UTLA Files Action Against District Over Teacher Evaluations*

teacher_evaluation_clipart-e1366148884439The teachers union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against LA Unified over the new teacher evaluations. The union took the complaint to the Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, a quasi-judicicial state agency that hears public employee disputes.

In addition to the legal action, the union has distributed letters for teachers to give to their principals, expressing opposition to the new evaluations and the use of standardized test scores in setting objectives for teachers in initial planning conferences.

Superintendent John Deasy said he hadn’t seen the letter but had heard about it.

“I don’t even know what to make of it,” said Deasy. “I’m sad and disappointed. We’ve been trying to implement a balanced and multiple-measured evaluation system for years now. It seems we’ve been blocked at every turn to provide teachers with meaningful feedback.”

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More Failing Teachers Pushed Out Under Deasy

Superintendent John Deasy via LA Weekly

From LA School Report contributor Hillel Aron:

“Bad teachers are rarely fired. In the 2005-06 school year, according to LAUSD’s human resources division, just six of L.A.’s army of 34,000 teachers were dismissed, and 10 were convinced to resign. In 2006-07, those numbers were three and 15….

“Without fanfare, the school district famous for its unacknowledged Dance of the Lemons — a policy of repeatedly transferring the worst teachers to unsuspecting new schools — has started to fire its bad teachers

“Last year, 331 teachers flunked their Stull evaluations, and 89 of those were fired or pushed out.”

Read the rest of the story at LA Weekly.

Dueling Evaluation Memos from Union, District

On Friday, LAUSD sent out an announcement about the new teacher evaluation program that the district and the teachers union agreed to earlier this year, clarifying its position on the use of student achievement data.

Now, UTLA is denouncing the district memo for “attempt[ing] to discredit UTLA’s internal materials to our membership while also continuing to add another layer of add-on communication and confusion to a legal agreement that has already been ratified by both parties.” Continue reading

Board Candidates Fault Process, Not 30% Figure

Monica Ratliff

On Friday, LAUSD issued a new guidance telling principals to make student achievement 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation starting next year.

Almost immediately, UTLA President Warren Fletcher objected, arguing that the 30 percent figure was too high and a district-wide process was overly prescriptive.

Since then, the LA TImes has reported that District 4 School Board challenger Kate Anderson supports Superintendent John Deasy’s teacher evaluation guidance and that District 4 School Board member Steve Zimmer supports the idea of a district-wide guidance but is concerned about potential delays caused by union objection.

But what about the other candidates?  Reached by LA School Report, a number of UTLA-backed candidates were also critical of the guidance. They generally didn’t object to the idea that principals should use the same guidance district-wide. Two out of three didn’t object to Deasy’s 30 percent figure. However, they faulted Deasy for failing to communicate the 30 percent figure ahead of time.

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Implementing the Teacher Evaluation Deal

UTLA President Warren Fletcher

Last week, classroom teachers voted overwhelmingly to approve a new system of evaluations, which include data from California Standardized Tests.

 “I’m gratified our members ratified the agreement that clearly states, individual AGT (Academic Growth Over Time) scores will not be used as part of a teacher’s final evaluation,” said UTLA chief Warren Fletcher in a statement. “

Sixty-six percent of UTLA’s rank and file members (11,185 teachers) voted yes, according to a UTLA press release (read full statement here).

The vote marks the end of a saga that began In November 2011, and the beginning of difficult phase in which the district must develop and implement the new plan. Superintendent John Deasy has a good deal of latitude in figuring out the specifics of the new evaluations. Of especial interest is just how much weight test scores will have.

Previous posts: Union Warns Against Rejecting Teacher Evaluation DealTeachers Set to Vote on EvaluationVoices Urge “No” Vote On EvaluationNext Steps to Finalize Teacher Deal (For more coverage, see: LA TimesDaily NewsKPCCEd Source)

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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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,

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: 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

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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LAUSD & UTLA: Headed To Mediation

LA School Report has learned that LAUSD has filed a “declaration of impasse” in their negotiations with UTLA over teacher evaluations, and as a result the negotiations have gone to mediation with the Public Employee Relations Board.

The “impasse” declaration was filed more than a couple of weeks ago, according to LAUSD Chief Labor and Employment Counsel Alex Molina, although he declined to provide a specific date or comment on how the process was going. “The mediator is not allowing parties to speak about mediation process,” said Molina.

According to an inside source who did not wish to be named, the move is “a leverage decision [on the part of LAUSD]. It makes UTLA look like foot-draggers.” However, Molina describes the move as perfectly normal: “The court had ordered that parties partake in such a process if necessary to reach agreement.”

Previous posts: Week-Long Disappearing Act for Zimmer ResolutionConcerns About Teacher TalksTeacher Evaluation Debate Deadline.

Week-Long Disappearing Act for Zimmer Resolution

When the Board meeting agenda came out last week, it initially included Board member Zimmer’s resolution regarding use of student achievement data to evaluate teachers (see PDF here).The Zimmer resolution sought to block LAUSD from using a new student achievement measurement called Academic Growth Over Time (AGT) when evaluating teachers – even in combination with other measures like classroom observation that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy supports.

Earlier in the week, Zimmer had announced that he would not be offering his charter school oversight proposal (see previous post here).  He then told a group of Mar Vista parents that he might also drop the teacher evaluation proposal (see blog post here). Finally, on Thursday afternoon, Zimmer’s office sent out a release announcing that he would not be offering his AGT resolution at the Tuesday October 9 board meeting after all (see PDF here). On Friday afternoon, the Daily Breeze reported on the development, noting that this was at least the third time that the AGT resolution had been delayed (see here).

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.

Concerns About Teacher Talks

Left to right: Scott Witlin, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Ed Voice’s Bill Lucia; Press conference after Doe v. Deasy decision

On Monday, representatives from LAUSD and UTLA met again to discuss teacher evaluations — the 15th session since July 11, when a judge ordered the two sides to develop a new system for evaluating teachers and principals that includes some measure of pupil progress.

Superintendent John Deasy told Teresa Watanabe of the LA Times, “I am anticipating a breakthrough with teachers, and I would say very soon.” (see: Slim chance for teachers strike in L.A., officials say)

But others aren’t so sure. UTLA president Warren Fletcher has repeatedly said that he opposes any use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. And it’s unclear how much progress has been made in the negotiations, from which the Doe v. Deasy plaintiffs have been excluded.

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Morning Read: Agreement In Principal

L.A. Unified, union OK system of evaluating principals LA Times: Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy announced the one-year agreement with the administrators’ union Tuesday, calling it a “remarkable breakthrough.” The one-year time period will give both sides time to work out details of the system, according to AALA President Judith Perez. Other coverage of the agreement is in The Daily News (LAUSD has tentative deal with administrators on teacher evaluations) and KPCC (LAUSD and administrators’ union reach tentative deal on student test scores in evals).

Charter campuses focus of L.A. school-board protests LA Times: About 400 charter school advocates descended on Los Angeles school district headquarters Tuesday to protest a proposed moratorium on new charters. Later, a smaller but equally passionate contingent of parents and teachers from Berendo Middle School arrived to oppose construction of a building to house a charter school on that campus. See also my story on the board meeting yesterday (Zimmer Postpones His Teacher Evaluation Proposal), as well as a piece in The Atlantic (Chicago Teachers Strike Puts Charter Schools in the Spotlight).

LA mayor backs weighing student performance in evaluating teacher quality CNN: The Los Angeles Unified School District has been reviewing a system of teacher and administrator evaluations that, for the first time, includes student test scores, said spokeswoman Ellen Morgan.

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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.

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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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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