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LAUSD Negotiate Revisions to Teacher Evaluations

By Dec. 4, teachers and principals in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will face revised performance evaluation criteria to comply with the California Stull Act that requires student progress data be used as part of the evaluation process.

While the exact method of using student data, and which data to use, is currently being debated by LAUSD officials, the Unified Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), the parties only have until Sept. 4 to give Judge James C. Chalfant of the Los Angeles County Superior Court a progress report on their collective bargaining negotiations, and until Dec. 4 to implement the new evaluation process, according to his ruling.

The current negotiations are the result of Doe v. Deasy, a lawsuit filed last year by nine parents — with legal help from EdVoice, a nonprofit grassroots network that claims over 50,000 parent members across the state— against LAUSD and Superintendent John E. Deasy, challenging the effectiveness of teachers and the school district’s evaluation process.
EdVoice found evidence to suggest that LAUSD had not been complying with the Stull Act for over forty years, according to the group’s president, Bill Lucia.

In early June, Judge Chalfant tentatively ruled that LAUSD was not in compliance with the Stull Act and that “the District is not required to directly consider pupil progress in these evaluations, but there must be a nexus between pupil progress and the evaluations.” Chalfant described this nexus as requiring evaluators to have information on student progress; properly training the evaluators to know how to incorporate the student data; and ensuring that the evaluator’s determination of the teacher’s impact on student writing is in written form.

Collective bargaining should be used to establish a uniform process for teacher and principal/assistant principal evaluations, but ultimately the process is at the discretion of the District, stated Chalfant.

Negotiations between the District and its bargaining units to reach that “nexus” are currently underway. Concerns range from the practicality of using student data in evaluations to which data to use and how.

During the lawsuit, LAUSD argued that it was already using student progress data a part of the evaluation process.

“Prior to the Doe v. Deasy rule, LAUSD was on a path toward multiple-measure performance reviews for our educators, including the use of student outcomes data,” stated LAUSD’s legal department in an email to EGP.

The District said it was using trends from periodic testing and grading collected in year-end reports to help teachers develop their goals to improve subsequent student performance.
However, in his tentative ruling, the judge claimed “this argument is simply a restatement of the tautology that as teachers teach, students will learn.” He said it is now up to the District to develop a uniform method that better complies with the Stull Act.

“We look forward to complying with the Court’s order and working with our labor partners to achieve that goal,” LAUSD Board of Education President Monica Garcia told EGP via email.
UTLA’s response to the judge’s ruling is far more mixed. Shortly after the decision, UTLA President Warren Fletcher released a statement saying “Teachers welcome accountability.

“We want an evaluation system that makes sense for both teachers and students and helps teachers grow and improve.”

However, in a statement released last week, Fletcher said UTLA has concerns about using Achievement Growth over Time (AGT) or “value-added” measures in the evaluation process. They are worried the District will want to increase the use of AGT, a measure of job performance represented by a score, summarizing individual student test scores, which some studies have debated the fairness of due to its numerous error factors and because it excludes teaching characteristics.

“Any evaluation system that purports to reduce the complexity of teaching to a ‘score’ (as if our work could be rated the way the Health Department rates restaurant cleanliness) is a step toward deprofessionalization that UTLA must resist,” Fletcher wrote.

“As educators we want an effective evaluation system that fairly assesses our performance and supports our growth as professionals.”

LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer, in a press release following the ruling, agreed with UTLA that the current AGT trial method is inadequate. But he also said that it is a far better measure than the Academic Performance Index and “it should continue to be used for school-wide data, but it is clear we need more inclusive and more accurate measurements as we consider the full picture of teacher performance.”

Another concern is whether the District should use California state test scores from last year in their revised evaluations given that the new process must be put into practice in December.

Principals and assistant principals, on the other hand, are more concerned with how student data will play into their own evaluations and how it will alter their own method of evaluating their teaching staff, Judith Perez, president of AALA told EGP.

“In the past the primary focus of teacher evaluations from the point of view of principals or assistant principal was observation of teachers in the classroom,” Perez said.
She added that prior to the Doe V. Deasy case, AALA had been working with the District on improving this observational method of making evaluations, but that the case has added the use of student data into their negotiations.

She said that AALA has “every intent of reaching an agreement with the district” and that they are “bargaining in good faith.”

Meanwhile, EdVoice President Bill Lucia told EGP that the nonprofit will continue to monitor the negotiations, ensuring that the deadlines are met and progress is made for the sake of parents and their children.

“The outcome the parents care about is how are their kids doing and the extent it leads to, in some level, is the notion that the performance of students and how they are doing over time be incorporated as an accountability measure of job performance, because that’s what the whole school system is about,” Lucia said.

He added that he hopes the negotiations will provide a process by which teachers who are struggling within the system get the help they need and a space for open dialogue with evaluators so they may better understand what they need to improve in the long run.

“I hope it’ll open up a conversation among teachers, and between teachers and principals, not just on the question of the issue of job performance evaluation, but over the course of the entire school year conversations about how are things going, how are the kids doing, how are you doing, do you have all the help that you need to get the results that you’re hoping for, so on and so forth,” Lucia said.