Dear Mr. White,I am requesting a personally written justification explaining how Molly Horstman was deemed the most qualified candidate to oversee the Teacher Evaluation system in our state. As a 30 year veteran public school educator, with an Ed.D in Teacher Leadership, a Master’s Degree in Student Development, an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education and a CURRENT Louisiana state teaching license, I have absolutely NO confidence in this appointee. In fact, I am insulted. A 27 year old with two years of TFA classroom experience and a Political Science degree is someone who cannot possibly understand what a highly qualified teacher looks like. As such, I am demanding that she be removed from this position, as both a concerned taxpayer and educator in this state. I am holding you and Governor Jindal accountable for misuse of public funds. Hiring someone with obvious political connections and higher appointment aspirations is an abomination of your power and purpose. This decision can in no way benefit our teacher evaluation system nor improve the teachers we place in our schools. We have not privatized yet. We still have a public system in place, and as such, it is STILL your job to find the most qualified candidates for this office.
This single hiring decision has made me determined to FIGHT for my state and its educational reform programs. My motivation comes from your decision not to act in the best interest of Louisiana teachers and our children. I have worked too hard in this profession, and paid too much money in state taxes to watch high office appointed officials make a mockery of our schools. This practice of hiring incompetent candidates who lack even the minimum expertise and experience to properly perform the job they were hired for must end now.
Deborah Hohn Tonguis2009 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year
St. Tammany Parish Teacher
My 1st response from John White
by Deborah Hohn Tonguis on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 10:50pm ·Sent: Monday, October 01, 2012 9:24 PM To:
Ms. Tonguis,Thanks for taking the time to write. I'm sorry you feel that way.
So you know, Molly is not the head of the teacher evaluation process,though perhaps the article from which you're drawing your informationreported that she is. The head of that organization in the Department hasa master's degree in education from Harvard and has spent years working onteacher evaluation systems across the nation.
At the same time, when I was a district superintendent, I observed Molly'swork at the state and was very impressed (she is not a recent hire). Inever saw any evidence that she was incompetent, and, quite the contrary,I have only seen evidence that she is a strong employee committed tochildren. If you have evidence otherwise, I'd like to know about it.
More than anything, though, I'd love to understand your perspective on thechanges in our education system. If you ever have a minute, I'd love tomeet and hear more of your thoughts. You've obviously been very successfulin your career; I'd value your perspective.
Thank you again for writing.John
John WhiteLouisiana Department of EducationTwitter @LouisianaSupe
My response to John White's first e-mail
by Deborah Hohn Tonguis on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 11:14pm ·On 10/2/12 11:08 PM, "Tonguis, Deborah" wrote:
Thank you for your response. So here's a quick question...If Molly is not in charge of COMPASS, who is? The LDOE website does not identify anyone>else above her. I noticed you didn't provide the name of the person who is in charge either. Why? Teachers like me want to know that the person charged with implementing such a crucial component of our professional life has the experience and expertise to do so. That is certainly not an unreasonable request. One of the biggest problems I see with garnering teacher support for the state's agenda starts right here - with issues of disclosure.We are wise to surround ourselves with those who can offer differing viewpoints. The LDOE's dismissive attitude toward questions regarding hiring practices is wrong.You have the opportunity to be open, receptive and transparent enough to rally teacher support by doing a few simple things the right way:
First of all, STOP hiring TFA alums for high office positions. It just looks bad. You have to know that professionally trained, experienced educators are not buying into the "5 week teaching crash course" as proof of expertise. Credentials are still important. Surround yourself with both traditional and non-traditionally trained educators. That will give you some credibility. I told Arne Duncan during my service year as the 2009 LATOY how important it is to employ recent classroom teachers, that the modern American classroom is transforming itself and that we cannot>perpetuate the stereotypes of people who are only remembering their own obsolete educational experiences. Most policymakers, Pearson employees and ETS test makers haven't seen the inside of a modern classroom. They just haven't. Even 5 years is too long to be out of the classroom. It's OK to hire highly qualified PUBLIC school teachers too!
Secondly, disclose information that the public wants in a timely and forthright manner. It's our tax money. We have the right to know. I am held accountable for giving parents information quickly and courteously. I expect my state's Department of Education to do the same. Finally, let the education paradigm shift. Don't try to spin it or micromanage it. Education in this country must be allowed to EVOLVE. We are in uncharted waters right now. Teachers are not the problem...they are the solution! Technology and privatization have their place, but they will never REPLACE human innovation and equal access under the law. If we let go a little, we can let those sails fill with air, the ship will start to move and then we can direct the path.
We have programmed WRONGLY in this state. Most teachers are decent, hardworking people who LOVE what they do, regardless of the pay. But now we have created an adversarial relationship between the student and teacher with VAM. Why? I don't know how to even begin to see my students as my ticket to Merit Pay. And to make things worse, then, the very entity that teachers should rely upon for support, their DOE, has somehow morphed into an elitist "country club" where we aren't wanted, or invited to sit at the policy table alongside the politicians and academics who decide our collective, professional fates. Just awful...
I would be more than willing to meet with you in person if you care to. It would benefit you and your staff to listen to a classroom teacher to see what these policies really look like in the implementation stage...because some of them are a BIG MESS. I have recently entered my SLT's into the state's calculator and received the target numbers I need to be rated "highly effective", so I am in a good position to offer relevant feedback on the process. My first formal observation has already come and gone and my scores and evaluator feedback have been entered into HCIS. As a teacher leader, I can tell you, none of it feels good and the whole process certainly isn't growing support. You definitely have a huge PR problem, but you can change this. You really can.
Thanks for your time. I am available to serve my beloved state and>profession whenever there is a need...and right now, there is a need.
Deborah Hohn Tonguis
My 2nd response from John White
by Deborah Hohn Tonguis on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 10:49pm ·Sent: Sunday, October 07, 2012 12:28 PM To:
Deborah, thanks again.Regarding Molly Horstman, here is text from a response I sent to anelected official:
The Advocate ran a story implying that Molly Horstman, whom many of youknow, is not adequately credentialed to run the Compass teachereffectiveness program at the Department. Before I address the factualinaccuracies of the story, I want to say first that Molly is as capableand committed a public servant as there is in this state. She deservesgreat respect and thanks for the work she has put into Compass. And I amdeeply disappointed at the treatment some who don't even know her or herwork have tried to enact in recent days.
As you probably also know, the story was inaccurate in multiple ways.Molly is an employee at the director level of our organization whoseresponsibility is Compass; she is not the leader of the Compass initiativeper se. She reports through Hannah Dietsch, an assistant superintendentwho leads the development of the Compass tool, and she works alongsidefive network leaders, who lead Compass's implementation. Hannah hasmaster's degrees in education from both Harvard and Johns Hopkins. She hasalso developed evaluation tools across the nation with TNTP, including twoyears leading TNTP's work in New Orleans. Among the network leaders are
- Warren Drake, the former superintendent of the state's highestperforming district- Francis Touchet, the former principal of the state's highest performingopen enrollment high school- Gayle Sloan, the former superintendent of the district with the state'shighest ACT scores- And two former assistant superintendents, Kerry Laster and MelissaStilley, in two of the state's largest high-poverty districts
Finally, Gary Jones, formerly superinendent in Rapides Parish, is leadingthe implementation of Act 1, which addresses the consequences of Compass,such as salary scales and reduction in force policies.
These are the staff who lead Compass for the Department. The effort todiscredit Molly's work was wrongheaded, but the reporting that she is thesole director of our largest statewide implementation was just wrong. Wehave built an experienced and capable leadership team, of which she is apart, that works everyday on Compass in schools across Louisiana.
JohnJohn WhiteLouisiana Department of EducationTwitter @LouisianaSupe