Edvoice - Issues

Lack of contract reform could cripple educational advances

October 25 | LA Daily News

By Edward Avila

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the cornerstone of our community. It is critical that the district's more than 671,000 students succeed academically so that their families do better, the economy thrives, and Los Angeles continues to be a model of innovation.

The LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles have failed to come to an agreement over a renewed teacher contract. We must all demand that both parties put politics aside and complete negotiations on a new contract in the next 30 days.

Failure to do so will impede the progress that has been made over the last few years as a result of reform efforts such as Public School Choice, the Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce, implementation of Pilot Schools, innovative partnerships with external partners, and others.

Research overwhelmingly tells us that effective teaching is the single most important in-school factor in raising student achievement, and it is at the heart and soul of school improvement efforts. Unfortunately, the current contract between LAUSD and UTLA is an obstacle to effective teaching. It has an incredibly flimsy teacher evaluation and compensation system, is unresponsive to the continuous demands for teacher accountability and offers little freedoms to teachers to support their students and help them thrive.

Los Angeles Charities and Minority Groups Tell United Teachers Los Angeles and LAUSD: 'Don't Hold Us Back'

October 17 | LA Weekly

By Hillel Aron

Today, full page ads appear in the L.A. Times, Daily News and La Opinion taken out by Don't Hold Us Back -- respected organizations calling out United Teachers Los Angeles and LAUSD for letting kids fail. The new supergroup includes The United Way, The Urban League, Community Coalition, Alliance for a Better Community, Families in Schools, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and Communities for Teaching Excellence.

L.A. Unified principals to see teachers' effectiveness ratings

October 16 | Los Angeles Times

By Jason Song

For the first time, Los Angeles school principals will see previously confidential ratings that estimate teachers' effectiveness in raising students' standardized test scores.

Los Angeles Unified officials began issuing the ratings privately to about 12,000 math and English teachers last year and plan to issue new ones this month to about 14,000 instructors, including some who teach science and history.

The scores are based on an analysis the district calls Academic Growth over Time. Taking an approach similar to that used in value-added ratings in other school systems across the country, the district analyzes teachers based on their students' progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student's performance is compared with his or her own performances in past years, which largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors.

Jerry Brown calls California's school testing program a "good system"

October 14 | The Sacramento Bee

By David Siders

BEVERLY HILLS - Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that the school testing program he proposed overhauling in last year's gubernatorial campaign is a "good system" he will keep intact.

Brown's remarks came after a rift between the governor and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg over education policy opened Saturday, when Brown vetoed legislation by the Sacramento Democrat that would have changed how the state measures school performance...

...Speaking to reporters at the Milken Institute's State of the State Conference at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Brown said when asked about his previous comments that the system needs "some improvements," but he defended it overall.

"I think the API (Academic Performance Index) is a good system," he said. "That's why I vetoed Steinberg's bill, because it would have marginalized the API."

Turning teaching upside-down

October 14 | The Educated Guess

Sal Khan's tutorials can empower students

By John Fensterwald

Witty, brilliant, self-effacing, a seeming agnostic in the education wars over school choice and performance pay, Salman Khan is an unlikely revolutionary. But Khan, the former hedge-fund manager turned online tutor, first for his East Coast nieces and nephews and now for the world, is flipping education upside-down. Many teachers and their unions have been too slow to recognize that.

Khan's 2,800 YouTube tutorials on everything from elementary addition to algebra to calculus and physics, are enabling millions of students to excel on their own time, at their own pace, moving ahead only when, by completing 10 problems in a row, they have mastered one discrete lesson at a time.

With backing from the Gates Foundation and Silicon Valley benefactors like John and Ann Doerr, his nonprofit Khan Academy has taken the next step. Teachers anywhere can freely use the software he has created in their classrooms and monitor every student's progress in real time: which video she last watched, how much time she spent, which problem she was stuck on.

By using technology to guide students through drills and step-by-step basics - with badges and points to make it fun enough for students to stay plugged in - teachers are liberated to do small group tutorials, help students where they're stuck, teach concepts, and do project-based learning.

LAUSD agrees to revise how English learners, blacks are taught

October 11 | The Los Angeles Times

Officials say the accord, which settles a federal civil rights probe, could be a national model. The district is not accused of intentional bias, and deciding how to make changes will be done locally.

By Howard Blume

The Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to sweeping revisions in the way it teaches students learning English, as well as black youngsters, settling a federal civil rights investigation that examined whether the district was denying the students a quality education.

The settlement closes what was the Obama administration's first civil rights investigation launched by the Department of Education, and officials said Tuesday that it would serve as a model for other school districts around the country.

"What happens in L.A. really does set trends for across the nation. More and more school districts are dealing with this challenge," said Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights.

No changes to Open Enrollment

October 9 | The Educated Guess

Brown vetoes AB 47 for excluding schools

By John Fensterwald

For all its quirks and anomalies, the two-year-old Open Enrollment Act, which gives parents in low-performing schools the chance to transfer their children to a better school in another district, will remain unchanged. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill on Saturday that would have let a number of schools off the hook.

In his veto message for AB 47, Brown said that the changes would have cut the eligible schools from 1,000 to 150, which would "go too far and would undermine the intent of the original law."

LAUSD pact with administrators union will factor in new teacher evaluations

September 23 | Los Angeles Daily News

By Connie Llanos

Los Angeles Unified administrators have tentatively agreed to a new three-year contract that includes a trial run of a controversial system to evaluate teachers based on their students' test scores.

Associated Administrators had earlier taken legal action to oppose the district's plan for a pilot evaluation system, but now has agreed to test the proposal for one year without consequences to those being evaluated.

Union officials said the probationary period will allow them to study the new system as it is tested with a small percentage of principals and teachers. LAUSD officials will have to negotiate with the administrators again before implementing it districtwide as planned for next school year.

Obama Administration Sets Rules for NCLB Waivers

September 22 | EdWeek Blog

By Alyson Klein

The Obama administration on Thursday afternoon said it will waive the cornerstone requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, including the 2014 deadline that all students be proficient in math and language arts, and will give states the freedom to set their own student-achievement goals, and design their own interventions for failing schools.

In exchange for this flexibility, the administration will require states to adopt college- and career-ready standards, focus on 15 percent of their most-troubled schools, and create guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance.

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