Report: Louisiana part of trend on teacher reviews

Louisiana is part of a national wave of states that has overhauled the way public school teachers are evaluated, according to a report issued Wednesday.

“Since 2009 the vast majority of states have made significant changes to how teachers are evaluated for the main purpose of improving instruction,” according to a study by the National School Boards Association Center for Public Education.

In addition, most of the overhauls, like those in Louisiana, link at least part of the annual reviews to the growth of student achievement, wrote Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for the group, in his 38-page report.

However, Hull said while the new systems are superior to the previous evaluations it is too early to say what the effect will be.

“This is a huge sea change in education policy,” he told reporters. “No one really knows the impact.”

Louisiana made sweeping changes in teacher evaluations in 2010 and 2012.

Nearly one in three public school teachers got the top rating in 2012-13, the first year of the state’s new job reviews, while 4 percent were labeled as ineffective.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who pushed for many of the changes, and other backers say that more rigorous job checks will improve teacher and student performance.

The new evaluations remain controversial, and teacher union leaders contend they are flawed and unfairly link teacher job security to standardized tests.

The Center for Public Education says it provides research, data and analysis on education issues and is an initiative of the National School Boards Association, which represents more than 90,000 board members nationwide.

The new evaluations replaced the former reliance in Louisiana and elsewhere on classroom observations by principals to judge teacher performance, which the review called inadequate.

“They identified nearly all teachers simply as satisfactory or not, without offering any useful feedback or direction to teachers on how they can improve,” Hull wrote.

Now 41 states rely on multiple measures to rate teachers and 38, including Louisiana, require local school districts to evaluate teachers in part on how they impact student achievement.

Linking reviews to quality student achievement measures is better than traditional methods and is “strongly correlated to other signs of a teacher’s future effectiveness,” according to the study.

It also says the snapshot does not tell the whole story of what a student knows, which makes multiple measures important.

In Louisiana up to half of the teacher’s review is supposed to be linked to the growth of student achievement and half is based on classroom observations.

In another area, the report said buy-in from a wide range of teachers and other educators is essential when new evaluation systems are being crafted.

Teacher union leaders and other opponents of the overhaul complained that they were largely shut out when a Jindal-backed education overhaul was pushed through the Legislature in 2012.

Louisiana is one of 13 states that relies on comparing student achievement from the previous year to the current year to help determine teacher effectiveness.