BATON ROUGE – An effort to change the formula by which some Louisiana teachers are evaluated fell flat in a Senate committee room Thursday.
Senate Bill 32 by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, proposed changing from 50 percent to 25 percent the weight of the Value-added Assessment Model that is used among factors in evaluating about 30 percent of Louisiana teachers. The legislation would have put greater weight on other evaluation factors, including principals’ classroom observations.
Teachers affected by value-added assessments include English and math teachers in grades third through eighth and teachers in the six “end-of-course” subjects in high school.
Several representatives from St. Martin Parish schools — including superintendent and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Lottie Beebe — argued in favor of the bill, but were countered by committee members, some of whom were involved in creating the conditions for the new evaluation methods.
Anthony Polotzola, who heads human resources efforts for the St. Martin system, said college students are shying away from teaching careers in general and teaching jobs in specific that involve VAM standards.
VAM assessments measure teacher success by how much progress their students make, based on computer models, those educators said. But in some cases, as many as 75 percent of the students in a class may rate mastery of their subject, but the teachers may be rated “ineffective” if students don’t meet the full progress projected by the computer model.
St. Martin Parish administrator Allen Blanchard said the formula is “incredibly difficult to understand,” so much so that the system has lost many teachers.
“We have a high (teacher) attrition rate in this state,” Beebe said. “There are fairer, more reliable ways to evaluate teachers.”
Value-added assessments have been put on hold until 2017, witnesses said, but Beebe said teachers are already leaving the system. Other teachers are shying away from teaching positions that involved VAM assessments, opting instead to teach subjects in which student learning targets are used as part of the evaluation process. Those are considered more manageable, the witnesses said.
Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said the legislation might be premature because evaluation methods more recently put into effect by BESE have not had an opportunity to be used.
State Superintendent John White said changes effected through a legislative panel and BESE had given principals more leeway in evaluating teachers, enough to move them up if they believed the evaluation had been unfair.
“You’ve got to give the process you set in motion last year time to work,” he said. “We came to a good place. Let the system work.”
Mills said the bill had been developed by educators “in the trenches” — teachers and principals, superintendents and HR directors. He said the message was clear that professional educators believed 25 percent was the right weight for VAM evaluations.
His colleagues disagreed, and deferred the bill.