Monday, December 9, 2013

Linking Student Performance to Teacher Reviews

By Joey Lehrman | Email the Author | Follow on Twitter

Gov. Bobby Jindal's attempt to reform and transform Louisiana's public schools encountered an obstacle this week when his proposal to connect student performance to how teachers are evaluated was sidelined for two years. The provision, which was initially approved by the legislature in 2010, will be revisited during the 2015-16 school year, after Jindal leaves office at the conclusion of his second term as governor.

The apparent driving force behind the delay in implementation is the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which will take place during the 2014-15 school year. Many educators are anticipating a rough transition as teachers and students learn about and implement the more rigorous standards. The moratorium on linking teacher reviews to student performance seems to be reflective of a popular sentiment that schools will need time to adjust to the new Common Core standards.
Asked for comment, the governor issued a prepared statement that said the moratorium will give the state time amid rising academic expectations to gather data and make future reviews linked to student achievement work. 'It is also fair to teachers who are being evaluated during the transition,' the statement says... State Superintendent of Education John White, the author of the plan and Jindal’s chief public schools lieutenant, said the moratorium is needed to give teachers and students time to adjust to Common Core standards in math, reading and writing.

The now delayed provision has been one of the most controversial among the reforms pushed by the governor. Education has been one of the focal points of the Jindal Administration, citing Louisiana "long-suffering student achievement in public schools" as on one of the most important issues for the future of Louisiana. 

Under the proposed review system, half of a teacher's evaluation would be based on the growth in their student achievement. The remaining half would be based on the traditional system of classroom observations by principals and others. This new rating system has already been implemented by some schools throughout the state, with approximately 1 in 3 Louisiana educators receiving the top rating. What's most intriguing is that 4% of the teachers were rated as 'ineffective,' which means they could be put on a path towards dismissal if they continue to receive similar ratings in subsequent years.
Critics of linking teacher evaluations to the growth of student achievement have praised the pause and said teachers should not be linked to yearly gains on student test scores.
'It was not ready for prime time,' said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which opposes the Jindal-backed job reviews.
While most of Jindal's education reforms remain in effect, the teacher evaluation system remains both controversial and potentially the most important feature of the new systems. As a former teacher with decades of experience in the public school system, I witnessed far too many instructors that weren't striving to be the best teacher they could be on a day-to-day basis. Apathy and complacency are far too common in classrooms around the state.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has made education reforms the cornerstone of his tenure as governor of Louisiana.

So although linking teacher evaluations to student performance has its limitations (due to the limitations of standardized tests, for example), I think it is necessary to dialogue about what makes a good teacher, and then implement the systems necessary to hold our teachers accountable.

What do you think?
Joey Lehrman is a retired teacher with over 40 years of experience in the New Orleans public school system. Since retiring, he has transitioned to sharing his experience and perspective and all things New Orleans through a variety of blogs, news-sites, and social networks.

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