The director of Louisiana’s controversial new system to evaluate public school teachers had her own teaching certificate lapse.
“My teaching certificate is not active right now,” said Molly Horstman, who oversees the new review setup that state officials call Compass, Thursday.
Horstman, who spent two years in a New Orleans classroom, said the lack of a teaching certificate has nothing to do with her current post, which pays $77,000 per year.
“My job does not require that I go into the classroom to teach right now,” she said.
Horstman, 27, said she did not take the steps needed to renew her certificate, which is typically required for teachers every few years.
But state Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, said Horstman should have a teaching certificate so that, if required to do so, she could enter a classroom and demonstrate proper teaching methods “to provide the kind of assistance a teacher would need.”
“I would think that if a person is going to be dealing with the evaluation of thousands of teachers that we have in the state, they ought to be able to go into a classroom,” Smith said.
“And if that person is unable to do that, they should not be on that job.”
Smith is a member of the state House Education Committee, a former member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and is chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
The new teacher reviews stem from a 2010 law pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, which was vehemently opposed by teacher unions.
It is supposed to improve student achievement by linking annual job reviews in part with how students fare in the classroom.
Under previous rules, teachers went through formal reviews every three years.
All but a handful routinely won satisfactory ratings.
However, about 60,000 public school teachers are undergoing the new evaluations in the current school year.
Under the change, half of a teacher’s review will be linked to growth of student achievement as measured by standardized tests or goals that teachers and evaluators agree on.
The other half of the review will be based on classroom observations.
Joyce Haynes, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said it is bothersome that “someone does not think it (active certification) is important enough and is putting together a program that looks at us.
“We believe in certified, caring, committed leaders in every classroom.”
State Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, one of the sponsors of the 2010 law, downplayed the significance of Horstman’s lack of a current teaching license.
“She has chosen not to teach,” Hoffmann said.
Horstman is a 2007 graduate of Barnard College in New York City.
She moved to Louisiana and taught for two years at Reed Elementary School in New Orleans as part of the state-run Recovery School District.
Horstman was a member of Teach for America, which is a national program that recruits top-flight college graduates, puts them through five weeks of intense training and sends them to mostly troubled schools for at least two years.
She then worked for the RSD’s central office in New Orleans, the state Department of Education and, since February, as state director of Louisiana’s new teacher review system.
Horstman said that, under a separate new law, she would have to be rated as “effective” for three years to renew her teaching certificate.
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