Edvoice - Issues

Judge delays ruling on suit targeting LAUSD teacher evaluations

June 5 | Los Angeles Times

The litigation would force L.A. Unified to use test scores in teacher evaluations. The judge says he might issue a tentative decision Monday.

By Teresa Watanabe

A landmark parent lawsuit aimed at forcing the Los Angeles Unified School District to use student test scores in teacher evaluations received its first court hearing Tuesday in a case that could transform the way California instructors are reviewed.

The lawsuit demands that L.A. Unified follow a state law, known as the Stull Act, that directs school districts to use evidence of student learning in job performance reviews, including state standardized test scores. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant delayed ruling on the case but said he expected to issue a tentative decision Monday.

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy, although named as a defendant, said Tuesday that he agreed with the lawsuit's major assertions: that state law requires the use of student test scores in evaluations and that the district does not use them except in a limited voluntary program involving 700 teachers and principals.

LA groups want test scores part of evaluations

June 1 | Educated Guess

Between a quarter and a third of evaluation score

By John Fensterwald

Two Los Angeles education groups have offered separate teacher evaluation frameworks that they hope will help break the impasse between Los Angeles Unified and its teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles.

“There is frustration that, even after years of discussion, there still is no new system in Los Angeles,” Mike Stryer, a former Los Angeles Unified teacher who helped create the plan for Our Schools,  Our Voice Coalition, said at a news briefing Thursday...

...On Tuesday, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, there will be arguments in a suit brought by the nonprofit EdVoice on behalf of Los Angeles Unified and UTLA over the failure to include standardized tests in evaluations. EdVoice makes a good case that the Stull Act, the 40-year-old state law on teacher evaluations, requires test-score use, but districts like Los Angeles Unified have ignored the provision.

Record number of school districts in state face bankruptcy

May 21 | Los Angeles Times

By Teresa Watanabe

Pummeled by relentless budget cuts, a record number of California school districts are facing bankruptcy, state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Monday.

The Inglewood Unified School District and 11 others -– most in northern California -- are currently not able to pay their bills this school year or next, according to a biannual report on the financial health of the state’s 1,037 school systems compiled by the state Department of Education. An additional 176 school districts may not be able to meet their financial obligations.

All told, the financially troubled districts serve 2.6 million children. And the picture could dramatically worsen if initiatives to raise taxes for public schools by Gov. Jerry Brown and others fail to pass in November, officials said.

Obama honors Burbank's Rebecca Mieliwocki as teacher of the year

April 24 | Los Angeles Times

By Stephen Ceasar

President Obama recognized Burbank teacher Rebecca Mieliwocki as the 2012 National Teacher of the Year during a ceremony Tuesday at the White House...

...Mieliwocki said teachers must be evaluated from a variety of perspectives, including data, to get a true picture of their effectiveness. Teachers' connections with their students, colleagues and community, as well as student writing scores and test scores, should all be weighed together, she said.

"Accountability matters to me. I have to know I am doing a good job and know what areas I need to improve in," she told The Times. "But I need to be looked at through every one of those lenses, not just one."

Easing the burden of deferrals

April 23 | Educated Guess

Districts would get small reimbursements

By John Fensterwald

A bill working its way through the state Senate would require the state to share the financial burden it causes the next time it delays money due K-12 districts. Only a portion of the short-term interest charges that many districts face when forced to take out short-term loans would be reimbursed. But SB 1491 at least would recognize that billions of dollars in late payments can create an expensive cash crisis for districts, many of them in low-income areas.

Within the past decade the state has used late payments, called deferrals, to help balance the budget. At this point, $10.4 billion -- about 30 percent of state money owed to K-12 and community colleges -- is budgeted in one fiscal year, but paid in the next year. Districts that cannot borrow internally, from their own accounts, have turned to county offices of education if available or to the open market, at interest rates from a few percentage points up to double-digit rates for some charter schools.

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.