Superintendent of Education John White. (Donna Price / American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, October 20, 2012 2:59 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — An increasing number of educators say Louisiana's evaluation system makes it more likely teachers at high-achieving public schools will get poor reviews, threatening their job security.
"You are looking at trouble," Norma Church, principal of top-rated Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School in Baton Rouge, told The Advocate.
Superintendent of Education John White said the concerns are mostly misplaced, and teachers at the best schools are better positioned to get good reviews.
The issue surfaced earlier this month when a state lawmaker said South Highlands Elementary, Louisiana's highest-rated elementary school, was seeing teachers rated as "ineffective" even though students had some of the state's best test scores.
The problem is that when high-scoring students fall off a bit from the previous year's performance teachers can be rated as ineffective.
Under the review system, teachers rated as ineffective for two consecutive years can be fired.
White says South Highlands is an isolated case.
However, teachers and administrators at Westdale, the LSU Laboratory School and two others in Shreveport said they are encountering similar problems.
The change, which stems from a 2010 law, is supposed to improve student achievement through more rigorous teacher reviews.
Critics call the system unreliable.
Half of a teacher's evaluation starting this school year is linked to growth of student achievement.
Students who show gains based on state models generally will result in satisfactory ratings for teachers.
But Church said it's hard for teachers at high-performing schools to produce continual growth, especially when students have scored well in previous years.
Wade Smith, director of the LSU Lab School, said educators there started looking at test scores and evaluations after they heard about concerns at South Highlands.
"We are seeing that trend as well," Smith said.
Based on pilot projects, he said, three teachers out of 10 or 12 included were rated as ineffective.
Erin Darwin Pizarro, who taught at highly ranked Caddo Middle Magnet School in Shreveport last school year, said that while almost all of her gifted students scored in the highest levels on their sixth-grade iLEAP exam, one dropped a notch and some fell slightly.
The result, Pizarro said, was that she received a 40 percent rating on a 100 percent scale.
She said that while she loves teaching, evaluation worries have "made me consider quitting forever because of an assessment which could eventually label me ineffective and cost me my job."