Standardized tests off the record

GLENDALE — Teachers at Glendale Unified no longer have to include student scores on standardized tests in their professional evaluations after an arbitrator ruled that the practice was not included in their agreement with the district.

At stake were teacher and campus growth plans, and whether individual teacher assessment forms should have included student achievement on standardized tests, officials said.

The school district's policy negotiated for 2008 and 2009 lacked the necessary agreement with the Glendale Teachers Assn., the arbitrator, Howard Bock, ruled in a report released this week.

In previous years, teachers could set more subjective goals for student achievement, but in 2008, district officials began asking that outcomes on standardized tests be included in teacher professional growth plans.

Many teachers are suspicious or hostile toward linking teacher development or effectiveness with standardized tests, union President Tami Carlson said.

"It's going to allow teachers to pursue the professional development they need as teachers in the classroom, instead of being mandated to utilize district-decided assessments," she said. "We are having to spend so much time doing these district-mandated assessments, it distracts from us actually being able to teach in a classroom."

Supt. Dick Sheehan said the ruling doesn't change professional goal setting or the use of student data. The district will continue evaluating and prioritizing student achievement, he added.

"Schools are still allowed to set school-wide goals, they'll just do it on a different form," Sheehan said. "I don't see this changing things tremendously."

No teachers were evaluated negatively because student data was included, Sheehan said.

The evaluations process is intended to help teachers, officials said.

"Keep in mind the whole evaluation process is used to improve student learning by making teachers more effective," he said.

But the arbitrator said that did not forgive the lack of consent from the teachers union on the evaluations process.

"In the past, contemplated changes in teacher evaluation procedures were negotiated," Block wrote. "Because procedures for employee evaluation are expressly within the scope of negotiations…the district has no right to change such procedures without negotiations."

District officials tried to dismiss the union grievance, but Block cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which held an arbitrated judgment is allowable when explicit contract language is absent.

Carlson said the district habitually disregards teacher input, and pointed to the finding as the latest example.

"Hopefully, this is the start of us getting back to teachers being able to teach in the classroom, as they were schooled and trained to do," she said. "

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