Los Angeles schools chief John Deasy expressed disappointment Wednesday over a robo-call sent this week by the teachers union, urging members not to participate in the district’s voluntary performance review system that for the first time includes student test scores in evaluations.
In a recorded back-to-school message sent Monday evening to 38,000 teachers and healthcare professionals, Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, told members they should reject efforts by the Los Angeles Unified School District to find one volunteer at each school to participate in the program.
“UTLA strongly advises against volunteering for this high-stakes program in the current scapegoating environment,” he said, reiterating the union’s long-held opposition. “LAUSD should be putting its efforts into negotiating a meaningful, research-based evaluation system rather than trying to impose a flawed program based on discredited methodology.”
Deasy called the action a “real step backward” in efforts to forge an agreement between the union and district. The two sides face a Dec. 4 deadline to show proof that L.A. Unified has begun using student test scores in evaluations, as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge recently ruled is required under state law.
“What a shame we don’t have a partner in the leadership of UTLA,” Deasy said. “It doesn’t really bode well that the leadership doesn’t seem to be serious about teacher evaluations.”
The district’s performance review system for teachers and administrators — which is in its second year of testing and development — uses standardized test scores as one measure of how much a teacher has helped students progress.
But the work so far has focused primarily on developing more specific teaching standards and improving classroom observations so teachers get more useful feedback from trained and certified evaluators on how to improve.
About 700 teachers and principals at 100 schools tested the system last year. This year, the district hopes to train all administrators and at least one teacher in the program at each of its 900-plus schools. No date has been set to implement the evaluation system districtwide.
Fletcher said the union objected to the program for a number of reasons. He said the district created it without negotiations, which UTLA said were required. The union has long argued that student test scores are too unreliable to use in such decisions as hiring, firing, pay and tenure.
And, Fletcher said, the program’s key measure of student achievement — known as Academic Growth Over Time — is based on state standardized tests that will be phased out in the next few years as California moves toward a new national curriculum and assessments.
“We want to build an evaluation system that will be useful for years to come, and we want to do it together,” Fletcher said. “The bargaining has been serious.”
Deasy also took issue with the recorded message’s assertion that the voluntary program was “high stakes.”
Evaluations in the current testing phase are not being used for any decisions about pay, promotion or retention. And the district has not yet proposed how much student test scores would count in a teacher’s effectiveness score.