Edvoice - Issues

A Steppingstone to Better Teacher Evaluation

November 16 | EdWeek

By Terry Grier

There are some questions every school leader should be able to answer: Are my teachers helping their students learn? Who are the outstanding teachers I need to fight hard to keep? Which teachers aren't meeting my expectations? How can I help my good teachers become great?

As the superintendent of one of the nation's largest school districts, I believe helping our campus leaders answer these questions is the most important part of my job. After all, decades of research show that nothing we can do to accelerate student learning matters more than ensuring a great teacher leads every classroom.

Unfortunately, the teacher-evaluation systems that should help principals answer such questions are often useless. Most evaluation systems rate nearly all teachers "satisfactory," based on infrequent and cursory classroom observations, and they rarely consider how much students are actually learning.

Rep. Miller chastises California

November 16 | Educated Guess

All excuses, no action on NCLB waiver

By John Fensterwald

Eleven states made the submission deadline Monday for seeking a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. That gave U.S. Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House committee rewriting the law, a chance to take a swat at his home state for ignoring the opportunity.

"These 11 states are ready to start transforming their schools," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, California is not among these trailblazing states, which is incredibly disappointing to me and to the millions of school children in my state.

L.A. Teachers Seek to Put Evaluations to a Referendum

November 15 | EdWeek

By Stephen Sawchuk

A collection of Los Angeles teachers plans to force a vote among the district's teaching corps that, if passed, would require their union to advocate for "teacher-led" changes to the teacher-evaluation system--and for a moratorium on layoffs while it's implemented.

The teachers, part of a coalition called "Teachers for a New Unionism," are making use of a provision in United Teachers Los Angeles' constitution that allows for a bargaining-unit-wide referendum if 500 signatures are gathered. Today, they'll be turning over some 630 signatures to UTLA President Warren Fletcher.

Once the signatures are certified by the union, a process they estimate could take a week or more, the question would be put to the full membership. If it passes, the resolutions would override existing UTLA policies on these issues.

"What we are attempting to do is fully democratize our own union from within," James Encinas, a teacher at Westminster Elementary School who'll be delivering the signatures, said in a release. "We are tired of watching our leaders fail to truly listen and lead on reform issues."

Shaking up the status quo in L.A. schools

November 6 | Los Angeles Times

A disparate alliance called Don't Hold Us Back is calling on L.A. Unified and the teachers union to lay down their weapons in contract negotiations and hammer out some big-ticket reforms.

By Steve Lopez

Six million, give or take. That's how many children are in public school in California.

Arguably, we won't have a strong economic recovery if they don't get a good education.

But boy, do the grown-ups love to muck things up for the kids.

Politics, ego, endless skirmishes between school districts and teacher unions -- it all gets in the way of the kids' best interests...

...But in Los Angeles, the status quo is under attack.

Parents and education advocates are suing L.A. Unified in an effort to enforce an overlooked state law that requires teacher and principal evaluations to be linked to student achievement...

New life for old law on evaluations

November 2 | The Educated Guess

L.A. Unified suit says problem is will to enforce it

By John Fensterwald

The Stull Act, the 40-year-old teacher evaluation law that school reformers had dismissed as useless, may have a second wind.

In a suit with statewide implications, parents backed by an advocacy group are suing Los Angeles Unified and its teachers union, claiming that state law requires that statewide standardized tests must be used in the evaluation of teachers. That law is the Stull Act.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court by a half-dozen unnamed parents backed by Sacramento-based EdVoice, seeks an order requiring the district to immediately start using measures of student performance in evaluating teachers and administrators. "Forty years of deliberate and calculated non-compliance with such a key State requirement is enough," it says.

Suit filed to make L.A. teacher evaluations include student data

November 2 | Los Angeles Times

By Howard Blume

Advocates went forward Tuesday with a lawsuit alleging that the Los Angeles Unified School District has failed to comply with state laws requiring that teachers and principals should be evaluated, in part, on student academic progress.

The suit, filed by the Barnes & Thornburg law firm in conjunction with the Sacramento-based advocacy group EdVoice, asserts that L.A. Unified must comply immediately with the Stull Act, which established guidelines for assessing teachers and principals after its passage in 1971.

"The district has never obeyed the Stull Act's mandate," the suit states, while blaming both the school system and unions representing teachers and administrators. (In the litigation, both types of employees are referred to as "certificated" because they hold teaching credentials). "In collusion with the district's governing boards and superintendents," the suit alleges, "these associations have made it impossible for the district to lawfully evaluate certificated personnel and identify and require specific corrective action to retrain, transfer, suspend, or dismiss unsatisfactory certificated personnel based, in part, on evidence which demonstrates whether or not students are learning."

LAUSD faces suit linking teacher ratings to student performance

November 1 | Los Angeles Times

The suit would demand that LAUSD comply with a 1971 California law requiring that student performance be part of the evaluations of teachers and principals.

By Howard Blume

A group of parents and education advocates is preparing to sue the Los Angeles school district, demanding that it follow an arcane 40-year-old law that requires all California school systems to link teacher and principal evaluations to student performance.

The law, known as the Stull Act, was passed in 1971 with bipartisan support although neither school district officials nor teachers unions ever pushed to enforce all of its provisions, with their potential for conflict.

Now, with L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy locked in a stalemate with the teachers union over performance reviews, a prominent group of advocates believes it can force the issue with a lawsuit, which is expected to be filed Tuesday.

California bucks U.S. trend on teacher evaluations

October 26 | Los Angeles Times

A report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality finds most states have made significant changes in recent years. Many now consider student achievement when determining instructors' tenure or dismissal.

By Howard Blume

About two-thirds of states have made significant changes in teacher evaluations in the last two years, with many for the first time taking into account student achievement in such high-stakes decisions as granting tenure protections and dismissing instructors for poor performance.

California is a notable exception...

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.