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Lawmakers delay teacher evaluation penalties

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Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The disciplinary effects of a new statewide teacher evaluation system would be delayed for a year to give schools time to work out kinks in the assessment method, under a proposal backed Wednesday by the House Education Committee.

The evaluation system was pushed three years ago by Gov. Bobby Jindal and backed by lawmakers, slated to start this year. It will grade many public school teachers partly on student test scores, tying at least half of the review to students' improvement on standardized tests.

Teachers with poor reviews under the evaluation method called Compass will get intensive assistance. If they don't improve, they will be fired.

Some school officials have raised concerns that the evaluation method is still a work-in-progress, with multiple changes that have made it difficult for teachers to know how they'll be graded and for principals to ensure they're following the correct standards.

"I started my school year facing my teachers with few answers to their questions ... I would strongly encourage you to rethink this process and try to help those of us on the front lines," said Robin Tucker, principal of Minden High School, urging the delay.

After several hours of testimony, committee members agreed without objection to a compromise that rewrote the bill by Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, a retired principal and teacher.

Under the rewritten measure, the new evaluation system will be used this year, but without penalties. They would take effect in the 2014-15 school year.

"We learn this year. We adjust it. The information is gathered and used to go forward," said Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, who proposed the rewrite.

Reynolds agreed to the change, which struck language that also would have required lawmakers to approve the evaluation model. The House Education Committee then advanced the bill to the full House for debate without objection.

Several people testified against any postponement in implementing the new evaluation method and its penalties.

Brigette Nieland, an education lobbyist for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, described any delay as more stalling by educators who simply dislike their evaluations being tied to student performance scores.

Rambo Schutz, a special education teacher at Pointe Coupee Central High School, said the delay would give ineffective teachers more time in the classroom.

"If we allow them one more year in the classroom, they're damaging our students," Schutz said.

The evaluations under the new method - called a "value-added assessment" system - will be done annually. They replace a system in which teachers got formal evaluations at least once every three years, but those weren't specifically tied to student test scores.



House Bill 160 can be found at 

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