BESE Report August, 2013

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BESE member hits flaws in Value Added Model

This month's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education got off to a rocky start, with member Lottie Beebe sharply criticizing the state for the way the Value Added Model of teacher evaluation is being implemented.

Beebe pointed out that the mathematical formula used to determine teacher scores is so complicated that no on understands it.

Teachers who disagree with their Value Added score, she said, have no way to challenge the results.

As superintendent of schools in St. Martin Parish, she said, “When I examine the results, I don’t know what I am looking at.”

Beebe cited news reports that State Superintendent of Education John White has waived the VAM scores for some 50 teachers, and said that is proof that the system is flawed.

“I want to have statisticians and mathematicians look at the formula and tell us if the instrument is valid,” she said. “I need someone to clarify the process and the formula.”

Beebe said that some highly effective teachers in high-performing schools have received low VAM scores. If those teachers file suit, she said, it will be difficult to defend the system.

“If I am called to court and asked what I based my decision on,” she said, “I have no legitimate response.”

Beebe’s motion to create a commission to study the VAM failed. Supt. White did say that the issue could be studied by the newly reconstituted Accountability Commission.

Testing funds diverted to Course Choice

Louisiana’s controversial Course Choice program got an infusion of cash when Superintendent of Education John White announced that he is ending the iLEAP test for second graders and diverting about $1 million to Course Choice.

Course Choice replaced the popular Louisiana Virtual School with a program that allows many providers, including individual teachers, entrepreneurs and public schools, to create courses outside of traditional schools, mainly via computer.

The program started out plagued by scandal when it was discovered that one provider was promising free computers to students and enrolling students without their knowledge.

The state at first planned to pay for Course Choice with Minimum Foundation Program funds. That scheme was stymied when the Supreme Court ruled that MFP funds could only be spent on public schools.

White then scaled back the program, taking about $2 million from the 8(g) offshore oil settlement, which had previously been spent on competitive grants in public schools.

On Thursday, he announced that Course Choice had enrolled about 2,000 students, with about 1,000 on a waiting list. By eliminating the second grade iLEAP, White was able to free up about $1 million for the program. He said that all interested students are now enrolled in Course Choice programs.

MFP task force will include non-voting members

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education rejected a plea to appoint a school finance expert to its MFP Task Force, but did grant permission for a couple of non-voting members to attend task force meetings.

Member Lottie Beebe said that representative of school board business offices should be appointed to the task force because they are the people with the most knowledge about school funding.

The board would not to along with giving a business office representative voting rights on the task force. However, a business agent will be allowed to participate without voting. The board also appointed a representative of disabled students to the task force, also without voting rights.

BESE rejects suggested changes to its procedures

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education rejected several suggested revisions to its administrative code this week.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers asked for changes to be made in Title 28 of the Louisiana Administrative Code, which governs BESE’s operations. LFT took issue with some of the revisions that BESE will recommend when the legislature convenes next spring.

The LFT asked BESE to clarify language about which of the board’s bulletins would apply to the State recovery School District by listing conditions under which a bulletin would not apply to the RSD.

The Federation objected to a proposed change that would no longer require the board to approve hiring decisions made by the Department of Education.

The Federation wanted BESE to clarify which task forces and advisory councils allow proxy members to have voting rights.

LFT asked the board to consider a policy that would guarantee that all board members have meeting agendas in hand by 10 days prior to meetings, to make sure that all members have a chance to study the lengthy documents.

The Federation asked the board to end confusion over when the public must submit public comment cards. Proposed rules require the public to submit cards five minutes prior to the state of a meeting, but other rules say that meetings may begin up to half an hour before the posted starting time.

Finally, LFT asked the board to create a uniform timeline for the promulgation of new rules. Rules given initial approval by the board must be published in the Louisiana Register, which opens a 90-day window for public comment. Under current practice, though, proposed rules are not always published in the next month’s register, which makes it difficult for the public to keep track of a rule’s progress.