Senate panel rejects teacher review delay

A bill that would delay the major impact of Louisiana’s new teacher evaluations for one year failed in a state Senate panel Thursday.

The vote was three in favor and four opposed in the Senate Education Committee.

The proposal, House Bill 160, passed the House 102-0 on May 6.

Backers touted the plan as a compromise between critics of the new teacher reviews and advocates of overhauls in the classroom.

Under the current timetable, teachers rated as “ineffective” for two consecutive years could be dismissed as early as the end of the 2013-14 school year.

The bill would push that back to the 2014-15 school year.

State Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Dubberly and sponsor of the legislation, repeatedly assured lawmakers that this would be a one-time delay, and was not a bid to eliminate new teacher reviews enacted by the Legislature in 2012 and 2010.

“It’s a narrow focus to get through some problems we have,” Reynolds told the committee.

He said the delay would “give teachers a little morale boost. The enthusiasm will grow.”

Opponents said teachers have had ample time to prepare for the new job evaluations and that a delay would hurt students.

Rayne Martin, executive director of the education advocacy group Stand for Children, said over 10,000 educators were involved in the development and three-year piloting of the new reviews.

Martin said preliminary data shows that more than 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better and that less than five percent of all teachers will be classified as ineffective.

She said the new reviews are especially needed since about 200,000 of the state’s roughly 700,000 public school students perform below grade level.

Under the new teacher reviews, half of the evaluation is based on classroom observations by principals and half for many teachers is based on the growth of student achievement.

Later in the day the key parts of Reynolds bill were added to another public school bill that won House approval 72-18.

That measure, House Bill 129, faces an uncertain future in the Senate, especially since the session ends on June 6.

It would delay teacher remediation or other steps until the end of the school year when evaluations are finished.

State Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, sponsored a 2010 law that changed the teacher reviews but said he backed Reynolds’ proposal.

“Let’s take the good parts and fix the bad parts,” Hoffmann told the committee.

State Superintendent of Education John White said what was earlier touted as a narrowly drawn measure was being used by evaluation opponents to make sweeping denunciations of the new system.

“I find those comments offensive,” White said. “They are wrong.”

VOTING FOR A DELAY IN NEW TEACHER EVALUATIONS (3): State Sens. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and Bodi White, R-Central.

VOTING AGAINST HB160 (4): State Sens. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, and Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas.