What the Virginia “Education” Association Is Trying to Hide

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.

Here we see, as expected, a few very good teachers, a few ineffective ones, and a whole bunch who get average or nearly average performance from their students.

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.

SGP2Near the middle of the pack, we find No. 13432, also teaching fifth grade reading, with these SGP results:

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.

SGP3Then 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.

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7 responses to “What the Virginia “Education” Association Is Trying to Hide”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    this is more ignorant right wing idiocy from folks who have no clue of the myriad issues involved in classroom teaching… and if they got their way, would make teaching as a profession something many would just say “no thanks”

    on a per teacher basis – do you know how many years of experience the teacher has?

    do you expect first year teachers to be as good as veterans?

    do you allow any kind of a period of learning and getting better at the job?

    do you account for how many students are in the class?

    do you account for how many students in that class are “disruptive”

    do you account for how many students are far behind the others and need more help?

    do you account for one year the teacher gets a high performing class that is relatively easy to teach and the next year – it’s a class from hell?

    there is a reason why teaching is a profession and why folks who are not teachers but fancy themselves as able to judge teaching performance are themselves just loons.

    Any teacher will tell you that each class – each year is different and that the very same teacher will do quite well with one class and the next year have problems…because of – a wide range of things – new kids coming in .. parents who take their kids out of school for a week for a vacation.. other kids whose parents are in the process of breaking up and the kid is with grandma for 3 month.s

    I’m all for fair ways of evaluating teachers but this way with no-nothing types involved is the wrong way.

    “conspiracy”? right.. that’s how you know the quality of the so-called critic.

  2. Hill City Jim Avatar
    Hill City Jim

    With the caveat that only LG knows for which he speaks, the federal government made SGPs a portion of a teacher’s evaluation a requirement in order for the schools to receive Title 1 monies. VDOE received a waiver but has assured the taxpayers (and the federal government) they would have an alternative measure of teacher performance in place…soon…still waiting.

    Public school teacher tenure will be the death of America. When a division, like Lynchburg, terminates less than 1% of their educators because they are not cutting the mustard, they need to look to the private schools to see how they evaluate theirs. They would soon find out tenure does not work in the real world.

    It is too bad that people cannot post comments to BR without being called names because they do not subscribe to LG’s liberal mind warping ideas.

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    I support measurement of teachers. But I’m not sure a single year is sufficient to tell people too much. There are many variables that can affect results. But after three or five years, there is likely to be a trend that should be considered in teacher compensation and retention.

    Another thing education needs is to change compensation to attract those people who would have worked in other professions, but would like to teach for several years (i.e., some form of defined payment retirement), have taken some basic courses in instruction, and can bring a lot to the classroom. We want to retain good career teachers, but need to open the classroom to those who only want to teach for a period in their careers.

    1. Cville Resident Avatar
      Cville Resident


      I agree with you about assessments. A year is a snapshot in time. If you give the same assessment to the same teacher’s classroom year after year, you probably will see some useful data after 5 years.

      I also think this entire fight over SGP is rather silly. SGP is a joke unless you can prove a learning chain between one grade level and the next. Also, how exactly is “growth” a good measure of high performing school districts? If a 4th grad class has a 98% success rate and the 5th grade class has a 97% success rate, we have no “growth”. But from a statistical point of view, does anyone bat an eye and say, “Oh gee, the 5th grade teacher is not performing well.” SGP seems like a trap for high performing school districts whereas it’s a convenient tool to exploit for those with extremely low performing students. Wow, our kids have amazing “growth” because 25% succeeded in 3rd grad and now 33% succeed in 4th grade! Also, does SGP guarantee that the exact same children are measured from grade level to grade level. If Susie and Jack are measured in one teacher’s classroom one year, but they leave the school district and are replaced by Jim and Jane, then the measurement seems to be rather silly in terms of measuring “growth.” If 15 kids are measured in one class and 15 kids are measured in the next grade level, but 5 of the 15 kids are different, I’d submit that the data is useless.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    I support evaluations but I also support informed folks knowing how schools actually work.

    It is not one standard teacher teaching one standard class.

    A class can have more kids than normal – or it can have several kids behind grade level who need part-day title 1 instruction from a different teacher. A classroom may have a para-educator helping the classroom teacher.

    how do you properly and fairly account for all these variations ?

    You send a brand new teacher to a low-income neighborhood school with half the class has at-risk kids – so how are you going to fairly evaluate ?

    HCJ – you mention Title 1 money – did you realize that school districts routinely short-staff schools that have Title 1 teachers? In other words they use the Title 1 teacher to supplant the normal staff –

    that’s getting ready to change:

    The sunlight effect: More equitable spending on its way regardless of rulemaking

    ” a bedrock of the newly reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) designed to help low-income students by funneling aid to school districts based on student demographics. At issue is whether federal regulations should require recipient districts to divvy up their funds so that their high-poverty schools get as many dollars per student as their schools with more affluent students.

    This seems like a no-brainer, given the goals of Title I. But the proposed federal rules are controversial precisely because many big districts don’t, in fact, divide their funds equally. Rather, most districts (perversely) send a smaller share of their state and local funds to the schools with the most poor and minority students ”

    so what are you going to do with the schools with a high proportion of low-income kids and a high proportion of new teachers lacking skills that teachers with years of experience have?

    Evaluating teachers – on the premise that if you find the bad ones and get rid of them – is not going to solve the bigger problem of school districts not allocating equitable resources ..

    you’ll end up with teachers being hired – then fired at the low income schools because few of them will be able to produce acceptable results.

    Now I know that some folks here – HCJ – they play both sides of the street on this issue – it’s bad teacher -bad parent and bad-genes… essentially not a problem that government can solve but if we blame who is responsible we can absolve ourselves of any responsibility in the whole shebang,


  5. Hill City Jim Avatar
    Hill City Jim


    Never argue stats & facts with a liberal.

    “I also support informed folks knowing how schools actually work.”

    That, obviously is only you. Why don’t you talk to your superintendent and ask that he tell you how much each school spends per student based upon the title 1 monies he gets before you continue to spout your foolishness.

    Too bad you don’t respect other’s opinions and resort to name calling, I think you could do terrific on some other blog that caters to that behavior.

  6. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    John Butcher – thank you for the very informative article.

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