Deasy: “This Has Never Been Done”

Superintendent John Deasy explained to LA School Report why the tentative agreement reached between LAUSD and UTLA on teacher performance was so historic:

“You don’t do this stuff in California – this has never been done. People were very very conscious and concerned, people were very worried about the precedent it would set.”

UTLA President Warren Fletcher’s comments to LA School Report were more measured:

“I think that the judge gave us a task to perform and he gave us a time limit. It’s been complicated. We came out with a product that’s going to allow us to use test data in a smart way.”

One of the biggest areas of disagreement was the use of Academic Growth Over Time. Fletcher said AGT scores are too simplistic, and that they don’t “yield information that helps us improve instruction.” Standardized Testing scores, on the other hand, can help teachers improve.

“Teachers welcome accountability, but we want it to be used logically,” he said.

Proponents of AGT however, argue that because it tracks the progress or growth of individual students over time, it is actually more accurate than an absolute target or standard for measuring and improving teaching.

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Breaking News: Test Scores to Be Used in Teacher Evaluations

Supt. John Deasy

A tentative but potentially historic agreement was reached late Friday, November 30 between LAUSD and UTLA that will define how teachers are evaluated in the second largest school district in country. The agreement includes the use of individual student test scores as a part of the review process – a measurement that has been championed by Superintendent John Deasy and consistently opposed by the teachers union.

According to a press release issued by LAUSD, “Measures of student achievement are not the primary or controlling factor, but they are significant, and beginning immediately, will be incorporated.” The court-ordered negotiation, which started in July, recently gained urgency as it faced the December 4 deadline.

To read LAUSD’s full press release, click here.

Update: LAUSD’s big concession to UTLA is one that would please board member Steve Zimmer – the district will not use individual Academic Growth of Time scores in teacher evaluations; it will use only school-wide AGT scores.

“We are pleased to announce the agreement rejects the use of individual AGT (Academic Growth Over Time) scores as part of a teacher’s final evaluation,” said UTLA President Warren Fletcher in a press release. “This is significant because these scores have been found to be an unreliable method of measuring a teacher’s effectiveness.” (Read the full press release here.)

Evaluations will, however, use raw scores from students’ California Standards Tests (CST), arguably as tough a measure. It’s unclear how much weight the CSTs will carry in the mix, although the LA Times is reporting that it will be less than 50%. The evaluations will use a panoply of other metrics, including ‘robust’ classroom observation, A-G course enrollment, graduation rates, dropout rates, Advanced Placement course enrollment, and California High School Exit Exam passage rates.

The Daily News has posted an outline of the agreement.

Previous posts: Teacher Talks: What Happens If They Can’t Agree?, Mediator Named in Deadlock Over Teacher Evaluations, Conflicting Reports On Evaluation Negotiations

Commentary: Implications of a Bloom Win

Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom seems like he’s on the verge of having won his race against Assembly member Betsy Butler. (See: KPCCLA ObservedLA Weekly).

Bloom (left) and Butler (right) via LA Weekly

If this happens, Bloom will have won despite being outspent by a wide margin, lacking key Democratic endorsements, and even having the state Democratic party circulate flyers against him.  And his victory will be due in some part to Butler’s abstention on a key bill that would have made it easier to dismiss teachers accused of being sexual predators. (Bloom is quoted in the LA Weekly say that the sexual predator issue was a major factor in his race.)

The the implications are pretty clear: candidates for the three School Board seats being contested in March will have to be sure not to be seen as “soft” on the speedy removal of sexual predators from classrooms. Fundraising, endorsements, and negative advertising might not be enough. This seems especially true after yesterday’s state report on LAUSD’s handling of teachers who have been accused of abusing students.

Previous posts: Dems. Joined Attack On BloomTeachers Union Help Not Enough?Bloom Criticizes Betsy Butler For SB 1530 Vote

Drones for LAUSD?

Domestic drones via SF Gate

Privacy advocates and technophobes have responded with alarm to the news reported in the SF Gate that the FAA has lately been inundated with requests from public and private agencies to launch drone programs domestically.  So far as we know, LAUSD isn’t among those public agencies who’ve inquired about using drones, but it might not be too far off. What better way to monitor recess or find truants wandering during school hours? (See: Push to step up domestic use of drones).

Morning Read: LAUSD Responds to Child Abuse Audit

LAUSD Slow to Report on Teacher Misconduct
Los Angeles school officials failed to promptly report nearly 150 cases of suspected teacher misconduct — including allegations of sexual contact with students — to state authorities as required by law, an audit released Thursday concluded. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News, KPCC

Teacher Says District Has Gone Too Far
Responding to a state audit that found delays in L.A. Unified School District’s reporting of allegations of child abuse, Superintendent John Deasy said he has already improved the district’s reporting and investigation procedures. KPCC

Abuse Records Don’t Follow Some School Workers
California teachers who lose their jobs for misconduct against students lose their licenses to teach, but the state has no similar process for the other 289,000 school employees who are fired or forced to resign due to child abuse. EdSource

LA Unified Building 15 Large Campus Clinics for Students, Public
L.A. Unified cut the ribbon Thursday on the latest of 15 on-campus clinics that’ll offer dental, mental, and sexual health services to the school’s students and neighbors. KPCC

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Deasy Predicts Evaluation Deal

Superintendent John Deasy said this morning that he expects a tentative agreement with UTLA over a new system of teacher evaluations, as mandated by the court in Doe v. Deasy, at some point in the next four days — just before the deadline set by the judge.

“I’m not a betting or predictive kind of guy, but I would, if I had to be forced to do that, I would see that taking place in the next four days – before it’s necessary,” Deasy told reporters at a press conference this morning.

“I have a pen in my pocket at all times to sign a tentative agreement with UTLA that would comply with the Stull Act and use measures of student achievement as a factor in evaluating teachers,” said Deasy. “I don’t have that at the moment and am late to that meeting.”

No word yet on what the elements of the deal will be, how the plaintiffs will respond, or whether UTLA is feeling equally optimistic.

Previous posts: Teacher Talks: What Happens If They Can’t Agree?Top District Lawyer Talks Lawsuits, Unilateral Action,

One Thing: Charter Scrutiny In Sacto.

Via IndyWeek

While changes in district policies governing charter school oversight seem to be off the table for now, today’s SI&A Cabinet Report reminds us that the state may well take up the issue on its own. New legislation likely to be considered in the near future would require authorizers like LAUSD to consider charter schools’ performance in a more detailed and rigorous manner before renewing them, notes the article (Uptick in Charter Renewal Denials as National Group Calls for More).

Morning Read: Teacher Misconduct Review

State Audit on How LA Unified Handles Child Abuse Claims
The results of a state audit on how L.A. Unified handles child abuse claims is set to be released Thursday morning. KPCC

California School Districts Face Huge Debt on Risky Bonds
Two hundred school districts across California have borrowed billions of dollars using a costly and risky form of financing that has saddled them with staggering debt, according to a Times analysis. LA Times

Uptick in Charter Renewal Denials as National Group Calls for More
The number of charter schools denied renewal nationwide more than doubled in 2011 to 12 – a jump attributed to closer scrutiny of academic standards. SI&A Cabinet Report

One in Five Charter Schools Is Bad Enough to Close Down
The Chicago-based group’s members — such as the Los Angeles Unified School District and the State University of New York — oversee more than half of the nation’s 5,600 charter schools. SF Chronicle

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Turning IDs Into Tracking Devices

Many schools already require students to wear IDs with pictures, ID numbers, and class schedules on them.

Now, a Texas high school student is on the verge of being transferred out of her magnet program to another school because she’s refused to participate in the pilot RFID tracking program in which plastic ID badges being embedded with radio frequency tags (pictured) that allow administrators to locate students (and count them towards daily attendance, which affects revenue).  In the Christian Science MonitorDo school IDs with locator chips violate religious freedom?

There’s no news of them being tried out in LA schools, though there’s probably someone at LAUSD who’s probably already thought about it.

Teacher Talks: What Happens If They Can’t Agree?

The deadline set by Judge Chalfant for LAUSD and UTLA to agree on a teacher evaluation system that satisfies the requirements of the Stull Act is December 4 — less than a week away.

Neither side is saying how the negotiations are going – other than, well, “they’re going.” That sounds good, but the district and the union haven’t been getting along lately on things like the Race to the Top application, and LAUSD recently called for mediation because there had been an impasse in negotiations.

So what happens if the negotiations bog down and the sides can’t come to an agreement within the judge’s timeline? We asked a couple of experts to weigh in and they came up with three possible scenarios: a fine or other finding against the district, permission to implement a new plan unilaterally without the union’s approval, or the use of some sort of outside third party to handle things.

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One Thing: Focus On Charter Quality

New charter school quality initiative

It’s just an announcement, and there are lots of things that could prevent any real action from taking place, but kudos to the California Charter Schools Association for being one of two state charter groups to join the National Association of Charter School Authorizers this morning in Washington to call for a renewed focus on charter school quality and — where necessary — closings. See the Huffington Post article about the announcement here. Next steps?  Identify and then close or nonrenew charters that aren’t performing.

Morning Read: LAUSD Grad Rate Low but Climbing

Calif. Grad Rate in Bottom Half of All US; LAUSD’s Even Lower
The high school graduation rate in California ranks in the bottom half of all U.S. states, with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s own graduation rate well below the state’s, according to data released Tuesday. CBS

An L.A. Unified Road Map
A six-year study provides a wealth of information on how to recruit, assign, pay and, when necessary, lay off teachers in ways that help students most. LA Times Editorial

LAUSD ‘Jails’ Fill With Teachers as Misconduct Complaints Rise
They call it “teacher jail” – the administrative offices where nearly 300 Los Angeles Unified educators accused of misconduct spend months on end reading, blogging or texting. LA Daily News

Charter Proponents Focus On Shutting Down Failing Schools
On Wednesday morning, NACSA head Greg Richmond will join New Jersey Schools Commissioner Chris Cerf and California charter schools advocate Jed Wallace at Washington D.C.’s National Press Club to announce a new campaign, “One Million Lives,” that aims to crack the whip on the duds. Huff Po

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Event: SEIU Making Board Picks Next Week

Wasting no time, the local branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has been a big spender in recent LAUSD elections, will hold a town hall meeting on Tuesday, December 4 to select and endorse LAUSD Board candidates running for three seats in the March 2013 board election.

The town hall will take place from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Local 99 SEIU auditorium, located at 2724 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, CA, 90005. For full event details and to RSVP, click here.

One Thing: The Return of AB 5

Many Washington insiders would disagree pretty vehemently with SI&A Cabinet Report‘s assessment that the Obama administration will try for a comprehensive overhaul of No Child Left Behind, but the news outlet’s latest article (Stakes likely go up on teacher evaluations in Obama’s second term) is still a good reminder that key policy issues like including student achievement in teacher evaluations aren’t going anywhere and that a resurrected version of AB 5, the failed proposal to revamp teacher evaluation statewide, is likely to return in January or thereafter. Theoretically, UTLA and LAUSD are going to come to an agreement on this issue before then, but it’s possible that those talks will stall out, putting Sacramento back in the spotlight.

Previous posts: Furious Debate Over “Pupil Progress,” Report: 21 States Include Student Achievement“No” On Teacher Evaluation Bill

Meet District 6 Candidate Maria Cano

So far, just three school board candidates have turned in their signatures for review and approval: sitting school board President Monica Garcia in District 2, Kate Anderson in District 4, and Maria Cano in District 6. (See: City Clerk filing status list)

Maria Cano, left, pictured with City Councilman Mitch Englander, second to the left, and school board member Tamar Galatzan, second from the right

Pictured above on the left, the 42 year-old Cano is running for District 6 along with others such as Antonio Sanchez, Ernie Cardenas and Iris Zuñiga. (See:Campaign ’13 Candidates To Watch).

When asked about her platform, Cano gives the impression of being a UTLA-friendly candidate.

“It’s definitely part of my platform, the importance of teachers,” says Cano.

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Morning Read: LAUSD Not a Race to Top Finalist

LAUSD Not a Race to the Top 2012 Finalist
Finalists for the White House’s 2012 Race to the Top grant competition were released Monday. To no one’s surprise, the Los Angeles Unified School District is not a contender. Huff Po

Four CA Districts Make Race to the Top Finals
Out of 17 districts that applied for a share of the nearly $400 million in federal grant money, only four made the cut to the finals.  Districts that didn’t make the cut include Los Angeles, Fresno and Clovis Unified. EdSource Daily

Charter Group, but Not L.A. Unified, Finalist for Race to the Top
A local charter school organization is a finalist for a high-profile federal grant, but the Los Angeles Unifed School District failed to qualify in the same competition. LA Times

Great Uncertainty Over Direction of State Standardized Tests
What subjects should be tested, for whom, how often (not every year in every subject, perhaps), at what cost, and, perhaps the biggest question, for what purpose? EdSource

Inglewood Superintendent Returns to Turn Schools Around
Kent Taylor hopes to stabilize the insolvent district that he says set him on his course through life. But not everyone is rooting for him. LA Times

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Good News for Green Dot*

Remember a few weeks ago when UTLA refused to sign onto LAUSD’s Race to the Top application, and Superintendent John Deasy sent it in anyway (along with a press release)?

Well it took the US Department of Education about five minutes to reject LAUSD’s application, and — thanks to 300 peer reviewers — it took just a few weeks to whittle nearly 1200 district applications down to 61 finalists.

LAUSD is not one of them, of course, but Animo Charter High School (a part of Green Dot) is included on the list.  And in related news, Green Dot founder Steve Barr noted that Green Dot NYC was awarded a “big fat A” by the NYC Department of Education.

*UPDATE: Also on Monday, Green Dot announced that founder Barr had resigned from its board, severing the last remaining official connection between them. See LA Daily News for more.

Previous posts:  LAUSD Applies Without Union SupportDeasy’s Go-It-Alone ApplicationCautious Union, Sad Superintendent

Comings & Goings: UTLA, LAUSD

The teachers union has a new communications director – its third since June, and LAUSD’s much-hyped “social media director” is moving on to greener pastures.

Suzanne Spurgeon, former CNN Vice President, replaces Kim Turner, who replaced Marla Eby in the summer.

LAUSD, meanwhile, no longer employs Stephanie Abrams, who served briefly as their social media director (HuffPo did a short Q+A with her in September). She recently posted on Facebook that she is starting her own business. Anyone else coming or going?  Let us know.

Update: Kim Turner is still an employee of UTLA. She was temporarily filling the role of communications director until a permanent replacement was found.