A panel named by Gov. John Bel Edwards recommended major changes in public school policies Thursday, including an overhaul in annual teacher evaluations, less science testing and a reversal in a state plan to raise academic standards.
In addition, the group plans to hold another meeting that includes a discussion of public school letter grades amid criticism of their value.
"The letter grade system is very simplistic," said Debbie Meaux, a member of the committee and president of the Louisiana Association of Educators. "But it does not tell the whole story."
The recommendations, which are subject to revisions, could put the governor on a collision course with state Superintendent of Education John White, who unveiled a much different draft plan earlier this year.
Both reviews stem from a 2015 federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA, and changes are expected to be in place for the 2017-18 school year.
Edwards' group is called the Governor's ESSA Advisory Council.
Debra Schum, a member of the council, headed the subcommittee that recommended major changes in teacher evaluations, which are in state law.
One provision would require that teacher job reviews be based 80 percent on observations by principals and 20 percent on student test scores.
Under current rules, test results count for 50 percent of the score.
Backers say the evaluations ensure quality teachers, and improved student achievement.
Critics argue that the current reviews are unfair, and put too much emphasis on exam results shaped by a variety of factors.
Schum said the rules in place today rely on only five of 22 factors in a widely respected rubric.
"It misses out on a lot of components that are necessary," she said.
Schum said the state needs a system that is not punitive and does not complicate the ability of educators to do their jobs.
"There are a number of concerns with the teacher evaluation system that keeps it from being as useful as it could," she said.
Schum is executive director of the Louisiana Association of Principals.
On another issue, the council recommended reductions in annual science tests.
Public school students would take fewer tests under a plan being reviewed by a panel to stud…
The plan would trim those exams to grades 5 and 8 only.
They are now given annually in grades 3-8.
"One of the goals is to reduce testing," said Scott Richard, a member the council and executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association.
Others questioned whether the reduction would lessen the importance of science, especially at a time when the subject is being promoted as a key skill needed for meaningful jobs.
Cathi Cox-Boniol, who chairs the state's review of science standards, criticized the council's recommendation.
"I think it is a real tragedy because it sends a message that science is not valued," Cox-Boniol said. "And sadly what is valued is what is assessed and what is assessed is what is taught."
Cox-Boniol is an administrator in the Lincoln Parish school system and taught science for nearly 17 years.
Annual exams in math and English for grades for grades 3-8 would continue, as required by federal law.
End of course high school exams would be limited to Algebra I and English II under the council's proposal.
White's draft calls for exams in math and English to be limited to one per year in grades nine, 10 and 11.
In another area, the panel approved a recommendation that says Edwards "should not agree with the movement toward mastery as the criterion for an "A" school."
Mastery, which is the second of five achievement letters, is the state's long-range goal for what students need to average for a school to attain an "A" rating.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the target in 2013.
Backers say the academic bar needs to be raised for student to leave high school ready for college and careers, and to put Louisiana on a par with standards across the U.S.
Opponents on the council said the goal is unrealistic, and reinforces a bias against struggling students.
The issue of letter grades sparked enough comment for Thomas Spencer, chairman of the panel, to say another meeting is needed to pursue that and other topics.
A key state panel Tuesday grappled with how to revamp the way often-controversial letter gra…
Richard noted that the grades, which are required by state law, is not a federal requirement under ESSA.
The initial recommendations are due to Edwards by Dec. 31, and could be part of the state's ESSA compliance plan submitted to the federal government.
The governor could also make some of the recommendations part of his 2017 legislative package.
"We are not making policy here," Donald Songy, education policy adviser for the governor, told the council, "All we are doing is making recommendations to the governor."