Editorial: Public school teacher evaluations questionable

Evaluations of public school

teachers in Louisiana remain a sore topic with many of those educators

who are under the microscope.

A study by the National School

Boards Association Center for Public Education said the reforms that

weigh student growth as

the main factor in the evaluations represent a seismic change in

the education world with no certainty of the long-range impact.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal

pushed through an education overhaul package last year that linked

teacher tenure and compensation

with student improvement on standardized tests.

Any sea change was bound to be met

by some teacher resistance. But the state Department of Education

Superintendent John White

didn’t do himself or the evaluations any favor when he forecast

that the Value Added Model results would resemble a Bell Curve,

with 10 percent of the teachers reaching the highest tier, highly

effective, 80 percent falling into the middle categories

of effective proficient and effective emerging and 10 percent

drawing an ineffective label. If a teacher receives an ineffective

rating two consecutive years they could be subject to termination.

As it were, 89 percent of public school teachers earned either a highly effective or effective proficient rating and only

4 percent were gauged as being ineffective.

Principal evaluations comprising a sizable chunk of teachers’ final ratings has also stirred controversy.

Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst for the National School Boards Association, noted that teachers received their evaluations

from principals with little ‘‘useful feedback or direction to teachers on how they can improve.’’

White acknowledged to this newspaper’s editorial board that the principal classroom evaluations may have included too much

subjectivity and intimated that the answer is making principals’ job security dependent on student improvement and teacher

evaluations.

There’s merit to holding the

principal to standards similar to the accountability that the head coach

of the school’s football

or basketball program endures. If the school isn’t winning, i.e.

students not showing academic progress, fire the principal.

But White’s comments also suggest

naivety. In rural schools and parishes, the principal at a school may be

evaluating teachers

that are the wives or family members of his minister or doctor or

attorney. How objective will the principal be in that instance?

And many of these rural schools don’t have a waiting list of teachers ready to step in.

Clearly, these assessments remain a work in progress, and White appears to be flexible in amending them to ensure that they

are both reliable and fair.

Still, there remains a number of factors here that suggest these teacher evaluations have far too many gray areas to adequately

assess a teacher’s ability.

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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, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.