BESE member wants teacher reviews scrutinized

Lottie P. Beebe
Lottie P. Beebe

While the state is about to release the results of new teacher evaluations, a member of the state’s top school board said she wants a panel established to see if the reviews are valid.

“What I want is a committee comprised of statisticians and mathematicians who can more or less document that formula,” said Lottie Beebe, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who lives in Breaux Bridge.

The aim of the review, Beebe said, is to see whether the state’s new method for evaluating public school teachers “is a valid instrument.”

Under the new job reviews, half of the assessment is based on the growth of student achievement and half is based on traditional classroom observations, mostly by principals.

The new performance checks are supposed to improve teacher quality and student achievement.

But Beebe said few educators understand the new formula, which she said is especially burdensome as Louisiana moves to more rigorous courses and tougher testing as part of a nationwide push to improve education.

“Why are we doing this to our teachers?” asked Beebe, who is also superintendent of the St. Martin Parish School System.

State Superintendent of Education John White, who backs the reviews, said statewide results of how teachers fared during the 2012-13 school year will be released during the week of Sept. 2, possibly on Tuesday.

White said the report will be more extensive than any such study in the U.S. without disclosing sensitive information about individual teachers, including how they were rated.

“But we think the public is owed a transparent accounting of how the process went down,” he said.

The evaluations have sparked disputes for months.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration contends they are a vast improvement over the former system in which nearly every teacher in the state got a satisfactory rating.

Officials of the Louisina Federation of Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana School Boards Association, among others, argue that the reviews are flawed and risk unfairly penalizing teachers.

Beebe said she plans to push for her committee plan when BESE meets on Oct. 15-16.

She said she also wants a discussion of how White has the authority to waive test scores for some teachers.

White said in July that results for about 50 teachers of about 50,000 checked were set aside for more scrutiny because teachers were rated as “ineffective” even though students performed well.

Critics said the 50 teachers were emblematic of bigger problems in the system.

BESE is an 11-member panel that sets policies for about 700,000 public school students.