Another delay pushed for teacher evaluation method that has drawn controversy in Louisiana

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — The state education board was urged Tuesday by an influential study group to again delay the use of a teacher evaluation system tied to student performance data, raising uncertainty about whether the divisive evaluations will ever return to classrooms.

Even the sponsor of the 2010 state law creating the controversial evaluation method has suggested the system should be stalled for another year and maybe should be shelved for much longer.

"Teachers aren't sure it's working," said Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe. "I think we have a lack of confidence."

Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed the law that requires some public school teachers to be graded on student test scores, with half the teacher's review tied to the growth in student achievement on standardized tests.

The evaluation method, known as the Value Added Model, is supposed to apply to about a third of teachers whose coursework is covered by standardized tests, such as math and science teachers. Other teachers are graded on student growth targets that are set by principals.

The law has generated controversy and complaints — and BESE stalled that evaluation requirement last year and this year while the state switched over to new standardized testing aligned with Common Core.

The evaluation method was to resume in the upcoming 2015-16 school year. But state lawmakers created the study group to determine whether the evaluation method should be tweaked.

After months of review, the study group unanimously agreed to a set of recommendations Tuesday that included another yearlong delay in using the model. The panel also recommended that even if the use of performance data to judge teachers resumes that principals also be given more leeway in how they use the data in the evaluation.

The suggestions go next to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and to state lawmakers for consideration of whether regulations or state law should be changed.

Supporters say the data-driven evaluations tie teachers to quantifiable performance, and they stressed that even though they support delay, they don't want to scrap the evaluation method for the long-term.

But opponents say standardized tests can't adequately measure the success of a teacher and the review doesn't adequately consider individualized problems with students. They also say it creates a two-tiered system for judging teachers depending on the classes they teach.

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