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L.A. Reaches Teacher-Evaluation Deal, But Details Hazy

By guest blogger Liana Heitin

The Los Angeles school district and the city's teachers' union have reached a tentative agreement about the conditions of a new teacher-evaluation system, putting an end to months of court-ordered bargaining. Even so, the issue seems far from resolved, as the resulting procedures are—to say the least—vague.

A California Superior Court judge ruled in June that the district needs to incorporate student achievement into its teacher- and principal-evaluation systems to comply with the Stull Act. The ruling in that suit, Doe vs. Deasy, brought by a group of Los Angeles parents and sponsored by the advocacy group EdVoice, issued a Dec. 4 deadline for the negotiations.

According to the agreed-upon evaluation procedures, released Nov. 30, evaluations will use multiple measures of student progress, including individual standardized-test scores (raw, not value-added), group standardized-test scores (raw and value-added), and supplemental classroom-assessment data. Evaluations will also include a variety of schoolwide achievement indicators, such as attendance rates, suspension rates, ELL reclassification rates, grades, graduation/dropout rates, and AP enrollment.

The agreement also draws a strong distinction between using the achievement data for setting goals and strategies for the year during an initial "planning conference" and their use in a final evaluation, in which "they are not to be treated by the District or evaluators as the sole, primary, or controlling factors," the agreement reads.

In what the United Teachers Los Angeles considers a big win, a teacher's individual value-added score—known as Academic Growth Over Time, or AGT, in the district—will not be used in the final evaluation. A UTLA summary of the pact says value-added measures are "an extremely unstable and unreliable method of measuring instructional outcomes or evaluating teacher effectiveness."

Perhaps most notable about this agreement is what the two groups left out: the percent of a teacher's evaluation that test scores will account for. The Los Angeles Times reports that both the union and district are saying it will be less than 50 percent. But the exact number has been a hotly debated topic in the field; disagreement about it contributed to an overhaul of the IMPACT evaluation in the District of Columbia and was a prime factor in the recent Chicago teachers' strike.

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