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Former state Superintendent of Education Wilmer Cody has died.

Former state Superintendent of Education Wilmer Cody, who launched an early version of Louisiana's teacher rating system, has died, his family announced Tuesday.

Cody held the post from 1988-92 under then Gov. Buddy Roemer, who was a major supporter and who sat in on his interview for the job.

He was the first superintendent appointed by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in modern times rather than being elected statewide.

That rule was changed in 1985 at the urging of then Gov. Edwin Edwards, who years later insisted that Cody be replaced as superintendent.

Cody launched two evaluation systems, called LaTip and LaTep, to evaluate both new and experienced teachers, according to a brief history of superintendents by the blog Educate Louisiana.

The reviews won support initially but later sparked criticism from teacher unions and others, the blog said.

Cody also began an early version of the public schools rating system.

Teacher evaluations are commonplace today, and remain controversial.

The state issues annual letter grades and school performance scores to public schools, another issue that generates regular controversy.

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The grades have been shelved this year because of the coronavirus pandemic after the state won federal approval to do so.

Cody landed the job after beating out 36 other contenders, including then state Sen. Cecil Picard, who enjoyed support on BESE and was named superintendent a few years after Cody's term.

He was a native of Mobile, Ala. and a graduate of Harvard University, like Roemer.

Aside from earning an education doctorate at Harvard, Cody received two other degrees.

He took a lead role in implementing graduation tests for public high school students in Louisiana, pushed to start one for private schools and favored more flexibility in the high school curriculum.

Cody also served as Kentucky State Education Commissioner, special assistant to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Maryland.

He taught reading and served as a principal in Mobile, was director of teacher education in Atlanta public schools and oversaw the school districts in Birmingham, Ala.

When Cody was named state superintendent of education he was serving as director of a program sponsored by the national Council of Chief State School Officers that sought to standardize student testing rules among the states.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.