Teacher evaluation delay endorsed

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Adam Lau /
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- State Education Superintendent John White, right, opposed Wednesday House Bill 466, which would block plans to change the the state rates public high schools. Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondasry Educastion, seated left, also spoke against the legislation. The committee approved the bill.

The full impact of new evaluations for public school teachers would be delayed under a bill approved Wednesday night by the Louisiana House Education Committee.

Under the plan, which is spelled out in House Bill 160, evaluations underway in the current school year would not carry any major consequences for teachers.

Instead, the clock would start in the 2013-14 school year.

That would mean teachers rated as “ineffective” for two years in a row would not face dismissal until the 2014-15 school year, which is one year later than current law requires.

The measure won approval from Republicans and Democrats alike, which is unusual.

It was also hailed by officials of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators, the state’s two largest teacher unions.

The measure next faces action in the full House.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration did not endorse the proposal.

However, state Superintendent of Education John White, who is the governor’s chief public schools lieutenant, said last week that he would look at any bill that delayed full implementation of the new reviews.

White said earlier he vehemently opposed another part of the bill, which required yearly approval by state House and Senate committees before evaluations took place.

That provision was removed from the bill, which then won approval without objection.

In addition, some education groups normally aligned with Jindal’s push for public school changes made clear that they oppose any delay in the reviews.

Under state law, public school teachers face annual reviews in which half of the evaluation is linked to the growth of student achievement.

The other half stems from classroom observations by principals and others.

Backers call the change a bid to improve teacher quality and student achievement.

But some teachers have complained for months that the new reviews are flawed, especially with their reliance on improvements in student achievement.

Rodolfo Espinoza, an educator at Lafayette High School, said he was a finalist for state teacher of the year and has earned national certification.

But he said he has also received a modest rating in the initial wave of new reviews, and Espinoza labeled the revamped evaluations a “disaster.”

LFT President Steve Monaghan agreed.

“The product is broken,” Monaghan told the committee. “No one is saying who broke it. It is broken.”

Mitzi Murray, a teacher at West Monroe High School, told the panel that a delay would be a mistake. “This evaluation is the closest thing to National Board certification rigor,” she said.

Rambo Schutz, who teaches in Point Coupee Parish, said any delay means another year of ineffective teachers in the classroom.

Action on the evaluation bill followed Carter’s surprise announcement that the panel would delay action on three other proposals. All three are aimed at ensuring the survival of Jindal-backed education changes approved last year, which are under legal fire.

Earlier in the day a bill that would put new restrictions on students who could qualify for vouchers was rejected by the same panel.

In addition, the committee approved legislation that would prevent college readiness test scores from being a key part of annual letter grades issued to public high schools.

The voucher measure, House Bill 230, would change eligibility for students to qualify for vouchers, which represents state aid for students to attend private and parochial schools.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, sponsor of HB230, said the law needs repair because it allows kindergarten students who could attend a public school rated A or B to instead opt for a voucher.

The measure would limit the aid for kindergarten students to those who would otherwise attend schools rated C, D or F, which is the policy for students in other grades.

But Pope’s bill failed, with six panel members voting “yes” and 11 voting “no.”

The other measure, House Bill 466, was approved 9 for and 6 against by the House panel and over the objections of top education officials.

Backers said it is needed because, without the bill, new rules that require all students to take the ACT, and make those results part of state-issued high school grades, will cause problems.

The legislation, which now moves to the full House, would keep the same, pre-ACT scoring methods that the state used to determine grades for the 2011-12 school year.

The new scoring system, which is set to take effect with scores released later this year, would have an immediate, negative impact, said Michael Faulk, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, which backs the bill.

Faulk, who is also superintendent of the highly rated Central school system, said the lone high school in his district would likely drop from an A to a C under the state’s new scoring system.

The state has issued letter grades to Louisiana’s roughly 1,300 public schools since 2011.

But the formula is changing, with the biggest impact on high schools.