The Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana on Wednesday announced its endorsement of House Bill 1033, a controversial proposal to tie teacher evaluations to student performance. A+PEL’s endorsement breaks rank with the powerful Louisiana Association of Educators, an affiliate of the National Education Association and one of the state’s largest teacher union.

“For more than 30 years, 98 percent of all Louisiana teachers receive ‘satisfactory’ ratings under the current teacher evaluation system, even in schools where students consistently fail to meet basic academic standards,” the A+PEL endorsement reads in part. “As educators, we cannot sit idly by while over 200,000 school children —  one-third of all Louisiana school children — are performing below grade-level. HB 1033 addresses this disconnect and establishes a more quantitative and less subjective evaluation system for all educators.”

The A+PEL endorsements follows an open letter issued last week by LAE calling on House members to reject HB 1033, saying the legislation would “undermine efforts to recruit and retain the best teachers in Louisiana, especially in our high-needs schools.” The LAE letter goes on the characterize the bill’s mechanism for teacher evaluation as “a complex, vague and unproven system would put teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs — and even their teaching licenses — without taking into account the many factors affecting student performance that are beyond the control of even the best instructors.”

A+PEL, which says it is not a teacher union, says the aim of the bill is good and its evaluation methodology is legitimate: “Using a complex statistical analysis of test scores, it tracks individual student improvement year to year and uses that progress to estimate the effectiveness of individual teachers, principals, and schools.  This model of teacher assessment is growing nationwide, and research has shown that H.B. 1033 is on track with what other states are already doing.  Further, the value-added model has been successfully used in 75 schools in Louisiana for the past three years.”

The bill — and the methodology behind the teacher evaluation process — received qualified support in April from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which characterized the value-added model as “a promising but untested science.” In consultation with LFT President Steve Monaghan, the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe, agreed to amendments including a guarantee of teacher confidentiality, a process to challenge unfavorable evaluations and a requirement that charter schools also be subject to the law.

The bill is scheduled to be heard Thursday by the Senate Education Committee. Read HB 1033 here.

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