Edvoice - Issues

Why San Diego Isn't Joining the Teacher Evaluation Revolution

April 12 | Voice of San Diego

By Will Carless

School superintendents across America are talking tough. The time has come, they say, to get rid of failing teachers, or at the very least to identify them so that weaker teachers can get help to become more effective. No longer should students suffer the ignominy of an educator who isn't interested, willing, or able to make them learn.

For decades, schools have relied on a principal passing through a classroom once a year or every few years to eyeball how a teacher is doing. Today districts across the country say there's another way.

They're using reams of test score data to watch the impact each teacher has on his or her students throughout the year, learning whether students gained or lost ground under each teacher.

Lawsuits for School Reform: Villaraigosa Joins Families in L.A. Unified Teacher Quality Suit

April 10 | Dropout Nation

By RiShawn Biddle

Back in October and November, Dropout Nation reported on the lawsuit filed by a group of Southern California families organized by activist Alice Callaghan (with backing from the school reform group EdVoice) against the Los Angeles Unified School District, charging that the district had continually violated its obligations under the state's Stull Act to adequately evaluate teachers and demanding the district to reform its teacher evaluation system. In the months since then, L.A. Unified has struck a deal with the American Federation of Teachers' local that would allow traditional district schools to operate similarly to charter schools, with autonomy from district policies and the ability to use student test score data in evaluations.

This deal, largely driven by the union regaining control of L.A. Unified's board, came in exchange for essentially ending the effort to expand school choice and embrace the Hollywood Model of Education undertaken by current Superintendent John Deasy's predecessor, Ramon Cortines. But the deal did not satisfy the Callaghan families' demands (or even Deasy's own push for overhauling teacher evaluations).

Which is why the families filed a Writ of Mandate petition last week in California superior court demanding that L.A. Unified immediately comply with the Stull Act -- including making specific recommendations to teachers on their performance. Basing its argument off of information it gleaned from Deasy during a deposition, the Callaghan parents argue that the district has systematically evaded its obligation to evaluate teachers using student performance data -- or to conduct proper evaluations altogether -- under California's Stull Act, which governs how L.A. Unified and other districts are supposed to handle teacher evaluations and performance management.

State borrowing from schools is adding up

April 9 | San Diego Union Tribune

"Deferrals" of payments seem like a never-ending cycle

By Michael Gardner

Originally published April 9, 2012 at 4 p.m., updated April 9, 2012 at 8:08 p.m.

For the past decade governors and state lawmakers desperate to close deficits have adopted budgets that use a little-noticed accounting gimmick called a "deferral" to borrow money from K-12 schools and pay it back in the next fiscal year.

The problem is the state then immediately taps districts for yet another loan, perpetuating a borrowing cycle that persists today.

The cumulative outstanding debt: $9.4 billion to K-12 schools statewide and $600 million to San Diego County districts.

It would be easy to conclude that persistent school budget woes, including teacher layoffs and program cuts, could be minimized -- if only the state would stop this temporary pilfering.

Surprise: Eval law requires student data

April 6 | Educated Guess

First salvo in suit against LAUSD over Stull Act

By John Fensterwald

Two briefs filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court argue that Los Angeles Unified is violating a state law requiring that student progress, including results of standardized test scores, be included in teacher evaluations.

"By failing to assess teachers and administrators based on the progress of pupils and including that assessment as part of the annual evaluation, the LAUSD annually fails its statutory obligations to hundreds of thousands of children, their parents and guardians, taxpayers and the community it is responsible to serve," states a brief bought by lawyers hired on behalf of seven unnamed parents of LAUSD students.

Push for deferral reform

March 12 | Educated Guess

In the event they reappear instead of disappear

By John Fensterwald

Given a choice between school funding cut and funding delayed, districts until now have preferred late payments, known as deferrals. They now total about $10.4 billion or 30 percent of state funding for K-12 and community colleges. While bailing out the state short-term, they have created cash flow havoc for charter schools and for many of the state's nearly 1,000 districts.

Many, but not all. Basic aid districts -- those that fund their schools totally from their own property taxes -- and those districts more dependent on property taxes than state dollars for their Proposition 98 funding have largely escaped the impact of deferrals. But those districts with small tax bases that rely on state revenues for most of their money have gotten hit disproportionately hard.* That's because deferrals only affect the state revenue portion of a district's total funding. And districts most affected tend to serve large numbers of poor children, according to Stephen Rhoads, a policy consultant for school districts who is working with State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, a Democrat from San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, on the issue.

States Loosening 'Seat Time' Requirements

March 5 | Education Week

By Sean Cavanagh

States have established an array of policies in recent years to free schools from having to award academic credits based on "seat time," with the goal of making it easier for struggling students to catch up, exceptional students to race ahead, and students facing geographic and scheduling barriers to take the courses they need.

Thirty-six states have adopted policies that allow districts or schools to provide credits based on students' proving proficiency in a subject, rather than the time they physically spend in a traditional classroom setting, according to the National Governors Association . One state, New Hampshire, has required high schools to assign credits based on competency, rather than seat time, while others have encouraged schools to do that or allowed them to apply for waivers from state policy to do so.

In addition to their desire to increase academic opportunities for students, state policymakers are eager to boost high school graduation rates by re-engaging struggling teenagers through online or alternative courses, and potentially putting them on the path to a two- or four-year college degree or career certification.

Bright Spots Shine in Blended, Online Learning

March 2 | EducationNext

By Michael B. Horn

A month has passed since the first-ever national Digital Learning Day. Given the excitement generated from teachers and others tuning in to the National Town Hall meeting and given today's National Leadership Summit on Online Learning up on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. that iNACOL sponsored, I thought it was worth noting some great examples that weren't highlighted during the day's festivities. To our friends in the field, these examples are familiar, but they remind us that what is so exciting about technology is the power that it holds to move our education system toward a student-centric model of learning where students can move at their own path and pace to boost student outcomes.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Joins Mayors Bloomberg, Villaraigosa and Emanuel for "Education Now: Cities at the Forefront of Reform"

March 2 | U.S. Department of Education

City Superintendents will also participate, highlight local efforts to improve education in nation's three largest schools districts: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will join New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel together with their Superintendents, Dennis Walcott, John Deasy and Jean-Claude Brizard, to host a forum titled, "Education Now: Cities at the Forefront of Reform." The forum will be held Friday, March 2, from 10 to 11 a.m. EST at American University.

NBC's Andrea Mitchell, host of MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," will moderate the forum and engage the group in a dialogue about education successes and challenges. Duncan and local leaders will discuss a variety of issues including accountability, school management, strengthening the teaching profession, and the importance of school leadership while also highlighting efforts underway to expand access to a high-quality education and improve student outcomes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Collectively, these three school districts serve nearly 2.5 million students, 77% of whom are poor and 88% of whom are minority.

This event will be webcasted live at 10 a.m. EST(7 AM PST). To watch, go to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/education-department. Viewers are also invited to join the conversation on Twitter at #EdCities.

S.F. school board drops seniority in layoffs

March 1 | The San Francisco Chronicle

By Jill Tucker

Teacher Kathleen Florita recited from memory a note she received from a student at San Francisco's historically low-performing Everett Middle School.

"Please don't leave like everyone else does," wrote the student.

Florita would have been among the first to get a pink slip this year in what has become an annual ritual of teacher layoffs based on her low seniority.

It appears not this year.

The San Francisco school board set aside seniority rights Tuesday night to save the jobs of 70 low-seniority teachers in 14 low-performing schools. Many of the teachers were brought in just last year to help improve the schools.

The board's decision, on a 5-1 vote, would protect teachers in those schools - even those without seniority - when the district issues layoff notices in March. State law requires that the final decision to deviate from seniority in the layoff process be left to an administrative law judge.

Gov. Jerry Brown changes route, restores bus money next year

February 15 | Capitol Alert

By Kevin Yamamura

Gov. Jerry Brown reversed course this week by restoring $496 million in school bus money in his budget proposal for next fiscal year after facing criticism from education groups.

The decision comes after the governor signed legislation Friday that restored bus funding for the remainder of the current school year after districts lost that money in December's midyear cuts. Brown quietly issued a new education budget plan this week ahead of a Thursday state Senate hearing.

Brown's reversal in 2012-13 comes with some caveats. First, it relies on voters approving his plan to raise income taxes on the wealthy earners, as well as sales taxes by a half cent. It allows districts to spend their bus money on other purposes. And the governor intends to eliminate school transportation earmarks in 2013-14, though districts may receive funding in a new form allowing them to maintain bus service.