Editorial: A workable balance for teacher evaluation?

The state Department of Education continues to seek common ground between classroom teachers, their union leaders and education

reformers on the prickly subject of teacher evaluation.

State Superintendent of Education John White said recently that he wanted to give school principals more say-so in teacher

evaluations.

‘‘I am for a high-trust system, but I am also for a system that starts with accountability,’’ White told The Advocate of Baton

Rouge.

That’s certainly a tough balancing act.

The new evaluation methods have been roundly criticized by teachers ever since the plan was approved by state lawmakers last

year. Teacher tenure, job security and some compensation is based on those evaluations, making it a volatile issue.

White raised eyebrows last year when he predicted that the teacher evaluation results would resemble a Bell Curve, with 10

percent of the teachers earning the highest ranking, highly effective, 80 percent falling into either effective/proficient

or effective/emerging, and 10 percent being rated as ineffective.

Criticism of that plan ranged from

teachers to media, including this newspaper, and White later with

changes to the evaluation

process by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education revised

his predictions to say that 20 percent of all public school

teachers would earn the highly effective rating.

Teachers’ unions and reformists are now

shooting holes in White’s plan for principals to have more authority in

evaluating

teachers. Half of teachers evaluations will be based on the growth

of student achievement. The other half will be determined

by principals’ evaluation of teachers in the classroom.

Brigitte Nieland of the Louisiana

Association of Business and Industry said giving principals more power

over teacher evaluations

smacks of the old system where teacher tenure was nearly

automatic.

Joyce Haynes, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, wonders if inexperienced principals have the foundation

to properly judge teachers’ methods and styles.

‘‘What a shame it is that there are those out there that want to kill the system that don’t like accountability, and some

have more faith in bureaucrats to judge the teachers than the principals,’’ White said.

Some of this latest controversy rests with White, the state Department of Education and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who refused to

gather and value teacher input while crafting the education reform package last year.

It’s encouraging now that White is listening to both sides. And the fact that he’s getting criticism from all angles may be

a sign that he’s close to striking a workable balance.

• • •

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, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.