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Louisiana’s Compass Provides the Direction Teachers Need to Move Forward

• ExcelinEd

By Chiefs for Change

Today, the Louisiana Department of Education released a report detailing the results of the first year of Louisiana’s statewide educator evaluation system, known as Compass. The basic formula for Compass, which was first piloted in 10 school districts during the 2011-2012 school year, requires that half the rating be based on student learning outcomes and the other half be based on classroom observations by principals and administrators.

Before Compass, nearly 99 percent of Louisiana teachers were given a one-size-fits-all rating of “satisfactory.” Yet, on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 63 percent and 66 percent of Louisiana eighth graders scored at or above the basic level in math and reading respectively. Scholars agree that teacher effectiveness is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. So, if 99 percent of teachers in Louisiana were considered effective, why did more than one-third of eighth graders in the state score below basic in math? The logical answer: the evaluation system was not accurately measuring teacher effectiveness.

Louisiana’s education leaders took notice of this disparity and took action. With the passage of Act 54 during the state’s 2010 Regular Legislative Session, state leaders changed a system that was not accurately identifying effective educators.

The Louisiana Department of Education’s report shows exactly why including student learning outcomes in teacher evaluations is so important. Of the 10 Louisiana parishes with the highest percentage of teachers rated in the top two performance categories of state’s new rating system, seven were also in the top quartile in student progress and/or student proficiency. Conversely, of the 10 parishes with the highest percentage of teachers rated in the bottom two categories, nine were in the bottom quartile in student progress and/or proficiency. This relationship of student outcomes and educator performance evaluations makes more sense than the stats where 99 percent of the teachers are “satisfactory.”

Data rich evaluations will enable educators to make informed decisions about refining their instructional practices. Educators will have access to more support and professional development opportunities that specifically meet their needs. As more and more educators increase their effectiveness and build confidence that their teaching techniques can impact learning for all students, Louisiana will see more and more students become proficient and make at least a year’s progress in a year’s time.

Chiefs for Change members stand for policies that put students first. Our principles include a strong commitment to recruiting, rewarding and retaining excellent teachers and leaders. Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White is following through on his commitment to advance this principle in his state.

Perhaps things are best summed up in a quote from Superintendent White, “The increase in feedback Louisiana educators received this year will pay great dividends for our students. The alignment between student progress results and the evaluation results shows the rigor with which many school and district leaders approached this process. We have changes to make, but for the first year, we should be very proud.”

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