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Modest Changes in La. Teacher Evaluation Proposed

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Citing their overall confidence in Louisiana's controversial teacher-evaluation program, Gov. Buddy Roemer and Superintendent of Education Wilmer S. Cody have proposed modest changes in the system.

The Governor indicated, however, that he was willing to consider further changes in the newly implemented evaluation program, which could jeopardize teachers' employment if they fail. "We are looking at other ways to make the evaluation process more fair," he said in releasing the proposal this month.

The state's two major teachers' unions say the proposals do not go far enough to correct what they claim are a flawed instrument and procedures.

"All of them are certainly im4provements in the program," said Fred Skelton, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. "However, they don't solve the basic problems teachers have."

As part of a 1988 legislative package, teachers received $485 million in salary hikes in return for establishment of the evaluations.

Changes sought by the Roemer administration include exemptions for first-year teachers from the process; use of similarly certified assessors to evaluate teachers; improvements in teacher orientation to the evaluation; cuts in required lesson-plan production; and immediate feedback for teachers being evaluated.

The Governor and Mr. Cody also called for nullifying this year's re8sults and convening a panel of teachers to analyze the instrument.

The recommendations require the approval of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"I believe the process is valid; it's fair. It accomplishes what it's meant to," Mr. Cody had said before releasing the proposals. He also acknowledged that there have been some start-up problems with the program.

For instance, according to Mr. Skelton, the teacher of a French-immersion class passed even though none of the assessors spoke French.

Previously, evaluations were conducted locally, and only 1.4 percent of teachers failed, Mr. Cody said.

The new system employs the principal, a state assessor, and a master teacher from another school. Of the 1,600 teachers who were evaluated this year, 11 percent failed, 66 percent passed, and 23 percent achieved superior ratings.

The unions fault the administration's proposals for failing to change the basic instrument, which requires teachers to address 91 items in as little as 30 minutes. They also contend that scoring is too stringent and the grievance process is unjust.

The Louisiana Association of Educators has designed an evaluation program that entails local development of an instrument.

The l.f.t., however, believes that statewide standards should prevail, with local systems having the flexibility to add standards.--kd

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