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State Cannot Decertify Teachers Who Fail Evaluation, La.

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Judge Rules Louisiana cannot revoke a teacher's certification because he or she failed a state-prescribed evaluation, a state district judge has ruled in a decision that also safeguards lifetime certification.
District Judge Bob Downing said this month that he had followed a 1983 state supreme court decision equating decertification with firing, which falls under the exclusive domain of local school districts.

The decision brought a sharply critical response from an aide to Gov. Buddy Roemer, who had pushed for creation of the evaluation.

"If this ruling stands, it will be one of the worst things to happen to pro4gress in elementary and secondary education in Louisiana this century," said John Kennedy, a lawyer for Governor Roemer.

The court's decision will be appealed, Mr. Kennedy said, adding that the state will continue to conduct the evaluations.

In 1988, as part of an education-reform package, the legislature authorized $485 million for raising teachers' salaries. In return, the state initiated the evaluations.

Under the program, teachers have three chances to pass the evaluation, and two years of remediation before their certification is revoked.

The state also abolished lifetime certification and began requiring li8cense renewal every five years.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators filed several suits against the state last fall, shortly before the evaluations were scheduled to begin. The unions claimed the evaluation was faulty and that certification, once granted, was an inviolable property right. (See Education Week, Sept. 12, 1990.)

The unions say they are not opposed to evaluations in principle. "We are hopeful they will scrap this entire program ... and come up with something good," said Les Landon, public-relations director for the l.f.t.

Deborah M. Walsh, associate director of educational issues for the American Federation of Teachers, characterized the evaluation as a formulaic instrument that rewards the didactic teaching mode.

For example, Ms. Walsh noted, the evaluation provides that teachers be given credit for offering students categorized and organized lists of information, rather than asking the students to do so for themselves.

The instrument "attempts to force-feed every research finding ... into a lock-step rating scale," she argued.

While conceding that the evaluation is not perfect, Mr. Kennedy maintained that the unions are not interested in its improvement.

"They are interested in killing it," he said.--kd

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