and he was allowed to make the necessary changes, and everything worked out well. When he was transferred to school B, he either was unable to earn the favor of the unofficial leadership, or he misidentified who that was. In either instance, the real unofficial leadership wasn’t having it, and they outlived him in that school.

      Well, what about the fact that school A and school B were in the same division, does not culture emanate from the top? To a certain degree it does, but there are also variations. Please keep in mind that very few divisions actually have as the true, implemented institutional priority to ensure that all students are successful on the SOL test. There are tons of conflicting priorities, and there are other priorities that the board and community put a lot more emphasis on. For example, which will cause more uproar in most communities- failing schools or maintaining losing football coaches? Unless the division keeps the main thing the main thing (student performance), you can certainly have high performing schools in more affluent areas, and much lower performing schools in others.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        much appreciate the conversation – when you do have the time…

        on grading versus SOLs

        If a student gets an A and fails the SOL
        or an entire class gets high grades and half fail the SOL

        doesn’t that cause “something” to happen?

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar

          Anytime.

  15. LarrytheG Avatar

    Asking around with teacher friends and the conundrum of classroom grades verses SOL scores is a “thing” and can vary by school or district even and may well be an issue in low performing schools.

    If Johnny gets A and B’s in reading then fails his SOL for reading……….
    is that a subsequent conversation between teacher and principal?

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Passing the class and failing the test is common Mr. Larry. I suppose some principals will have a sit down with a school teacher. But most will not. The alarms on the deep fryers are going off at the same time. Principals don’t have time for this.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        WOW!

  16. LarrytheG Avatar

    Asking around with teacher friends and the conundrum of classroom grades verses SOL scores is a “thing” and can vary by school or district even and may well be an issue in low performing schools.

    If Johnny gets A and B’s in reading then fails his SOL for reading……….
    is that a subsequent conversation between teacher and principal?

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Passing the class and failing the test is common Mr. Larry. I suppose some principals will have a sit down with a school teacher. But most will not. The alarms on the deep fryers are going off at the same time. Principals don’t have time for this.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        WOW!

  17. Several years ago, a for-profit private company was hired by at least one Catholic high school in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, to evaluate the teaching effectiveness — with some implications on teacher performance. The company developed tests that were given at the end of each school year. The change in student performance from the previous year was used to determine if the teaching was effective. It can be done.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Seems like is private schools and charter schools adopted this – it would then put pressure on public schools to adopt it.

  18. Several years ago, a for-profit private company was hired by at least one Catholic high school in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, to evaluate the teaching effectiveness — with some implications on teacher performance. The company developed tests that were given at the end of each school year. The change in student performance from the previous year was used to determine if the teaching was effective. It can be done.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Seems like is private schools and charter schools adopted this – it would then put pressure on public schools to adopt it.

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