Most Louisiana teachers pass tests

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, September 4, 2013

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Nearly all public school classroom teachers were deemed effective in the first year that Louisiana’s new evaluation system was used statewide, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Education.

The grading system, called Compass, ranked 32 percent of teachers as “highly effective” and another 4 percent as “ineffective.” The rest were in between, with 8 percent of those in a category called “effective emerging,” which suggested they needed improvement.

Evaluation figures released Tuesday for the state’s more than 43,000 public school teachers were based on performance during the 2012-13 school year.

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The ratings will be used to decide pay raises and promotions and to determine if new teachers reach the job protection status called tenure. The consequences could be dire for those deemed ineffective.

Teachers rated ineffective will get intensive assistance. If they don’t improve and receive another ineffective grade within two years, termination proceedings are required under the law, and the teacher can be fired.

The new evaluation system was passed by lawmakers in 2010 and championed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Across the state’s 1,400 public schools, Compass grades about one-third of classroom teachers on student performance improvements on standardized tests.

The grades cover those who teach math, English and other subjects that are reviewed on such tests. All teachers are reviewed through classroom observations and whether they hit certain student learning targets.

Superintendent of Education John White said the new evaluation method replaces a one-size-fits-all approach that didn’t properly assess a teacher’s ability in the classroom. Under the old system, nearly 99 percent of educators were simply ranked satisfactory, with no range of categories determining excellence or improvements needed.

White said higher-performing school districts and those that have made strong improvements tend to have teachers with higher ratings in the Compass evaluation, while lower-performing districts had more teachers rated ineffective or needing improvement.

“We have areas for improvement, but the trends show that educators are using this tool in a way that is consistent with the way their kids are performing,” he said.

However, White said some adjustments will be made to the evaluation system to make sure districts aren’t being lax in the way they judge their teachers and school systems have a “high vision of excellence.”

The highest percentages of teachers ranked ineffective were in the City of Baker, with 18 percent; East Carroll Parish, at 17 percent; St. Helena Parish, at 16 percent; Madison Parish, at 14 percent; and Tensas Parish, at 12 percent.

School districts with the highest percentages of teachers rated highly effective were Bossier Parish, at 59 percent; Lincoln Parish, with 56 percent; and Beauregard Parish, with 55 percent.

But since the districts developed their own criteria for rankings, it was difficult to compare what the evaluation grades really mean in terms of performance.

More than 2,600 principals and assistant principals also received rankings, after reviews by their school district superintendents. According to the education department data, 28 percent of principals and assistant principals were rated highly effective, while 2 percent were deemed ineffective.

Teachers unions have complained the evaluation system is flawed — specifically its use of performance on standardized tests as a method for determining the effectiveness of a teacher.

Union leaders have said the rating of a teacher should account for individualized problems with students. They said the Compass system could discourage some teachers from seeking jobs in schools known for poor performance.

“It is unfortunate that state officials refuse to make changes to the laws and policies. That leaves teachers with no alternative but to pursue legal remedies in courts around Louisiana,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said in a written statement.

Evaluations under the new method are done annually, replacing a system in which teachers got formal evaluations once every three years with no tie to student test scores. The new system applies to teachers and administrators in traditional public schools and charter schools.