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Court Rules L.A. Must Include Student Progress in Personnel Evaluations

The Los Angeles school district will need to take into account student progress in its teacher- and principal-evaluation systems under the terms of a preliminary ruling issued today by a California Superior Court judge.

The ruling comes in the Doe vs. Deasy suit which was brought by a handful of Los Angeles parents on behalf of their children. It was sponsored by the advocacy group EdVoice, which has ties to philanthropist Eli Broad. Broad, who has long played a role in shaping in the city's education policy, sits on the board of the group and has donated to its political wing.

In brief, the suit accused the district of failing to comply with the Stull Act, which sets state parameters for teacher evaluation and requires the performance reviews to include state test data, where applicable. The court appears to have agreed with that assessment, saying that it will issue a writ demanding that it do so. It will be up to plaintiffs' counsel and the opposing counsel to hammer out a plan to comply and submit it to the court in July.

That said, the ruling does note that the Los Angeles district will have some big decisions to make, including what criteria will be used to judge student performance, how they will be integrated into the district's evaluation system, how they will be weighted, and how administrators will be trained to ensure the reviews are conducted in accordance with the law. Some of those issues may need to be collectively bargained with the district's unions, it notes.

Though the Los Angeles district did contest the lawsuit, its Superintendent, John Deasy, is generally viewed as embracing its principles. He has implemented a pilot teacher evaluation program in more than 100 Los Angeles schools that takes student achievement data into account. The district plans to expand the pilot to the entire district in 2012-13, though it won't carry any formal consequences for teachers.

The lawsuit is one of several under way in Los Angeles that seek to alter state or district rules regarding teacher tenure and evaluation. Read my recent Education Week story to learn about the others.

A final ruling is expected tomorrow.

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