Jindal’s Louisiana Reforms Backed by State BESE

The Louisiana state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met this week to work out how to tie teacher evaluations to student performance scores to comply with Governor Bobby Jindal's new evaluation law, writes Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press.

The new standards are set to be implemented across the state in the 2012-13 school year. Public school teachers will now have half their review linked to the growth in student achievement in standardized tests.

Under these measures, evaluations will be done annually, replacing the current system in which teachers got formal evaluations once every three years without any link to student test scores.

A BESE committee backed the plans for using the "value-added" assessment system statewide, for judging a teacher's performance – where teachers will be graded as highly effective, effective or ineffective.

Advocates of the reform believe data-driven evaluations will grade teacher performance more accurately, enabling schools to identify and reward highly performing teachers while giving targeted help to those who aren't meeting standards.

"It's not over. This is just the beginning. It will require some refinement, some adjustment as time goes along," said Walter Lee, an education board member from Shreveport.

Critics — not least of which are teachers unions — say that standardized tests can't accurately measure the success of a teacher as they don't adequately consider individualized problems with students. There is a fear that these new measures could discourage some teachers from wanting to take jobs in schools known for poor performance.

"The single standardized test is not valid and reliable and does not produce valid and reliable information for this specific use," said Lee Barrios, a retired teacher from Abita Springs.

The head of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Steve Monaghan, had specific objections to the evaluating tool and scoring backed by BESE, along with the grievance procedure, writes Deslatte.

These measures will apply to teachers and administrators in traditional public schools and charter schools within the state. However, opponents said a lawsuit challenging the new evaluation standards was likely.

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