Reformer Calls For Stronger State Evaluation Law

Former Washington DC schools superintendent Michelle Rhee credits LAUSD and UTLA for making progress with their tentative teacher evaluation deal but describes it as”falling short in many ways” and cites it as an example of the need for a “strong statewide policy governing teachers’ performance evaluations.”

Former DC schools superintendent Michelle Rhee, center, with LAUSD superintendent John Deasy, right, in 2011

Read below for the full statement from Rhee, who is now head of the Sacramento-based StudentsFirst school reform advocacy organization.  As you may recall, efforts to strengthen state teacher evaluation laws were stymied last year.

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Morning Read: Making Arts “Core”

LAUSD Considers Making Arts Education A ‘Core Subject’
The L.A. Unified school board will vote on a measure Tuesday that would make arts education a “core subject,” prohibit further cuts to the arts, and ultimately restore some money to arts programs. KPCC


Fact Check: On Education, Gains Difficult To Demonstrate
Education reporter Howard Blume fact checks last night’s debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. LA Times 


California Schools On The Brink
If the state’s voters don’t approve a package of emergency tax increases at the ballot box in November, the system – already pushed to the brink by decades of budgets cuts, swelling class sizes, skyrocketing inner-city dropout rates, shrinking libraries and disappearing arts and music programs – will start to shut down altogether. Salon


A Missed Opportunity To Reform Teacher Evaluations
AB 5 was not perfect, but for the community groups and advocates who supported it, its demise represents the loss of a much-needed reform of the state’s teacher evaluation system. In figuring out a way forward, it’s worth examining the loudest arguments opposing AB 5 and whether and how to address them. Ed Source

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Former Superintendent Debates Union Head

Thanks to a kind reader for sending along this PBS NewsHour segment in which former LAUSD superintendent Roy Romer debates American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten: 

It’s a couple of weeks old but still might be worth the watch, given the ongoing debate over including student achievement in teacher evaluations and whether unions can or should be involved in reform.  Or read the transcript here.

Report: 21 States Include Student Achievement

We’re waiting for the district and teachers union to come up with some sort of deal to comply with the Stull Act’s requirement that teacher evaluations include some measure of pupil progress (see our most recent update here). In the meantime, you might want to know that 21 states — not including California — have already moved to include student achievement as part of teacher evaluation over the past three years, according to this new SI&A article (Student scores at heart of new teacher ratings nationally) based on a Washington DC think tank survey of states. The details vary widely, and there’s no single best way, but clearly it can be done.

Morning Read: A Union Breakfast

Teachers union wants a say in L.A. Unified’s classroom breakfast program LA Times: As the district begins expanding the classroom breakfast program to 279 schools this year, United Teachers Los Angeles has asked for the matter to be brought to the bargaining table.

Small central coast district leads the way on teacher evaluation, mentoring SI&A Report: Two major themes of change working through the nation’s education system – teacher evaluations based on test scores and the elevation of master teachers as classroom mentors – failed to advance in California during this summer’s legislative session. But both of these themes are getting a vigorous trial in the small central coast school district of Lucia Mar Unified.

LCUSD, parents lobbied to kill bill La Canada Valley Sun: La Cañada Unified School District board of education members are crediting the community for helping spike a state Assembly proposal that would have eliminated student test results as a measure of teacher performance.

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Stuck in the Middle: Steve Zimmer

School board member Steve Zimmer

The first thing I notice when stepping into the office of Steve Zimmer, the 42 year-old LAUSD school board member, is the Cesar Chavez poster on the wall — a copy of which Deasy has, too.

The second thing is the expansive view from the 24th floor of LAUSD’s massive hilltop headquarters looking out over much of Downtown LA. I’ve always had a kind of soft spot for the building. Zimmer doesn’t feel the same way.

“It represents everything that’s wrong with the district,” says the Teach For America alumnus who was initially aligned with other school reformers on the board but has at times clashed with them since then.

“Really?” I ask, surprised.

“The whole district, it should be accessible to people, it should be accessible to the community. You shouldn’t have to worry about parking, security. It’s antithetical to idea of community-based schooling.”

“That being said,” he adds, “I do like the view.”

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Morning Read: Infighting In Sacto & Charlotte

Failure of teacher evaluation bill clouds CA’s NCLB waiver SI&A Cabinet Report: Withdrawal of the teacher evaluation bill in the final days of the legislative session last week likely removes an easy path for California schools to relief from federal sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act, state officials said last week. [Also: The California Teachers Association has its version of events up here: Teachers Disappointed at Legislature’s Failure to Approve Evaluation Revamp, and UT San Diego has coverage here: Bill dies, but teacher evaluation debate to continue.

Teachers unions’ alliance with Democratic Party frays LA Times: Teachers unions have been the Democratic Party’s foot soldiers for more than half a century, but this relationship is fraying, and the deterioration was evident Monday as Democrats gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina for their national convention. [Also:  HuffPo has a similar piece that focuses on the new film, “Won’t Back Down,” based on the new Parent Trigger law.]

LA schools moving away from zero tolerance policies Los Angeles Times: The move away from punitive law enforcement actions and toward support services reflects a growing awareness, grounded in research, that treating minor offenses with police actions did not necessarily make campuses safer or students more accountable.

Scramble Over Teacher Evaluation

It was a mad scramble in Sacramento yesterday, and well into the night, with state legislators trying to get every bill they possibly could out the door before recess, Friday at midnight.

And perhaps nowhere was the scramble madder than in the Senate education committee, where lawmakers desperately tried to amend AB 5, a bill that would change how public school teachers are evaluated.

Among many issues being debated are the appropriate use of student achievement in teacher evaluations, the role of local bargaining agreements, political relationships between unions and Democratic lawmakers, and the fate of the lawsuit known as Doe v. Deasy, which would make student achievement part of teacher evaluation in LAUSD.

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Teacher Evaluation Debate Deadline

It’s crunchtime for the state legislature, which has yet to figure out what to do with a slew of issues including AB 5, the proposal that would essentially remove pupil progress from teacher evaluations (see KPCC: California lawmakers voting on hundreds of bills to meet a Friday midnight deadline). As you may recall, AB 5′s author offered some changes to the measure last week but LAUSD’s Deasy and reform organizations remain opposed (see previous post: Furious Debate Over Pupil Progress). On Sunday, the Modesto Bee editorialized against the bill (Why rush this gutted bill into law?). The Bee also noted that the bill has “gotten some favorable comments from the Brown administration.”

In the meantime, SI&A reports that Governor Brown has vetoed AB 1765, which would have created a “master teacher” program, and that SB 885, which would promote agencies collecting and sharing student date has been revived (see: Brown rejects master teacher bill, measure to link student data advances).

Furious Debate Over “Pupil Progress”

Rumors are flying fast and furious about Assembly Bill 5, a proposed amendment to the Stull Act offered by San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes.

The latest word from EdSource is that AB 5 is being revised slightly to try and mollify opponents and also to help make the state eligible for a No Child Left Behind waiver (see: Fuentes agrees to compromises on AB 5: Are they enough?). If approved, the amended bill could go back to the State Senate education committee early next week. But it’s not clear that’s going to happen without further changes. Romero, EdVoice and other education reformers are still strongly opposed to the law — as is LAUSD’s John Deasy.

What is AB 5? Why do ed reform groups, not to mention Deasy, hate it so much? And what is Fuentes offering to change?

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Morning Read: “Ransom Note”

Prop 30 Is a Ransom Note. But Should We Pay It Anyway? NBC / Prop Zero: Structured around a budget that would trigger big cuts to schools and universities in the event it loses in November, Prop 30 takes California’s kids, and future, hostage, and demands payment.

Fuentes agrees to compromises on AB 5: Are they enough? Ed Source: At the 11th hour, the author of the bill to rewrite the teacher evaluation law has offered compromises intended to placate opponents and to qualify the state for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. The latter may work, but probably not the former.

In California Politics, Teachers union are to fear Channel 6 News Online: In lawsuits against the state and the Los Angeles Unified School District, they allege that a number of union-backed laws “prevent school administrators from prioritizing or even considering the interests of their students.”

Many UC, CSU students aren’t ready for college-level writing; USC program tries to help KPCC: The 94 students in this year’s program competed to get in from Los Angeles urban high schools with low college attendance rates. For half of their six-hour days, they concentrate on intensive writing courses that offer what few of them have experienced before: one-on-one instruction, peer assistance and revision, revision, revision. Continue reading

Ed Voice Ad Blasts Felipe Fuentes’ Assembly Bill 5

Tomorrow, the Sacramento-based school reform advocacy group Ed Voice will have a full-page ad (seen on the left, click to enlarge) in the LA Times calling on the state legislature and Governor Jerry Brown to oppose AB 5. The Felipe Fuentes-sponsored bill would make all teacher evaluations subject to collective-bargaining agreements.

A number of other ed reform groups are strongly opposed to the measure, including California Democrats for Education Reform, Alliance for a Better Community and Educators 4 Excellence.

Ed Voice was instrumental in bringing about the Doe v. Deasy lawsuit, arguing that LAUSD was failing to abide by the Stull Act, which mandates that teachers be evaluated based on a number of objective criteria, including pupil progress. A judge recently ordered the district and the unions to come up with new evaluations that satisfy the 1971 law.

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