Friday, May 28, 2010

LFT left an impression on evaluation bill

The value of engagement over confrontation was proven this week when Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the controversial new teacher evaluation bill into law as Act 54 of the 2010 legislature.

Even though the LFT never endorsed the bill, the union was deeply involved in making a bad piece of legislation better than it would have been.

There was never any question that the bill would pass. It sailed through the House Education Committee without opposition, was overwhelmingly adopted by the House, was only opposed by one member of the Senate Education Committee, and was signed by the governor just half a day after adoption by the Senate.

With that kind of muscle behind it, the law could have been passed without any input from teachers. But because LFT President Steve Monaghan was willing to engage, and author Rep. Frank Hoffmann was willing to listen, the bill wound up substantially improved.

Because the Federation worked with Rep. Hoffmann, the bill ensures that teachers will have a process to challenge evaluations they believe are inaccurate. The evaluation will account for factors beyond a teacher's control, including the socio-economic status of the students. There will be an advisory committee, which includes a majority of teacher members, to oversee development of the evaluation instrument.

Most important, there will be a two-year phase in of the new system. If the advisory committee reports that it is not working as it should, the education committees of the House and Senate will be able to halt the program.

The very best news coverage of the bill's passage was by Times-Picayune reporter Bill Barrow, who wrote:

The end product is the result of considerable negotiations among the Jindal administration,
(Rep. Frank) Hoffmann, (Sen. Ben) Nevers and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. LFT President Steve Monaghan never
withdrew his opposition of the bill, saying "value-added" methodology is still
too new to codify. But he helped craft a final version with considerably more
protections for teachers than the initial proposal.

The state's other teachers union, the Louisiana Association of
Educators, argued vehemently throughout the process against the bill and was not
an active participant in any alterations.

Barrow's full report is here.

The State Department of Education also acknowledged LFT's participation in this press release.

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