03/12/12: LDOE RELEASES WHITE PAPER ON PROPOSALS TO CHANGE PERSONNEL POLICIES AND PRACTICES FOR EDUCATORS

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Louisiana Department of Education
Post Office Box 94064 | Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9064 | 1-877-453-2721 | Fax: (225) 342-0193

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: 03/12/2012
Contact: Rene’ Greer, (225) 342-3600, Fax: (225) 342-0193

DEPARTMENT RELEASES WHITE PAPER ON PROPOSALS TO CHANGE
PERSONNEL POLICIES AND PRACTICES FOR EDUCATORS

Empowering Teachers and Leaders:  A Focus on Effectiveness
A White Paper by the Louisiana Department of Education

BATON ROUGE, La. – Governor Jindal has proposed legislation related to the professional development of educators across Louisiana. This white paper describes the projected impact of these proposed changes on educators, students, and schools, showing how the proposed legislation, combined with the already-enacted Act 54, will form a system of laws that allows local leaders to make decisions that are in the best interest of children.

Current Structure
Teachers statewide are currently evaluated once every three years. The evaluation rating includes consideration of a teacher’s behavior but not considerations of whether students learned. Last school year, 98.3 percent of teachers evaluated were deemed “satisfactory.”  In the same year, more than 235,000 students were below grade level.

During the 2010 Legislative Session, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 54, which mandates the creation of an educator evaluation system based on both measures of student growth and observation of teacher practice. Under this system, which will launch fully this fall, teachers are rated on a range of effectiveness, from Highly Effective to Ineffective. The legislation also requires that teacher certification be tied to evidence of performance or “effectiveness” in raising student achievement.

While Act 54 differentiates teacher performance based on practice observations and student growth, it does not change the antiquated school district practice of making personnel decisions based on factors other than effectiveness in the classroom.

As examples, under current law:

Compensation: Educators are compensated based on pay scales that emphasize measures such as advanced degrees, rather than classroom effectiveness or academic subject-area preparation and the state’s antiquated salary scale structure that gives them no leeway with base pay. Schools struggle to retain highly effective teachers and to recruit teachers for high-need subject areas, such as math and science.

  • Hiring, placement, and dismissal proceedings: Superintendents and principals are often not at liberty to hire the educators they believe are best suited to serve the children in their buildings. Instead, personnel decisions are often tied up in school board decision-making, rather than being left to school and district leaders who supervise and support teachers.
  • Reductions in Force: When layoffs occur, school boards frequently dismiss teachers using a “last in, first out” strategy, rather than dismissing staff based on performance. This generally necessitates the unnecessary dismissal of highly effective teachers and often the dismissal of higher numbers of teachers than if performance-based RIFs were implemented.
  • Tenure: Teachers with three years of experience are automatically awarded lifetime employment irrespective of student achievement and overall evaluation results. By comparison, in higher education, tenure is an honor bestowed only to the most esteemed faculty. No evidence exists that tenure leads to student achievement, but tenure can make it difficult to remove low-performing teachers from the classroom.

Proposed Changes
If current legislative proposals are approved, Louisiana will have a system of laws that empowers local education leaders to make personnel decisions based on the best interests of children. Below is the continuum of decisions local managers make regarding teachers and principals, along with descriptions of how they are approved.

Hiring and Placement of Principals and Teachers
Superintendents and principals would make all hiring and placement decisions without potential board interference under the new legislation. When considering the hiring of principals and teachers, managers would use objective evaluation information from previous evaluations to determine the best candidate.

Evaluation of Principals and Teachers
Educators are now evaluated annually, as mandated by Act 54. Educators are provided with clear expectations, concrete feedback, and individualized supports to address identified weaknesses. Evaluations are now at least 50% objective, compared to the past when they were 100% subjective.

Retention of Principals and Teachers
Under the proposed legislation, superintendents would be empowered to change compensation scales – using dollars traditionally awarded for advanced degrees and years of service – to instead fund increases for excellent performance or academic preparation in hard-to-staff subject areas, like math or science. No teacher’s current salary would be decreased under this legislation, and raises would still be given for years of experience. However, ineffective teachers would not be given raises.

Improvement, Tenure, and Dismissal of Principals and Teachers
Teachers rated Ineffective would lose their tenure status under the new legislation, but all other current tenured teachers would retain tenure. Under current law, Ineffective teachers can grieve their rating under the Act 54 grievance procedure and their tenure would be reinstated if their Ineffective rating is overturned. For new teachers, or for veterans who have lost tenure status, tenure is reserved for those educators receiving five consecutive Highly Effective ratings.

Under Act 54, a teacher rated Ineffective is placed on an improvement plan and given supports in order to get better. A second consecutive rating of Ineffective would allow a district to dismiss the teacher. If the teacher is not dismissed but receives a third Ineffective rating within a certification period, the state will not renew the teacher’s certificate to teach in Louisiana.

Reductions in Force
Superintendents must protect and retain their most effective educators under the new legislation, even during a layoff situation. No longer may seniority be a factor in layoffs; effectiveness must be the primary consideration in any reduction of force.

View / Print LDOE White Paper on PROPOSALS TO CHANGE PERSONNEL POLICIES AND PRACTICES FOR EDUCATORS

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