In what has to be the most pungent irony of 2013 in DISD Land, Mike Miles, vendor-in-chief, was back in top form this week, peddling his snake oil pay-for-performance con job. All Miles’ past indiscretions this year, from attempting a coup d’etat on his own board, to Miles’ ten million dollar vanity project of a useless principal’s academy, to the train wreck of his own cabinet, to his failing job performance appraisal—all forgotten in the glow of attention for Miles’ bogus teacher appraisal wares.
We don’t know of any other school board in the nation that hired a vendor instead of a certified, bona fide superintendent. Miles’ operational skills are laughable. Miles’ own carefully chosen cabinet jumped ship while Dallas ISD has the highest percentage of teacher vacancies in Texas since the arrival of the vendor-in-chief with a vendetta against his own employees.
No one can say we didn’t warn this board that any system tying teacher appraisals and money to test scores is bogus. We gave the board and the public a concrete, easily understood example many months ago in our posting, Move on Down the Road. We explained how a teacher could get a mediocre rating with one set of students and move on down the road to a magnet that filters out low-income and minority students and the same teacher is now a rock star, loved by all.
But let’s put a little more research-based polish on it. While the education deformers in Dallas love to say they are data-driven, there is a drought of research attached to any policy moves in Dallas.
For an analysis of how policy is being driven in the opposite direction of what the research clearly indicates, we hope the board will take the time to peruse this explanation of the short-comings of all value added measures used for teacher appraisals:
In case Todd Williams (whose own namesake middle school is on the low-performing list), the dear education PACs in Dallas, the mayor, and Bill McKenzie are still befuddled by the complexity of public schools, let’s summarize how the vendor posing as superintendent is at odds with reality.
We can’t regress all the important variables out of a formula that tries to even the odds for teachers at high poverty schools compared to teachers at low poverty schools.
There are too many ways that low-performing schools are the death knell to good teachers when teachers become solely responsible for instructional outcomes based on high-stakes testing. Teachers have no control over a Rene Martinez-style removal of a principal who stabilized a school after decades of gross mismanagement. Teachers don’t control the following year of huge vacancies accompanied by not enough substitutes. There is no VAM in existence that regresses out the variable of a political hack making out a short list of principals who are then disappeared.
We did notice that the current School Effectiveness Indices dumped the Early Colleges in with the Comprehensive high schools. This is a huge error, one that could not have been accidental or random. Early Colleges filter students for admission. Comprehensive high schools do not. It did not escape our attention that Conrad moved up the ratings of high schools the same year the principal was suddenly, randomly, found unfit for service.
There is no VAM that regresses out the influence of a vendor-in-chief who has an agenda of destabilizing a major school district by causing widespread chaos.
So far, principal assignments at the most needy Comprehensive high schools seem without logic. Seasoned veterans were removed and replaced with principals who either have little experience or a track record of failure. High churn in teachers and principals destabilizes and weakens schools, yet the vendor-in-chief feeds on chaos and smoke and mirrors.
When an entire feeder pattern declares a need for succession based on faulty central administration, how does their dissatisfaction feed back into any known VAM? Parents in Lakewood have a trustee who disparages teachers, is the source of increased testing, and is completely at odds with his constituents. The parents have not identified their dissatisfaction with teachers, but with central management.
There is no VAM that regresses out faulty instructional practices forced on teachers by a vendor-in-chief.
The popular wisdom is that good teachers soldier on regardless of building chaos. That folklore bit the dust when a Dallas teacher sued over her low job appraisal and was supported by the Texas Education Agency Commissioner who agreed that teachers cannot overcome poor campus leadership and widespread student discipline issues.
The popular wisdom is that good teachers simply close the door to students walking the halls, countless interruptions, lack of support, and the list goes on.
Yet Dallas teachers were given the command to leave their doors open and must follow a rigid methodology that has no research base. Students are commanded to respond like trained seals at multiple intervals that look laughable to any excellent teachers.
Because the vendor-in-chief is selling his snake oil, teachers are not even allowed to use time-tested methods that may have resulted in excellent student outcomes.
We are left with policies in Dallas schools that contradict research.
There is no research to support Miles’ management style. There is no research to support Miles’ pay for performance con job. The research on VAMs declare them shaky, unstable, and inaccurate, but test scores will determine teacher appraisals and pay in Dallas.
The VAM regressing out the number of teacher vacancies and principal churn in a building doesn’t exist.
Dallas high-needs schools will continue to be weakened by high teacher vacancies caused in part by high principal churn and Miles’ bogus appraisal system. Dallas will lead the state only in the number of teacher vacancies that will accompany a decreased teacher compensation scheme existing side by side with ridiculous numbers of overpaid middle managers. Teachers will continue to flee to suburban districts with bona fide superintendents.