Public school principals would have new authority to override “ineffective” ratings given to teachers under a plan that neared final approval Monday by a key education panel.

The recommendation is one of several aimed at addressing complaints about annual teacher evaluations, especially those that are linked to the growth of students’ achievement.

Under current rules, about one third of teachers statewide are rated equally on how students fared on tests and how the teachers were seen by their principals. However, if a teacher fails either part, he or she gets an overall rating of ineffective, which can pave the way for dismissal.

Under the proposed change, teachers who fare poorly on how students did in the classroom could still avoid a rating of ineffective if the principal concludes that other factors offset the test score part of the review.

“The school leader should make the decision,” said Jessica Baghian, an assistant superintendent of education. “The school leader is the manager of the building.”

Baghian made her comments to the School Accountability Commission, which under legislation approved last year has been charged to come up with ways to improve the always controversial teacher job reviews.

The panel later endorsed the plan in general terms.

Final action is expected when the commission meets on Feb. 2.

Proposed changes are due to the Legislature 60 days before the 2015 session, which starts on April 13.

State Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe and sponsor of the 2010 law that revamped teacher job evaluations, said he is confident that giving principals a bigger voice in the process will be endorsed.

Under Louisiana’s previous system, teacher job reviews focused solely on classroom observations by principals, and the overwhelming majority of teachers were routinely rated as satisfactory.

The new system still uses those observations for half of the review. But it also links the job checks in part to student test scores for teachers of math and other subjects that focus on objective materials.

Other teachers’ evaluations are linked to whether they met goals — student learning targets — agreed to at the start of the school year by principals and teachers.

Another recommendation would expand a program that already operates in some districts, including Ascension, that is sort of a pay-for-performance plan. It allows teachers to earn extra money if they meet classroom goals agreed to with administrators.

One advantage, Baghian said, is that it permits frequent dialogue between teachers and administrators on job performance rather than relying only on high-stakes job evaluations.

Several commission members questioned how such an expanded system would be financed.

“What happens when the funds run out?” asked Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and a member of the commission.

Debbie Schum, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Principals, agreed.

“There is a cost, there is a significant cost,” said Schum, a former principal.

Baghian said Ascension, DeSoto and other school districts have run similar programs and could serve as models for others.

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