Louisiana Sets Moratorium On Jindal’s Teacher Evaluation Plan

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to link teacher job evaluations to the growth of students’ performance has been set aside until after he leaves office.

In 2010, Jindal pushed the provision through the Legislature. It is designed to connect many of the roughly 50,000 annual teacher evaluations to how students fare in the classroom. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which is dominated by allies of the governor, recently approved a two-year change in how teachers are reviewed aimed at softening the impact for students and teachers when Louisiana fully adopts Common Core during the 2014-15 school year, writes Will Sentell of The Advocate.

Following complaints about the state’s adoption of Common Core, the rollout of evaluation plan has been sidelined until at least the 2015-16 school year. Jindal will leave office in January 2016 because he cannot serve three consecutive terms.

The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) opposes the reviews. According to LAE President Debbie Meaux, they are heartened by the moratorium, but were struck by the timing.

She said: “I don’t want to be cynical about why that is happening,” she added. “But what I do think may happen in the future is that there will be some changes in the law based on who becomes governor.” Whether the Jindal-backed review system returns “depends on the next governor,” Meaux said.

According to a statement issued by the governor, the moratorium will give the state time amid rising academic expectations to gather data and make future reviews linked to student achievement work. Also, the statement said “it is fair to teachers who are being evaluated during the transition.”

Jindal has proposed several measures to improve Louisiana’s long-suffering student achievement in public schools. Under the Value Added Model (VAM) measure, about one-third of public school teachers, about 17,000, were reviewed by linking half of the job evaluation to the growth of student achievement.

The other half of the yearly review was tied to traditional classroom observations by principals and others. The check applies to those who teach math, English, science and social studies, all of which can be tied to objective test results.

Earlier this year, the new reviews were used officially for the first time. Nearly one in three public school teachers earned the top rating, while 4% were rated as ineffective, which means they could be put on a path to dismissal if they get the same rating next year under the modified system.

A transition plan approved by BESE will set aside the use of student achievement in 2014 and 2015 in evaluation calculations. According to State Superintendent of Education John White, the moratorium will give teachers and students time to adjust to Common Core standards in math, reading and writing.

Under the new evaluation model, half of the evaluation for public school teachers for the next two years will be based on whether they meet academic goals agreed to by teachers and principals at the beginning of the school year. The goals are termed student learning targets. And the other half of the review will consist of classroom observations by principals and others.

Critics are happy with the moratorium and said teachers should not be linked to yearly gains on student test scores.