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Live blog: BESE committee approves changes in teacher evaluations

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held its monthly round of committee meetings Tuesday in Baton Rouge. I live-blogged the events here.

Among the issues that were discussed:

The board considered State Superintendent John White’s revisions to teacher evaluation policies. State policies mandate that half of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student test scores, and the other half is based on a principal’s classroom observations.

White’s proposal, which was conditionally approved by the board, allows teachers to get individualized feedback from principals who conduct observations. It also gives principals more say in the evaluations of teachers who take leave for extenuating circumstances, such as maternity leave.

The board also approved the bulk of White’s 151 revisions to the state’s school administrators handbook. Some of those changes, including the removal of staffing ratio requirements for counselors, caused controversy after critics said that cash-strapped schools could use the new rules to nix needed counselors and physical education teachers.

In the end, state education board members voted to change the wording in White’s recommendations to make the ratios a requirement, but they added a caveat for schools that don’t meet those ratios. Those schools would have to report to the state education department how they would otherwise meet students’ counseling needs.

District 4 member Walter Lee pointed out that the change, proposed by District 5 member Jay Guillot, seemed to leave room for schools to get rid of counselors. Lee made a motion to defer the changes, but his motion failed.

The debate on counselor ratios sparked many comments from the audience. (See the live blog below for details.)

The board approved the framework for White’s performance evaluation. Members were scheduled to discuss his performance in an executive session, but as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, that session had yet to convene.

The board will hold its general meeting Wednesday and ratify the committee’s decisions.

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