Monday, May 24, 2010

Value-added evaluation bill progresses

As a new form of teacher evaluation took another step toward becoming law on Thursday, it was clear that the Louisiana Federation of Teachers has played a major role in shaping the bill, even while remaining opposed to its adoption.

HB 1033 by Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe) would make a new, relatively untested science called the "value added model" an integral part of teacher evaluations in Louisiana. The VAM would add a component to teacher evaluations that measures the progress made by students. While LFT believes there is merit to the concept, the Federation is concerned that writing it into law is premature. The union would prefer to see the VAM field-tested before becoming policy.

But it is obvious that the bill has strong support in the legislature and in the governor's office. After passing by a 68-26 margin in the House of Representatives, the Senate Education Committee approved it with just one member, Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton Rouge) opposed. Its passage is almost universally regarded as assured.

Faced with that certainty, the Federation chose to engage with Rep. Hoffman in hopes of making it a better bill. In that, the union succeeded.

Because the Federation worked with Rep. Hoffman, 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.

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