State modifies teacher evaluations

A series of changes to Louisiana’s new method for evaluating public school teachers breezed through the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Wednesday.

The changes were recommended by state Superintendent of Education John White and won easy approval Tuesday by a committee of BESE.

The modifications will give teachers access to student data at the start of the school year, allow principals to provide some teachers with more detailed reasons for their annual ratings and give teachers access to instructional videos on how top-flight teachers perform in the classroom.

White said after the meeting that all the changes either clarify how the job reviews will work or provide more feedback for educators.

The state is in the midst of an overhaul of how public school teachers are evaluated.

Under the old rules, they were typically reviewed once every one to three years.

Officials said more than 98 percent got satisfactory marks.

Under the new rules, reviews will be done annually and half of the reviews will be linked to the growth of student achievement and half will be based on classroom observations by principals and others.

The overhaul stems from a 2010 law pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Leaders of teacher unions and other critics contend the change is seriously flawed and puts too much reliance on standardized test results.

They also said the latest changes are another sign of the state’s rush to overhaul teacher job reviews.

The state has about 55,000 public school teachers.

White said the latest recommendations stem from meetings with teachers and principals, town hall gatherings and advisory panels.

“Every single change is geared either toward clarity for teachers or more feedback for teachers,” he said.

One of the key changes is aimed at allowing teachers to get more feedback from principals if they are rated as effective, which covers a wide range of scores.

Another section is meant to give more flexibility for teachers in high-performing schools, where yearly academic gains are harder to achieve.

White said the net effect is to give those students more ways to demonstrate academic growth so that teachers are not unfairly penalized.