Changes in Louisiana's Teacher-Evaluation Program Are Proposed

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An independent review panel has recommended changes in Louisiana's controversial teacher-evaluation program that include the return of a large measure of the process to local jurisdictions.

The three-member team, which presented its report to the state board of elementary and secondary education late last month, also suggested that statewide implementation of a revised evaluation program be postponed until the 1993-94 school year. The new system would be tested on a pilot basis next year, under the panel's proposals. Both sides in the state's bitter battle over teacher evaluation found something to be pleased with in the panel's report.

"Their recommendations reaffirm the central integrity of the criteria and process that was used last year, but [the panel] also makes a number of recommendations for significant improvement," said Superintendent of Education Wilmer S. Cody.

Most important, said Mr. Cody, was the recommendation to retain for the state the authority to conduct performance evaluations for initial certification, while vesting the control for recertification with local districts. Operating under uniform state guidelines, the districts would be required to conduct performance evaluations every five years.

Mr. Cody also emphasized the team's suggestion that the program include criteria that would differentiate between satisfactory and outstanding performance.

Fred Skelton, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, called the report a "mixed bag."

Mr. Skelton praised the concept of returning evaluation to local control, as well as the report's proposal for making distinctions among teachers of some disciplines. He expressed disappointment, however, that the report continued to link evaluation to certification.

"On balance, it is more positive than negative," he said, adding that the legislature could revise some proposals before they are formalized.

Existing Instrument Criticized

The teacher-evaluation system, which was scheduled to take effect last school year, had been authorized by the legislature in 1988 as part of a package of teacher-pay raises.

Before the action, teachers had been certified for life. Moreover, few teachers were fired as a result of a loose local evaluation process.

The evaluation system developed by the state established 91 indicators for teachers to demonstrate. The state's teachers' unions were strongly critical, arguing that the instrument was anachronistic and the process was unreasonable.

Under pressure from the unions, the legislature this year voted to suspend the evaluation system.

Lawmakers called for an outside panel of experts to make recommendations on a new program.

Barbara A. Dunbar, assistant state superintendent for the office of research and development, said the panel did not address reducing the number of indicators, but did suggest differentiating between those to be used for certification and those for professional development.

The report now goes to an advisory panel and then to the state board for consideration. At that point, the board sends recommendations to the legislature, which in turn will send them back to the state board.

Vol. 11, Issue 06, Page 24

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