L.A. Unified, teachers union agree on teachers evaluations
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After months of tense negotiations, the Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union have tentatively agreed to use student test scores to evaluate instructors for the first time ever, officials announced Friday.
Under the breakthrough agreement, the nation’s second-largest school district would join Chicago and a growing number of other cities in using test scores as one measure of how much teachers help a student academically progress in a year.
Alarm over low student performance, especially in impoverished and minority communities, has prompted the Obama administration and others to press school districts nationwide to craft better ways to identify struggling teachers for improvement.
The Los Angeles pact proposes to do that using a unique mix of individual and schoolwide testing data – including state standardized test scores, high school exit exams, district assessments, along with rates of attendance, graduation and suspensions.
But the tentative pact leaves unanswered the most controversial question: how much to count student test scores in measuring teacher effectiveness. Both sides only agreed that the test scores would count for less than 50% of the teacher’s rating.
“It is crystal clear that what we’re doing is historic and very positive,” said Supt. John Deasy, who has pushed to use student test scores in teacher performance reviews since taking the district’s helm 18 months ago. “This will help develop the skills of the teaching profession and hold us accountable for student achievement.”
Members of United Teachers Los Angeles, however, still need to ratify the agreement, and it was unclear whether they would do so. Many teachers have long opposed using test scores in their evaluations, saying they are unreliable measures of their performance. The union characterized the agreement as a “limited” response to a Dec. 4 court-ordered deadline to show test scores are being used in evaluations and said negotiations were continuing for “future academic years.”
The deadline was imposed by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant, who ruled this year that state law requires L.A. Unified to use test scores in teacher evaluations.
In a statement, the teachers union also emphasized that the agreement rejected the use of the district’s method of measuring student academic progress, known as Academic Growth Over Time. That measure uses a mathematical formula to estimate how much a teacher helps a student achieve over time, controlling for factors outside their control such as income and race. Instead, the agreement proposes to use raw state standardized test scores.
Bill Lucia of EdVoice, the Sacramento-based educational advocacy group that brought the lawsuit, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the pact. “We’re hoping this will get kids more effective teachers and struggling teachers the extra help they need,” he said.
Board of Education President Monica Garcia praised the deal as ‘absolutely, by all accounts, better than what we have today.’
“This is a big deal and it was achieved despite real, deep differences,’ Garcia said. ‘We should look at this agreement as the product of people who care deeply about the work they do.”
-- Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume