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Senate Moving To Revamp La.'s Teacher-Evaluation System

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Louisiana's contentious teacher-evaluation program would be suspended and revamped under the provisions of numerous bills currently under active consideration by the legislature.

On the table last week were a spate of bills, already approved by the Senate Education Committee, that collectively would require wholesale changes in the way the evaluation program operates.

"There's been an overwhelming response from some of the teachers that [the program] is not working," an aide to the committee said.

The legislature adopted the evaluation program in 1988 as part of the Children First Act, a set of education reforms pushed by Gov. Buddy Roemer. Under an agreement be4tween the state and the two major teachers' unions, teachers received salary increases totaling $485 million in exchange for the implementation of evaluations.

But the evaluations, which were put into place for the first time this year, have drawn strong criticism from the unions as unfair and flawed.

In response, Mr. Roemer and Superintendent of Education Wilmer S. Cody in March announced that they would throw out this year's evaluation results and recommend that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education make changes in the program. The two officials called for eliminating evaluations for first-year teachers, using similarly certified assessors to evaluate teachers, and improving teacher orientation to the evaluation process. (See Education Week, March 20, 1991.)

The Governor's proposals may be rendered moot, however, by the bills before the legislature, all of which are thought to have a good chance of passing.

Suspension Already Approved

The separate measures under consideration last week would:

Eliminate the categories of teaching certification under the evaluation program and the renewel10lal of teaching certificates based on the results of the evaluations.

Call for unspecified revisions in the program.

Create a pilot program for teacher evaluations conducted at the local level.

Require the development of a special method for evaluating teachers who determine whether students should be placed in special-education classes, and the use of such an instrument first in a pilot program.

Require bese to contract with outside consultants, such as the Southern Regional Education Board, that are experienced in developing and implementing teacher-evaluation programs before revising the program in Louisiana.

The latter two bills have already passed the full Senate by unanimous votes and are awaiting consider4ation in the House. The other bills were introduced last Wednesday, but were not immediately put to a vote.

In addition, a resolution suspending the evaluation program for a year passed the Senate last week by a vote of 31 to 5 and has been referred to the House Education Committee.

On the House side, comparable bills have been introduced, according to an aide to the House Education Committee, but members are letting the Senate take the lead on the issue. The House panel will schedule hearings on the bills soon, the aide said.

Mr. Roemer still is "very committed to the program staying on track," said his education adviser, Claudia Fowler. "He does not want the program diluted to the point where it's ineffective."

Ms. Fowler said that Mr. Cody already has enlisted five consultants to help revise the program, and that additional consultants are not needed.

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