Editorial: Changes to teacher evaluation system welcome news

Finally, some common sense appears to be penetrating the halls of the Louisiana Department of Education.

Word comes that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will address several changes in the way the state evaluates some public school teachers.

After hearing a loud chorus of complaints from classroom teachers and administrators, BESE appears poised to alter the new value-added model rating system.

Under the current rating system, teachers would fall into one of four categories: highly effective, effective proficient, effective emerging and ineffective.

Half of the teachers’ annual review for these teachers would be determined by the growth of their students’ achievement. Classroom observations by principals and others would determine the other half of the review.

A nontenured teacher would have to rate highly effective five out of six years to attain tenure. The rating system also factors into teachers’ compensation.

State Superintendent of Education John White said previously that only 10 percent of teachers would rate as highly effective. Trial runs bear that out. Less than 6 percent of fourth- through ninth-grade teachers in Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes evaluated last year by the VAM system received a rating of highly effective.

White will now recommend to BESE that teachers rated in the 80th percentile statewide be accorded the highly effective ranking.

Stephanie Desselle, who tracks public school issues for the Council for a Better Louisiana, a nonpartisan, good-government group, said the change is ‘‘totally justified.’’

White is also expected to request changes in evaluations for teachers at accelerated academic institutions like magnet school. Under the current plans, teachers could earn an ineffective rating if high-scoring students’ scores on standardized tests dropped from the previous years. White is also reacting to complaints about the current rating system being unfair in this circumstance.

Tenure should be a status that should be attained through teacher achievement. It should not be passed out like confetti at a New Year’s Eve celebration.

Still, the No. 1 consideration of any evaluation system should be fairness. BESE members should adopt this recommended changes when they meet this week and be mindful that the evaluation system may need other tweaks to incorporate such fairness.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.