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New Evaluation System for L.A. Principals

Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki

School principals in the Los Angeles Unified School District know how they'll be evaluated, for this school year at least—and, for the first time, student test scores will be a factor. Yesterday, the district and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents the district's school administrators, reached an agreement that means that, for the current school year, student achievement data by grade level, by department, and for the entire school will be used alongside other information in evaluating principals.

John E. Deasy, the district's superintendent, described the agreement as a "huge step forward."

The district has been revamping evaluation systems in the wake of a California State Superior Court judge's ruling on Doe v. Deasy that said that teacher and principal evaluations must account for student achievement.

"It's a system that allows us to really have a balanced and robust, strong accountability system for evaluation that accomplishes three things: It identifies good practice; helps develop strong leaders; and holds leaders accountable," Deasy said of the new plan. The evaluation program is not modeled on any other evaluation system, and it remains to be seen how the court's decision will affect other districts in the state.

The AALA's president, Judith Perez, was positive but more measured in her response, saying, "It allows us to try something out to see if it is viable and to refine it and work on a longer-term plan...What we've been able to do is follow the letter of the law while at the same time handling the data in a fair and reasonable way."

Both Deasy and Perez emphasized that professional development was a large part of the plan and that the effectiveness of the new evaluation would be itself evaluated this year. Perez also quoted the agreement to me to emphasize that student achievement did not account for a set percentage and was only one part of a multi-faceted evaluation:

"Where available, CST (California Standards Test) and AGT (Academic Growth over Time) results and other student test data are to be considered a limited part of the whole evaluation picture. There will be no specific predetermined way to be given them nor are they to be treated by the district or evaluators as the sole or as the primary or controlling factor in determining the final overall evaluation of administrators' performance."

Deasy described the balance as such: "You can't ignore it, but it's not a sole or majority indicator." He expressed confidence in AGT as a complex and reliable indicator of student growth.

The AALA received a copy of the district's proposal on August 29 and approved it on September 11. Perez emphasized that the agreement does not invalidate the administrators' current contract, which is valid from 2011-2014, and that it does not apply to certain administrators, such as those who work solely with special education students.

The district and administrators plan to begin a new set of negotiations that will include principal evaluation later in September. In the meantime, Perez said, "I think it's fair to say that all of us on both sides of the table are committed one, to obey the law, and two, to have a system that is helpful to administrators and that works, and that is finally fair and equitable."

The superintendent said he has been fielding questions all day about what implications this has for negotiations with the teachers' union. He said the principal agreement may be a model to the extent that, while it "doesn't shy away from accountability even though people have been nervous, it's a balanced basket of measures."

You can get some of the background on the progress of Doe v. Deasy and on teacher evaluation over on the Teacher Beat blog. Here are a few of the most relevant posts.

Want to keep up with school district and leadership news? Follow @district_doss on Twitter.

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