Morning Read: Study Praises Teacher Evaluation Tool

First Academic Study of Controversial LA Unified Teacher Evaluation Program
An academic study of a teacher evaluation method that looks at how much teachers are able to improve students’ test scores gave the pilot program a good grade. But the study comes too late — the teacher’s union and Los Angeles Unified School District agreed not to use the measure in the district’s new teacher evaluation protocols. KPCC

L.A. Unified Fight Focuses on Breakfast Program
Los Angeles Unified will eliminate a classroom breakfast program serving nearly 200,000 children, reject more school police, cut administrators and scale back new construction projects unless the school board votes to approve them, according to Supt. John Deasy. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, Sac Bee, LA Daily News, KPCC

‘Super PACs’ Negate Spending Limits in L.A. Mayor’s Race
As groups raising funds for Greuel and Garcetti pour money into the race — a record $6.1 million so far — voter-approved contribution restrictions become meaningless. LA Times

Eric Garcetti for Mayor
Perhaps most important, Garcetti has demonstrated the capacity to grow, learn and improve his performance. He admits mistakes, such as his vote in favor of a settlement allowing, for a time, virtually unregulated digital billboards. LAT (editorial page)

L.A. Schools Finish One-Two in National Academic Decathlon
After months of preparation, Granada Hills Charter High wins the title for the third straight year. Finishing second was El Camino Real Charter High, a six-time national champion. LA Times
See also: Sac Bee

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District Makes Student Achievement 30% of Teacher Evaluation*

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has issued guidelines to all principals regarding the new teacher evaluations, which will be implemented by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

But UTLA President Warren Fletcher says that the guidelines may violate the underlying agreement, which was ratified by UTLA on January 19th and approved by the School Board on Tuesday. Continue reading

UTLA Supports Seattle Teachers’ Test Boycott

Earlier today, in a show of support for a group of Seattle teachers who are refusing to administer a standardized computer test to students, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) urged its members to wear red and participate in what was called a “national day of action.” Watch a video of the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High:

The test that’s got Seattle teachers so fired up is a computer-based standardized test called Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP. The teachers are boycotting the exam because they feel its measurements of student improvement are disconnected from state standards and classroom lessons, and that the test they consider unreliable is unfairly used to evaluate their job performances. They say they’re not opposed to other standardized tests — only this one.

The teachers’ fight against MAP echoes, at least in some ways, UTLA’s opposition to Academic Growth Over Time (AGT) student assessment program. Though Superintendent John Deasy lead the development of AGT with a plan to create a more comprehensive measure of student progress than a one-dimensional standardized test, the teachers union fought hard –and won– its battle to keep AGT scores out of individual teacher evaluations. Read more about the MAP testing boycott here.

Voices Urge “No” Vote On Evaluation

Former School Board candidate John Fernandez is among a handful of voices urging to teachers to vote against the tentative agreement struck between UTLA and LAUSD regarding teacher evaluations earlier this year.

John Fernandez

“The big problem is the district and the union have not figured out how much weight they will count for,” said Fernandez, who is also a former member of UTLA’s Board of Directors and House of Representatives.  “This is a big problem. You have the teachers voting for an agreement that’s still not complete.”

Fernandez is not alone.  From the other end of the ideological spectrum, school reform advocates including former Washington DC public schools superintendent Michelle Rhee have questioned whether the tentative deal is strong enough.

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UTLA’s Confusing Flip-Flop on Evaluations

UTLA President Warren Fletcher

While union president Warren Fletcher has claimed victory on a recent court-ordered tentative agreement on teacher evaluations, a closer look might leave rank-and-file teachers scratching their heads.

UTLA has consistently opposed any use of student test scores in teacher evaluations in the past. So it was unexpected when the union leadership signed off on using raw standardized test scores such as the California Standards Tests (CST) — a single test measure that UTLA has denounced for years.

Scott Witlin, an attorney who represented parents in the Doe v. Deasy lawsuit that compelled the district and union to reach the agreement, called UTLA’s acceptance of CST scores “ironic.”

“For years, the teachers union complained that individual test scores were insufficient because they didn’t account for other factors,” Witlin said.

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Questions About Teacher Evaluation Deal

National teachers union head Randi Weingarten heaped praise on the tentative deal that LAUSD and UTLA announced last week. LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy touted it as historic (see: “This Has Never Been Done”).

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy

But elsewhere across the nation, the initial word about the deal hasn’t been so unanimously glowing.

Today’s LA Times story about the deal highlights some of these concerns, calling the tentative agreement a “major victory” for the teachers union because it excludes use of teachers’ so-called “value-added” scores.

Mike Casserly, head of the Council of Great City Schools, described the deal as merely “unique for California.”

Kate Walsh, head of the National Center on Teaching Quality, emailed LA School Report that her organization was working on a complete writeup comparing it to Chicago, New York City, and Washington DC, but the initial findings were “not good.” We’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.

Next Steps to Finalize Teacher Deal

UTLA membership: what will they do?

On Friday, LAUSD and UTLA finally came to tentative agreement on a new way to evaluate teachers, just days before the court-imposed December 4 deadline in Doe v. Deasy.

The initial responses were generally positive, including from the plaintiffs. “Assuming that everyone behaves in good faith, I think we’ve achieved what we’ve set out to do,” says the attorney for the unnamed plaintiffs, Scot Witlin.

So what’s next for the agreement?  There’s quite a bit more that has to happen, including a couple of steps that could trip things up. Continue reading

Mediator Named in Deadlock Over Teacher Evaluations

Mediator Don Raska has been appointed to try to help resolve the teacher evaluation negotiations between LAUSD and the teachers union (UTLA), according to a UTLA newsletter.

The October 19th issue of the United Teacher states that, “the union continues to push back against LAUSD’s proposal to link a percentage of a teacher’s evaluation to his or her individual Academic Growth Over Time score. AGT is LAUSD’s version of VAM, or value- added model, which research studies show to be an inaccurate and unstable measure of teacher effectiveness.”

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Zimmer Postpones Charter Proposal

Board Member Steve Zimmer

LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer’s proposal to overhaul charter school oversight and, more controversially, to place a moratorium on new charter schools, has been postponed until the November 13 board meeting, according to the just-posted agenda for the meeting this Tuesday, October 9.

Zimmer’s idea was first presented at last month’s board meeting, and generated heavy criticism from parents and charter school activists.  His resolution to change the way teachers are evaluated, which has also generated much controversy and has already been twice postponed, is on Tuesday’s agenda. Click below for  the key paragraph that deals with Academic Growth over Time, or AGT.

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Zimmer Postpones His Teacher Evaluation Proposal

A number of parents and teachers showed up to today’s jam-packed school board meeting to denounce board member Steve Zimmer’s proposal to reject Academic Growth Over Time (or AGT) as a measurement of pupil progress in teacher evaluations. About six or seven of them wore t-shirts reading, “SHAME ON YOU ZIMMER.”

They never got their chance to speak, however. Zimmer decided to postpone the item at least until the next board meeting on October 9. “There’s even a lot of stress around this,” he said “That’s appropriate. This is one of the most important things we will do.”

Debates on other school board items turned a bit tense during the rest of the meeting.  These included a turf feud between two schools over sharing space and a short video that left one board member feeling left out. The only big item over which there was no real dispute was the resolution against Proposition 32, which would prohibit unions from automatically deducting money from their members paychecks and spending that money on political contributions.

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Big Moves From Zimmer

Board Member Steve Zimmer

Tomorrow at the LAUSD board meeting (see agenda here), board member Steve Zimmer will make two big moves.

The first is his long-awaited proposal to reject the use of Academic Growth Over Time, or AGT, as a measurement of pupil progress when evaluating teachers. AGT measures student improvement on the California Standardized Tests (CSTs), and is currently used to evaluate schools as a whole.

The second is a resolution to create a system Zimmer says will better monitor and review charter schools, including a new, 13-member Charter Oversight Commission, proposals which are opposed by both charter school management organizations and  LAUSD Superintendent Deasy.

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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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School Board To Vote On Competing Ballot Measures

When the LAUSD Board meets tomorrow morning at 9 am, the first item of business will be which of the competing tax measures on the November ballot to support. Governor Jerry Brown is pushing proposition 30 while Molly Munger is pushing prop 38. The state’s rank-and-file Democrats are lining up to support the governor’s measure, and keeping mum on Munger’s.

Board members Bennett Kayser and Steve Zimmer will introduce a resolution to support both propositions; Monica Garcia, Tamar Galatzan and Zimmer will introduce a resolution to support proposition 30; while Galatzan, Zimmer and Nury Martinez will introduce a resolution to support prop 38.

Of course, these are symbolic resolutions that have no effect on anything in the real world, but it could offer an interesting glimpse into the board’s set of shifting alliances. Or they could just move to support both measures and be done with it.

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