Recalibrating Teacher Evaluations Tops New Union President's To-Do List

Aug 1, 2013

Many teachers are frustrated with the new evaluation system, Compass, which was introduced in public schools across the state this year.

LAE President Debbie Meaux (right) standing with her predecessor Joyce Haynes at a rally.
Credit Louisiana Association of Educators

"What we want is a more common-sense approach to this evaluation problem," said Debbie Meaux, new president of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), who assumed the role July 15.

She's calling for the state to slow the timeline for the implementation of Compass.

The ratings under the evaluation system are based on observations of teachers' work in the classroom and their students' test scores. Starting next year, teachers who don't do well can lose tenure and ultimately be fired.

On an online message board, some teachers, saying they had more than a decade of experience in the classroom, expressed disappointment at being rated "emerging", meaning they'd scored a 2 on the 4-point scale.

Debbie Meaux took over as LAE president July 15 after finishing her 38th year of teaching in Vermillion Parish. She says many teachers are surprised at their ratings because of confusion over the evaluation system during its pilot year.

Meaux said the law outlining Compass describes a rating formula that gives classroom observations and student test scores equal weight, but that isn't how it's been applied.

"The law said that it was supposed to be 50/50, which would mean that you would do an average of the two, but the state department has decided that if one or the other is a 1, then that teacher becomes a 1," Meaux said.

And while some parish districts did provide extensive in-service training, Meaux said many teachers were left in the dark about how they needed to adjust their teaching style to meet the new expectations of the evaluation system.

"The teaching styles of some of our teachers probably was more a 'present', a 'sit-and-get'. And this requires teachers to involve students more and there has to be more of a student voice in the classroom, ... which is not bad, but I don't think that our teachers were prepared for the switch."

Meaux said the state Dept. of Education should make sure districts are providing teachers with the proper training and give the colleges and universities preparing teachers entering the field the time to update their curriculums to correspond with Compass.

How much time will that take?

"I'm thinking that it would take probably, for existing teachers, three to five years," Meaux said.