Principals would have new latitude to evaluate public school teachers under a plan that will be considered Tuesday by a special panel grappling with the thorny topic.

Under current rules, half of the annual job checks are based on the growth of student achievement — which is highly controversial — and half on observations by principals.

Under the proposed change, principals would have expanded authority on whether teachers met expectations in student academic growth, and not just rely on whether students achieve scores on key tests at a level that experts say they should.

“This is certainly not a walking away from accountability,” state Superintendent of Education John White said. “What it is doing is putting accountability where it should be, which is with the leaders.

“We have to let them do their job,” he said. “That is why we are empowering them and not a computer.”

The change is one of four recommendations that will be considered by a panel of educators, lawmakers and others that was set up by 2014 legislation. The panel, which has been meeting for months, is studying whether and how Louisiana’s teacher evaluations should be changed.

The final meeting is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Under a 2010 law, about 30 percent of teachers are subject to annual reviews in which half of the results are linked to the growth of student achievement mostly through standardized tests — referred to as a Value Added Model by insiders.

Teachers union leaders and other critics contend the job checks are unfair.

Some contend that student test scores should make up much less than 50 percent of the evaluations, perhaps 20 percent or 30 percent.

The changes White outlined are what officials of the state Department of Education, who led the discussions, said they gleaned from the meetings.

Whether they will be endorsed by the 26-member subcommittee is unclear.

“It definitely falls short,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.

“We are recommending that 50 percent of evaluations still be about student growth,” White said. “But within that 50 percent, the value added would be one measure.”

Other tests, projects and papers could also be part of the calculations, he said.

“All of those things are valid measurements and should be taken into account,” White said.

“We cannot have a computer in Baton Rouge making a choice on behalf of the principal,” he said. “If you don’t trust the principal enough to let him or her evaluate the teachers, then you have a much bigger problem than an evaluation system.”

White said the changes could be tackled by Louisiana’s top school board at its March 5-6 meeting rather than requiring a legislative debate.

Another recommendation would end the rule that, if a teacher is rated as ineffective in either the growth of student achievement or principal observations, her overall rating is ineffective.

Principals would have the final say.

Other changes to be considered would:

  • Link principal evaluations to annual school performance score gains and one learning target, such as ACT improvements.
  • Launch an effort by the state Department of Education and the Louisiana Association of Principals to improve how principals rate teachers.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.