During a meeting of the Superintendents' Advisory Council, which advises the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on key issues, several Louisiana superintendents such as Hollis Milton of the West Feliciana Parish school system, spoke out about revising the state's annual evaluations for public school teachers. They argued in favor of giving principals a greater voice in the reviews.
Milton questioned the wisdom of basing half of a teacher's annual evaluation on what students learned during the school year. Relying on student test scores for fifty percent of a teacher's job check was argued to be unfair by Louisiana superintendents that shared the same concerns, as those results can vary widely for a variety of reasons.
"Anything at 50 percent seems excessive," Milton said. "We need to fix the imperfections in the evaluation system."
Governor Bobby Jindal pushed in 2012 for teacher evaluations to be linked to their job security also known as their tenure under state law. The previous system in Louisiana saw that 98 percent of teachers routinely won satisfactory job reviews from principals.
Gov. Jindal pushed hard for the new law to be passed in 2010 through legislation in attempts to improve the educational system and Louisiana's long-suffering student achievement in public schools. A year after the new legislation was carried out, a new survey conducted in December of 2013 supported and found that the quality of education in Louisiana was still believed to be declining. About 62% of the respondents stated that the state's public education was declining in quality.
As reported by Will Sentell of The Advocate, under the 2010 state law that got passed, half of the new teacher review is to be linked to the growth of student achievement. The other half of the job evaluation is based on classroom observations. Teachers who are rated as ineffective face a loss of their aforementioned tenure. For teachers who receive poor ratings two years in a row, they can face dismissal.
In the first round of the new evaluations last year 4 percent of teachers were listed as ineffective. Nearly one in three got the top rating.
St. Bernard Parish School Superintendent Doris Voitier said that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education erred by requiring that teachers be rated as ineffective if they get failing marks in either category.
"The ultimate goal should be to put it in the hands of the principal and the district," Voitier said.
Like Voitier and Milton, the superintendent of the Iberville Parish school system, Ed Cancienne, also noted that a teacher can get passing marks from the principal, ineffective marks on student learning targets and be out of the classroom if that indeed happened twice.
State Superintendent of Education John White said that, in general terms, he agrees with the idea of giving principals a major voice in teacher job checks.
"If you can't trust a principal with 50 adults you can't trust them with 1,000 children," he said.
But White said he does not anticipate more changes in how the teacher reviews work in the short term.