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Disputes Continue Over L.A. Teacher Evaluations

United Teachers Los Angeles has filed alabor complaint against the school district, alleging that teacher-evaluation guidelines issued by the state violate formal agreements between the two parties, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

It's the latest wrinkle in a longstanding disagreement between district and union over how to evaluate teachers in the nation's second-largest school district.

Revised evaluations were mandated after a court ruled that the district wasn't following requirements in the Stull Act, which governs teacher evaluations in California, to include "pupil progress" in the reviews. The end result was a January agreement between the two parties saying that standardized test data could be included in the reviews, but not growth or "value added" data, a complex method of analyzing the scores that attempts to isolate each teacher's contribution to student achievement.

The union also touted the fact that the agreement didn't specify a weighting for the scores.

But the agreement, vague from the start, has led to yet more strife. The union is upset about guidelines from the Los Angeles district requesting that principals base 30 percent of the reviews on student achievement measures.

The union's guidance to its building leaders is instructive, directing them to encourage members to request delays in their reviews. And it says that teachers should not agree to evaluation objectives that specify numerical percentages, such as goals for increasing the number of students scoring at proficient on classroom or district tests.

The district has responded to the claims in its own submission to the state Public Employment Relations Board.

While it remains to be seen how this will play out, the dispute does illuminate a tension for teacher evaluations: the "tightness" and "looseness" of the systems. LAUSD has sought a system that would help standardize reviews across the system, helping illuminate pockets of excellent or poor teaching. UTLA, meanwhile, has fought any attempt to formalize the reviews, arguing that it would usurp professional judgment of teachers and administrators in the systems, and would not take into account the context of their work.

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