I’ve been writing so much lately about the absurdity of Common Core and Engage New York that I forgot Louisiana has its own special brand of insanity called COMPASS, the system that ranks teachers against each other and guide us teachers to become better… what? The COMPASS system doesn’t stop at improving teachers; it tries to transform us from our traditional role of guide and mentor to facilitator, or facilitator of self-discovery on the part of the students. That is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve seen hoisted upon the education profession, and here’s why.
You will never be able to assign a number to me that captures my essence: the difference I make in a student’s life. You are trying to quantify my quality, and on that one, you might as well try to capture a moonbeam or stop the tides rolling in.
COMPASS assumes this Utopian world where all students have equal eagerness to learn and are willing to discipline themselves and others to follow the path of enlightenment. The only problem is that describes a collegiate world, and often a world of Masters Degree students. It’s not the world of K-12 students. By definition, students are NOT adults yet. They are still learning appropriate actions to follow depending on the situation, and have, frankly, not left the realm of childhood completely yet. Most students by their very age lack the maturity level to police themselves and, even more difficult, turn to a fellow disruptive student and try to inhibit that behavior. COMPASS assumes an ideal world, not the real world where students are facing myriad social, economic, cultural, and hormonal problems.
Here’s an example of the insanity COMPASS employs. Should I have a student that is not on task, and should I steer him or her back into the “activity,” then I can earn a “3” on the 4 point scale. If, however, a student takes it upon himself or herself to steer the distracted student back on task, then I can earn a “4” on the 4 point scale. Exactly how is it valid that I earn more points by doing… nothing? How am I a more valuable teacher when students are doing my job for me? COMPASS designers clearly believe that having students teach themselves, and having me as a benign facilitator is the most ideal way to educate. Too bad it’s completely divorced from reality. Students left to their own devices would devolve into a Lord of the Flies scenario. It is precisely why the teacher TEACHES, not FACILITATES. If students could discover everything on their own, they already would have, and a teacher would be unnecessary.
How’s this for more insanity? When administrators come and evaluate teachers in the classroom, the administrator ranks the teacher with a 1, 2, 3, or 4 in five different categories. Though it is highly unlikely, it is possible that a teacher could earn four solid 4’s in four categories, but the moment he/she earns a “1” in any category, they automatically earn a final score of “1” and are ranked a failure. Even though the average of those five scores is a 3.25, the teacher earns an overall “1” ranking, and is considered inefficient. Who designed such a punitive system that automatically assigns a teacher the lowest possible rank because they failed one of five categories? That’s stupidity on a state-wide scale.
Just to give you an idea how the system worked for me, I will share my scores and how they were computed. When I was evaluated in the fall of 2012, I earned five two’s on the four point scale, but my administrator told me that I was extremely close to a “1” in a couple of categories, and that would have automatically earned me a failure status. When I was evaluated again in the spring of 2013, I played the idiotic game required of COMPASS and earned a 3.6 average (three four’s and two three’s). The average of the fall score (2.0) and the spring score (3.6) was a 2.8 for the observed portion of my COMPASS score, or 50% of my final score. The remaining half came from my student scores on my Student Learning Targets, or SLTs. For my regular students, I claimed a certain percentage of students would earn a particular score or higher, I ranked a 3 out of 4. My honors students made higher gains on the test, earning me a solid 4. The average of a three and a four is 3.5. The school then averaged my observation score (2.8) with my SLT score (3.5) for a final average of 3.15. I therefore earned the rank of Effective: Proficient.
I have news for COMPASS creators. Good luck trying to assign a number to me, because I am not a number. I am more than that, and always will be. I am both an actor and an educator, and I am highly proficient in what I do. You will never be able to assign a number to me that captures my essence: the difference I make in a student’s life. You are trying to quantify my quality, and on that one, you might as well try to capture a moonbeam or stop the tides rolling in. The more time you waste trying to assign a number to me is time that could have been spent allowing me to open the mind of a student to potential possibilities. The more time you waste dragging administrators into classrooms for observations is time that could have been spent disciplining problem students and curbing inappropriate behaviors. The more time you waste making students take pre-tests, post-tests, pre-ACT tests, ACT tests, three to six module tests per subject, is time robbed from students for actual learning.
COMPASS apparently has a lot of time to waste. This is not reform. This is just stupid.