BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Senators killed House-backed education bills that sought delays in the disciplinary effects of a new teacher evaluation system and the use of ACT scores in calculating high school performance grades.
The Senate Education Committee rejected both bills Thursday.
Critics, including Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, said they were concerned the measures could hinder educational progress.
Supporters of the proposals said delay would allow for additional training on the teacher evaluation system called COMPASS and give schools time to enhance curriculums to meet the ACT requirement.
Senators voted 4-3 against the teacher evaluation bill. The other measure was stalled in committee when no one on the panel made a motion to approve it.
Under COMPASS, public school teachers are evaluated based on student learning and observations by principals or their designee using the state's rubric. If rated ineffective for two consecutive years, the teacher could be terminated.
Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, sought to postpone using those evaluations as grounds for dismissal until the 2014-15 school year.
Reynolds said the delay would allow for additional training and understanding of the evaluation tool that some see as too subjective, with results depending on the person conducting the evaluation. For example in Caddo Parish, some national board certified teachers were rated as ineffective, he said.
"There may be some false readings," he said.
State Superintendent of Education John White, who had previously said he didn't oppose the delay, told senators that his department is offering additional COMPASS training this summer.
He didn't oppose the measure Thursday, but he told senators he was concerned about how passage of the bill would be taken after hearing several supporters talk about the shortcomings of COMPASS. He said the bill covered a narrow portion of the evaluation program, but that comments by supporters of the proposal turned the measure into a "referendum on Compass."
"I would be remiss if did not say that I have concerns about the tone and substance of what I heard in the proponents' testimony. (It) does not equal what this bill actually does," White said. "I worry that it would create an opportunity to say that 'Well, we're putting the brakes on this.'"
Unhappy with the outcome of the Senate vote, Reynolds tacked his proposal into another House bill that likely will end up before the Senate Education Committee for reconsideration of the issue.
Meanwhile, a measure by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, sought to keep the same accountability formula and accountability policies applied in the 2011-12 school year until the House and Senate education committees approve the changes sought by education officials.
The new accountability formula, which would include ACT test scores at the high school, will be applied to school and district performance scores that will be released later this year.
Supporters of Havard's bill said postponing the new standards would give systems time to implement curriculum changes. They said many students have not taken college preparatory classes and the change will negatively impact school performance scores.
"I'm not opposed to ACT test scores, and I'm not opposed to higher standards," Havard said. "I'm just asking that we slow down and get it right."
Opponents said the measure would hamper progress the state has made in student achievement and increased standards.
On other education proposals, the Senate committee approved a measure that would allow parents to petition the state-run Recovery School District to return a school back to local control if that school has earned a "D'' or "F'' for five consecutive years.
Under the bill by Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, schools could be returned to local school system control if parents of a majority of the students sign a petition making the request. The Senate committee added an amendment that requires that students must have been attending the school for at least two years in order for their parents to sign the petition.
The Recovery School District is run by the state Department of Education to manage chronically low-performing schools. It currently operates 80 schools around the state, including 68 in New Orleans and eight in Baton Rouge.