“You literally have the most successful teachers in the state being told that they are highly ineffective.” Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport
Louisiana’s new method for evaluating public school teachers is flawed because some educators are getting failing marks even though their students are among the highest performing in the state, a Republican state lawmaker said.
“This is nothing short of ridiculous,” said state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, in an Oct. 2 email to education officials around the state.
State Superintendent of Education John White said that, while the issue appears to be isolated, he plans to meet with teachers at the school Oct. 18 to hear their concerns.
The focus is on preliminary data for teachers at South Highlands Elementary Magnet School in Shreveport, which is the top-rated elementary school in the state.
The crux of the problem, Seabaugh said, is that the jobs of some teachers could be in jeopardy because even high-scoring students who show drops from the previous year can result in the teachers being rated as ineffective.
“You literally have the most successful teachers in the state being told that they are highly ineffective,” Seabaugh said in a telephone interview.
The concerns stem from a 2010 law that changed the way the state reviews the job performance of public school teachers.
Starting with the current school year, half of a teacher’s job review will be linked to the growth of student performance, including how students fared on the standardized LEAP and iLEAP tests compared to previous years.
LEAP is a skills test that fourth-graders have to pass for promotion.
ILEAP is a test given to third-graders, but students do not have to pass it to advance.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and other backers of the change said it will provide substantive checks on the performance of about 60,000 teachers, which they say will improve student achievement.
Critics call the new evaluations flawed and likely to unfairly penalize top-flight educators.
Seabaugh said red flags went up when officials at South Highlands, while planning for the change, tried to see how teachers might fare this year by comparing test results from the 2010-11 school year with the 2011-12 school year.
Earlier this year, Seabaugh said, 92 percent of fourth-graders at the school scored at the highest or second highest level in English on the LEAP test, 89 percent in math, 85 percent in social studies and 84 percent in science.
“Clearly, the principal, teachers and staff are doing a wonderful job,” he said in his letter.
But all three fourth-grade teachers who received ratings were judged to be “highly ineffective” and among the lowest performing teachers in the state, Seabaugh said.
While the LEAP scores were high for 2012, he said, some represented drops from how the students did in 2011 on iLEAP in the third grade.
That means the state views the teachers as failing to provide the growth needed for a satisfactory rating.
If the same thing happens when the tests are given in the spring, Seabaugh said, those teachers will be denied pay raises and face dismissal if they get similar marks in 2014.
He said the issue can be repaired by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which sets policies for nearly 700,000 students statewide.
Walter Lee, a member of BESE who lives in Mansfield, said he shares Seabaugh’s concerns and has asked White to look into the issue.
“It does look like that needs to be addressed,” said Lee, who is superintendent of the DeSoto Parish school system.
White said one plan under consideration would allow for slightly different evaluation methods in cases where a majority of students has scored at the top levels on key tests. “This is not a common situation,” White said.
Seabaugh said Thursday he is encouraged by talks of a resolution.
Kim Hebert, a fourth-grade teacher at Mulberry Elementary School in Houma, said Thursday that while she does want to undercut concerns at South Highlands, she has not seen the problems they complained about.
Hebert said she has earned “highly effective” ratings for the past three years during pilot projects on the new evaluations at a school rated “A plus” and that even high-achieving students are expected to show annual academic growth.