Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will consider improvements to the statewide educator improvement system, Compass, at its March meeting, including endorsements and recommendations from the Act 240 subcommittee, made up of Louisiana educators. The improvements are aimed at empowering principals to help teachers improve their practice in the classroom.

Based on feedback from educators across the state, the recommendations hold principals accountable for school improvement while allowing them to use multiple sources of information, rather than one test score alone, in determining a teacher's evaluation. The recommendations, which would go into effect in the 2015-2016 school year, also increase professional support for principals.

In addition to the recommendations from the subcommittee, the Department of Education has established a number of "safeguards" to ensure that empowered principals maintain high expectations in evaluating educators.

"Great schools are led by great principals. To ensure success for our students and educators, we should trust our principals to lead and hold them accountable for their leadership," said State Superintendent John White. "These recommendations are about instructional improvements for teachers and greater academic success for our students."

"I'm grateful for the subcommittee's hard work, careful consideration, and ability to create a consensus proposal for BESE to consider," said Subcommittee Chairman Brett Duncan. "We received hundreds of emails, phone calls, and correspondences from educators across the state, and we used their input in crafting these recommendations."

The recommendations:

    Empower principals to use multiple sources of information rather than one test score by removing the "override" provision that uses only value-added data in the evaluation.   

    Provide teachers time to learn new academic expectations and ensure accurate measurement of student learning by creating a two-year "baseline" period for new tests. During this period, the state will not require value-added data to be used in evaluations.

    Allow principals to focus on guiding teachers rather than complying with bureaucratic dictates by increasing flexibility on classroom observation frequency. Principals should observe teachers as many times as needed, for as long as needed, to assess a teacher's strengths and weaknesses.

    Hold principals accountable for school improvement by requiring two learning targets based on growth in school performance score for every principal.  

    Support principals through expansion of the successful Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) model and through a statewide principal fellowship.

    Put in place "safeguards" to ensure principals use their empowerment responsibly. Superintendents overseeing principals whose schools decline in performance for multiple years must use state-established performance targets for such principals.

Following BESE approval of the subcommittee's and Department's recommendations, the improvements to the Compass educator evaluation system will go into effect for the 2015-2016 school year.