La. teacher evaluation revamp signed into law

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 28, 2010

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers handed Gov. Bobby Jindal his first significant victory of the legislative session Thursday, giving final approval to a revamp of the state’s teacher evaluation process that the governor pushed against the wishes of teacher unions.

Public school teachers will be graded partially based on student test scores, tying at least half of a teacher’s review to student performance data — not the flat standardized test scores, but the growth in student achievement on those tests.

Jindal signed the controversial bill by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, shortly after the House sent it to the governor’s desk with a 68-22 vote.

‘‘Louisiana has taken a huge step forward today in ensuring that every child is taught by an effective teacher and that every public school is led by effective instructional leaders,’’ Jindal said in a statement.

The evaluations under the new method — called a ‘‘value-added assessment’’ system — will be done annually. Teachers with poor reviews will get intensive assistance. If they don’t improve, they will be fired.

The new law replaces the current system in which teachers got formal evaluations at least once every three years — but those weren’t specifically tied to student test scores. It will begin next year in up to 27 school districts and will be expanded to all school districts starting in the 2012-13 school year.

Supporters said the data-driven evaluations will do away with complaints about subjectivity in the reviews and will tie teachers to what they should be doing, educating students. They said good teachers shouldn’t fear the change.

‘‘This evaluation system will enable school districts to identify and reward highly effective teachers and deliver targeted professional development to teachers and school leaders who need it,’’ Jindal said.

Opponents called the evaluation change unfair, saying standardized tests can’t adequately measure the success of a teacher and the review won’t adequately consider individualized problems with students. They also questioned whether it will discourage some teachers from wanting to take jobs in schools known for poor performance.

‘‘It’s unfair to rely mostly on student test scores for determining the effectiveness of a given teacher,’’ said Joyce Haynes, head of the Louisiana Association of Educators, in a statement. ‘‘It’s also unthinkable and disrespectful to the profession.’’

Others said while the proposal may have merit, it’s untested and too soon to put into law.

The new evaluation method will apply to teachers and administrators in traditional public schools and charter schools.

The Senate added a provision that will require Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek and education department employees who earn six-figure salaries to be subject to the same type of evaluation.

‘‘I think they just strengthened the bill,’’ Hoffmann said.

Legislative leaders rushed the measure through final passage in recent days, with education officials arguing it could help bolster the state’s application for federal Race to the Top grant dollars.

The latest application from the state, which lost its bid for the federal money in the first round of grants, is due June 1. Several other states have passed or proposed similar legislation, hoping to improve their applications’ chances.

A similar bill was vetoed recently by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.