Major California school districts are failing to comply with a state law that requires them to evaluate teachers in part by how much their students have learned, according to a study released Wednesday.
The review of 26 school districts serving more than 1.2 million students found that only Clovis Unified near Fresno and Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista fully complied with the law. Two others, Upland Unified in the Inland Empire and San Ramon Valley Unified in Contra Costa County, were "blatantly in violation" of the law by expressly prohibiting the use of state standardized test scores in their teacher evaluations, the study said. The findings were disputed by both districts.
The other school systems surveyed — which included Long Beach, San Diego, Oakland and San Francisco — offered mixed findings, according to the study conducted by the EdVoice Institute for Research and Education, an educational advocacy organization in Sacramento.
"Unfortunately, too many school districts are choosing to ignore whether every child under their supervision has been assigned to a truly effective teacher," said Bill Lucia, EdVoice president.
Los Angeles Unified was not included in the study, Lucia said, because it is revamping its evaluation system to include evidence of student academic achievement, as ordered to do so in 2012 by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
It was Lucia's group that pushed forward the issue with a 2011 lawsuit against L.A. Unified, asserting that the district was failing to include in its teacher and administrator evaluations measures of much they helped students learn what the state and district expect them to know. As a result, too many students had teachers whose effectiveness could not be accurately gauged, the lawsuit argued.
Judge James C. Chalfant ordered the district to use California standardized test scores to determine student progress in mastering state learning standards. But he gave the district wide discretion in deciding which yardsticks to use to measure progress.
The group reviewed collective-bargaining agreements, evaluation forms, district handbooks, memos and nearly 100 other documents.
Eight of the districts also provided copies of final evaluations with names of teachers redacted. Among nearly 2,000 evaluations reviewed, 98% of teachers were deemed satisfactory.
The study found that 11 districts included student learning progress in their evaluations, including Long Beach, San Diego, Garden Grove, Riverside and Oakland. The rest — including San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Bernardino — showed no evidence of doing so.
In Upland and San Ramon Valley, collective-bargaining agreements with teachers prohibit the use of state standardized test results in performance reviews — a practice Lucia called illegal.
But Upland Unified Supt. Nancy Kelly said in an email that teacher evaluations are based on state professional standards for teachers and adhere to California law.
In San Ramon Valley, spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich acknowledged that state standardized test scores are not used but said other measures of student learning are included. The district plans to launch a limited test of a new evaluation system next year with a more specific emphasis on student academic progress, she said.
The Obama administration has encouraged states to use student test scores as one measure of teacher effectiveness to qualify for a competitive grant program, and several have moved to do so.