Edvoice - Issues

How to grade a teacher

January 29 | Los Angeles Times

United Teachers Los Angeles and the school district should get behind a teacher-led evaluation system.

By James Encinas, Kyle Hunsberger and Michael Stryer

We're teachers who believe that teacher evaluation, including the use of reliable test data, can be good for students and for teachers. Yes, yes, we know we're not supposed to exist. But we do, and there are a lot more of us.

In February the membership of United Teachers Los Angeles will vote on a teacher-led initiative urging union leaders to negotiate a new teacher evaluation system for L.A. Unified. The vote will allow teachers' voices to be heard above the din of warring political figures.

Although LAUSD and UTLA reached a contract agreement in December that embraced important school reforms, they haven't yet addressed teacher evaluation. Good teaching is enormously complex, and no evaluation system will capture it perfectly. But a substantive teacher-led evaluation system will be far better for students and teachers than what we have now, a system in which virtually all teachers receive merely "satisfactory" ratings from administrators.

A 40-Year Shame

January 19 | City Journal

A lawsuit against Los Angeles Unified School District could shake up how California evaluates teachers.

By Larry Sand

For nearly 40 years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has broken the law--and nobody seemed to notice. Now a group of parents and students are taking the district to court. On November 1, a half-dozen anonymous families working with EdVoice, a reform advocacy group in Sacramento, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the LAUSD, district superintendent John Deasy, and United Teachers Los Angeles.

L.A. teachers union drops legal challenge to evaluation system

December 2 | The Los Angeles Times

By Howard Blume

The union for Los Angeles teachers has suspended its legal challenge to a pilot evaluation program that includes using standardized test scores as part of a teacher's performance review. The union also reserved the right to reactivate the case should talks with the district sour.

A joint statement released by L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy and United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher said the two sides agree that current teacher evaluation procedures need improvement.

LAUSD reform from the inside out

November 29 | The Los Angeles Times

LAUSD needs its teachers' and principals' innovations. Unions, are you listening?

By Tamar Galatzan

Our school system is fracturing. While the Los Angeles Unified School District and its bargaining partners, the unions, endlessly debate how best to fix the system, parents and students are walking away from LAUSD.

I know because I'm not only a member of the school board, I'm the mother of two elementary school students in the district.

Traditional, district-run schools are seen as bureaucratic, handcuffed by red tape, and a growing number of parents are choosing charter schools instead. There are now nearly 200 charter and affiliated-charter schools in Los Angeles serving nearly 100,000 students. These are public schools run by private organizations, with more autonomy than traditional schools. The assumption is that, except for the hard-to-get-into magnets or the highest-performing neighborhood schools, the best way to get a good education in L.A. is to head for classrooms dedicated to reform. Not surprisingly, a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 52% of respondents had a favorable opinion of charters, while only 24% considered traditional schools effective.

Understanding the 'why'behind teacher evaluations is critical to their success

November 27 | Top-Ed

By Judy Burton

A poll released last week by USC and the LA Times tells us that the public approves of measuring teacher effectiveness through a combination of indicators including the academic growth of their students. The U.S. Department of Education has made measuring and improving teaching effectiveness a fundamental component of its reform efforts and requires it for many of its grant recipients. In California, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes has introduced AB 5, legislation requiring school districts to use multiple measures to determine teaching effectiveness, and a group of education reform advocates is suing LAUSD to require the district to develop meaningful evaluations of teacher effectiveness.

The College-Ready Promise (TCRP), a coalition of four of California's highest performing charter schools (Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Green Dot Public Schools, and Partnership to Uplift Communities), has spent 18 months designing California's largest teacher development system that incorporates multiple measures of effectiveness, including student growth data. This year, our 85 schools, with more than 1,600 teachers and 35,000 students, are implementing many of the system's components.

A sad commentary on legislators, litigation and our schools

November 27 | LA Daily News

By Antonio Villaraigosa

Each year, California's School Boards Association gives out an award to the California state legislator who has been most supportive of education.

This year's winner?


That's right. The association could not find one single California legislator in 2011 who was outstanding in his or her support of education.

In fact, while other legislatures across the country debated and even passed meaningful new laws to improve student learning in our schools, Sacramento took a pass.

California parents can't rely on legislators to enact meaningful education reform. School districts and parents are stymied by contract negotiations.

So California parents are turning to their only other avenue -- litigation.

Californians support making teachers' reviews public

November 21 | The Los Angeles Times

A majority of California voters want teacher evaluations made public and want student test scores factored into the reviews, the USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll finds.

By Howard Blume

California voters want teachers' performance evaluations made public, a new poll has found. And most also want student test scores factored into an instructor's review.

Of those surveyed, 58% said the quality of public schools would be improved if the public had access to teachers' reviews; 23% said it would not help or could make things worse.

"They want to see the evaluations," said Linda DiVall, the chief executive of American Viewpoint, a Republican firm that co-directed the bipartisan poll for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. "Just like with corporate America, there is the same desire here for transparency and accountability."

Voters think teachers unions are too powerful, new poll finds

November 21 | The Los Angeles Times

By Howard Blume

About half of California voters believe that teachers unions are too powerful, a new poll has found.

The bipartisan survey, conducted by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times, also found that the views of voters aligned fairly closely with teachers unions on key issues, such as funding for schools. But that didn't prevent many from having reservations about the role of unions in education and politics.

Overall, 52% of voters agreed with the statement that teachers unions are too powerful; 36% disagreed. And more voters took the position that teacher unions "are resistant to reforms that would improve schools."

Teachers and test scores

November 17 | The Los Angeles Times

A lawsuit spotlights the need for unions to work with school districts on effective evaluations.

Smaller schools? More charters? Those are yesterday's headlines in the world of school reform. The hot-button topic now is the inclusion of student test scores in teacher evaluations. Yet as school administrators and the teachers union battle it out in current contract negotiations in Los Angeles, who would have guessed that state law addressed this issue long ago?

A lawsuit filed by a group of parents, aided by the reform group EdVoice, claims that the Los Angeles Unified School District must include standardized test scores or some other measure of student progress to comply with the 40-year-old Stull Act. Though filed only against the district, the suit has statewide implications.

The Stull Act mainly concerned itself with the appeals process for teachers who had been fired. But it included some common-sense language about teacher evaluations, instructing school districts to make student progress one of many factors in teachers' performance reviews. In 1999, specifics were added to the law, requiring teacher evaluations to measure that progress in part through state-approved assessments.

The law's wording is reasonable and clear. Yet school districts have ignored even its oldest and most basic provisions. Even teachers unions complain that their performance reviews have been a joke for years, with almost every review granting the highest rating and few teachers receiving valuable suggestions for improvement.

Outing Lemon Teachers at LAUSD

November 17 | LAWeekly

33,000 teachers, now always stamped "satisfactory," might finally get graded

By Hillel Aron

Teachers call it "getting stulled." Newbie teachers in Los Angeles classrooms are evaluated once annually for the first two years. Then, with that minimal experience under their belts, they're almost all granted automatic lifelong tenure. After that, evaluations of thousands of these still-green Los Angeles Unified School District teachers become less frequent.

The teacher evaluation is no big deal, a four-page form with categories such as "Uses the results of multiple assessments to guide instruction" and "Regularly arrives on time, starts class on schedule."

Each item offers three check-box choices to indicate the teacher's ability: "Meets," "Needs Improvement" or "No."

No check box exists in the vast LAUSD for "Exceeds."

These teacher ratings, which parents and the public are not allowed to see, are called Stull Evaluations, hence, getting stulled. The ratings are widely seen as a rubber stamp, with 95 percent of the district's 33,000 teachers rated satisfactory. With all that apparently solid teaching going on, only 56 percent of students graduate from high school.