As California Supreme Court mulls Vergara appeal, a case on teacher evaluations will be heard this week

Plaintiffs' attorneys Ted Boutrous, left, and Josh Lipshutz, right, with Students Matter founder David Welch in the background

Plaintiffs’ attorneys Ted Boutrous, left, and Josh Lipshutz, right, with Students Matter founder David Welch in the background.

As the California Supreme Court considers whether to take up an appeal of an appellate court ruling in Vergara v. California, which has been extended to Aug. 22, the advocacy group that brought the landmark case will be in a Northern California courtroom Friday for a hearing on a case involving teacher evaluations.

Last year Students Matter filed a lawsuit, Doe v. Antioch, against 13 California school districts, saying collective bargaining agreements in those districts violated the Stull Act by explicitly prohibiting the use of student standardized test scores in assessing teacher performance. LA Unified is not a party of the lawsuit.

The Stull Act, passed by the state Legislature in 1971, requires student progress to be included as part of evaluations of teacher job performance.

A similar lawsuit, Doe v. Deasy, was filed against LA Unified in 2011 by EdVoice. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered LA Unified to renegotiate contracts with its teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, to develop new evaluations based in part on student progress.

After former Superintendent John Deasy opted to make student achievement account for 30 percent of teacher evaluations, UTLA filed an unfair labor practices complaint in 2013 against the district with the Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB. The union and the district had agreed to include student test scores as part of evaluations, but did not agree on a specific numeric requirement, union officials said at the time.

Attorney Joshua Lipshutz, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who is representing Students Matter said he will ask a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge on Friday to grant a writ of mandate, essentially a court order requiring the school districts to comply with the law.

Lipshutz said after the judgment was made in the lawsuit against LA Unified, he hoped other school districts would comply with the ruling on their own even though they weren’t required to. The districts didn’t, he said.

“The same system ruled to be illegal in Doe v. Deasy is the same thing that’s in place in all of these other districts,” he said.

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Price of LAUSD, teachers union split on evaluations: $171 million

teacher_evaluation_satisfactoryWhile the teachers union and LA Unified are united in spirit that the district should not lose $47 million in state money over faulty attendance record keeping, their disagreement on another issue could cost them nearly four times as much from Washington.

The district has until March 31 to apply for federal waiver that allows LA Unified to replace No Child Left Behind accountability rules with its own school improvement system. It is called the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) Waiver, and it would generate $171 million in federal revenue over three years.

But to win the waiver, the district and UTLA must agree on a teacher evaluation system that includes a minimum of three rankings. That has been a sticking point in contract negotiations over the past seven months. Without an agreement with the union, the district may be in jeopardy of disqualifying itself from receiving the money.

Alex Caputo Pearl, president of UTLA, says the issue is on the agenda tomorrow as part of the first mediated session between the two sides.

“It’s one of the things we’re going to hammer out in mediation,” he told LA School Report.

In 2013, the district implemented a new overall teacher evaluation system that raised performance levels to four from two. The union objected, saying it never agreed to the new terms and argued that the new system created a path to establish merit pay to reward the highest performing teachers. The union took the issue to the labor board, and a PERB judge agreed with UTLA, that the district acted unlawfully, and ordered the two sides to renegotiate the terms.

In anticipation of the looming deadline, Superintendent Ramon Cortines last month sent a letter to UTLA, suggesting that the union and the district work toward an agreement on the single issue. But it never came.

While Caputo-Pearl admitted the waiver would help shrink the district’s estimated $180 million deficit for the 2015-16 school year, he says it comes with strings attached, unlike the money generated by average daily attendance.

“[The CORE money] can only be applied to certain things,” he explained, “whereas the $47 million is General Funds. It can be generally applied to class size, staffing, and other uses. The CORE Waiver money has certain constraints.”

Labor board rules against LAUSD for teacher evaluations

teacher_evaluation_satisfactory* UPDATED

LA Unified violated state employment laws by imposing an evaluation system on members of its teacher union, UTLA, a state agency said in a tentative ruling made public today.

If the ruling made on Christmas Eve by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) stands, the district would have to stop the evaluation process, which was implemented in 2013 under former Superintendent John Deasy. The district would also be ordered to compensate UTLA members for any financial losses incurred as a direct result of the evaluation system, which was based on a four-level observation rating system.

UTLA, which filed the complaint in June 2013, said in a statement it is “gratified” for the board ruling. The district has until Feb. 22 to appeal, but the union said it “is confident that if there is an appeal, the full PERB board will affirm the administrative law judge’s decision that the District acted unlawfully.”

David Holmquist, the district’s chief legal counsel, declined to comment on the preliminary ruling, saying he has not had an opportunity to discuss the ruling with the school board.

“I’m not ready to say what we think it means,” Holmquist told LA School Report in a phone call. “There’s a lot that we need to figure out,” he added.

The board will review the findings and plan a potential response at its board meeting next week.

“Once I bring it up to the board we will decide what responses we want to make to that,” Holmquist said. Some possibilities he mentioned are filing an extension of time to continue litigation or firing off a list of objections to the preliminary ruling.

In the meantime, Holmquist confirmed the district is “in conversation with UTLA.”

Since the district implemented a four-level evaluation, UTLA has objected, arguing that the union’s 30,000 members never had a chance to vote on it. They also allege it creates a path to establish merit pay to reward the highest performing teachers. Another element they oppose, is the use of student testing data in judging teacher efficacy.

Teacher evaluations have been part of the contract negotiations between the district and the union that have generated little progress so far. The sides are scheduled to resume talks a week from today.


*Adds comment from UTLA.

Education secretary eases up on teacher performance standards

NYT logoVia NY Times | by Motoko Rich

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on Thursday that states could delay the use of test results in teacher-performance ratings by another year, an acknowledgment, in effect, of the enormous pressures mounting on the nation’s teachers because of new academic standards and more rigorous standardized testing.

Using language that evoked some of his fiercest critics, Mr. Duncan wrote in a blog post, “I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools,” and he added that teachers needed time to adapt to new standards and tests that emphasize more than simply filling in bubbled answers to multiple-choice questions.

Read full story here

Editorial: Doubts about teacher evaluations and test scores

Los Angeles Times logoVia The Los Angeles Times | By the Editorial Board

A new study out of USC and the University of Pennsylvania finds that value-added measurements — a way of using student test scores to evaluate teacher performance — aren’t a very good way of judging teacher quality. This isn’t the first study to cast doubt on what has become a linchpin educational policy of the Obama administration but there’s an interesting element that lends its findings extra weight: It was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a well-known supporter of using test scores in teacher evaluations.

In fact, researcher Morgan S. Polikoff, an assistant professor of education at USC, said the findings ran counter to what he had expected. Yet he was unflinching in his conclusion in a YouTube video on the research: “Value-added scores don’t seem to be measuring the quality and content of the work that students are doing in the classroom.”

This shouldn’t put the kibosh on all use of value-added, which many states have adopted (California has not). Evidence continues to build on both sides of the issue, and many studies have found that increases in test scores, though they might not correlate with teacher quality, do have important ramifications for student success down the road.

Read the full editorial here.

LA Unified-UTLA Talks on Labor Charge is Postponed

mediationAn informal conference to discuss a possible settlement in one of the teachers union’s unfair labor practice charges against the LA Unified School District has been postponed; it was supposed to have taken place Thursday. It’s not clear when the sides will meet.

The union filed the action in June with the Public Employee Relations Board (or PERB), objecting to the new teacher evaluation system set up by Superintendent John Deasy, which will, in part, use student test scores. (Of course, there may not be any test scores this year, but that’s a different story.) If the two sides don’t reach a settlement, the case will move to a hearing before an administrative law judge.

The teachers union filed two other unfair labor practice charges in September, over teachers that were separated from their classrooms at Crenshaw High School and City of Angels Independent Study School.

Previous posts: UTLA Files Action Against District Over Teacher Evaluations*Teachers Union Files Two More Unfair Labor Practice Charges*District Urges Board to Dismiss Union’s Unfair Practice Charge

District Urges Board to Dismiss Union’s Unfair Practice Charge

Deasy, left, Fletcher, right

Deasy, left, Fletcher, right

LA Unified is urging the Public Employment Relations Board to dismiss the teacher’s union’s unfair labor practice charge, filed in June. The nine-page district response, dated August 15 and posted today by the LA Daily News, outlines a series of reasons that the district says shows that the charges are without merit.

The issue at hand is over the new teacher evaluations, which are being implemented for the first time and use a far more numerous and nuanced set of metrics than in years past, including, crucially, student test scores.

The LA teachers union has been vehemently opposed to the use of such scores in years past, but reluctantly agreed to them last year after a judge ordered that new evaluations be created based, in part, on student achievement.

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Morning Read: New Rules Expose Old Rifts for CA Schools

A Compelling or Distracting NCLB Waiver?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s approval of the CORE districts’ waiver from unattainable provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, exposed some old and some new internecine disputes in California education. EdSource

State Begins Work Revising Teacher Preparation Based on Common Core
The state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing has approved a two-year plan for updating educator training standards – the first comprehensive review in more than a decade. The plan comes forward as public schools in California are already transitioning to new curriculum standards based on a set of national goals in math and English language arts – with new common science standards soon to be ready for adoption. SI&A Cabinet Report

American Education’s Path Back to Greatness
This week, New Yorkers are likely to suffer a mix of disappointment and frustration when the state releases the results of the rigorous new testing regime that New York State has adopted as it joins the national Common Core movement to raise standards of American education. Kentucky, the first state to adopt Common Core-aligned testing, saw its initial scores drop by as much as 33 points, or nearly 50%. New York Daily News

States’ Common-Core To-Do Lists Topped by Tests, Curricula
On the heels of its latest survey taking states’ temperatures about the political environment surrounding the common core, the Center on Education Policy has released a report detailing how far along state education officials think they are in implementing the new English/language arts and math standards, and what they see as the biggest remaining challenges. EdWeek

The Pedagogical Agenda of Common Core Math Standards
Mathematics education in the United States is at a pivotal moment. At this time, forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards, a set of uniform benchmarks for math and reading. Thirty-two states and the district have been granted waivers from important parts of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. As part of the agreement in being granted a waiver, those states have agreed to implement Common Core. My fear (as well as that of many of my colleagues) is that implementation of the Common Core math standards may actually make things worse. Education News

Teacher Evaluations Still a Work in Progress

teacher-evalTeacher evaluations for the 2012-13 school year were due about a month ago.

Even though they included a section for “student achievement,” it’s safe to say that particular section was a work in progress.

“There was literally just a few weeks to get it implemented, and we had to implement it according to the courts,” said LAUSD instructional director Brian Lucas. “We had to start something now, so we did.”

This year’s set of evaluations are the last of the old Stull evaluations. Next year, they’ll be replaced by a new system that Lucas is calling the Teacher Growth and Developments Cycles.

The new system offers a far more specific set of criteria for a principal to evaluate a teacher with during classroom observations.

“It’s very detailed and specific to what’s happening in the classroom,” said Lucas. “Before, observations could be  generic — for example, they could write, ‘good job.’ Now it’s detail based, fact based.”

Teachers will be evaluated under the new system starting in 2013-2014, but training for principals will start over the summer.

Results of the California Standardized Tests aren’t available yet, so the student achievement section on this year’s evaluations will rest on what sounds like a rather squishy metric — what Lucas calls a ‘data objective’ agreed to by the principal and the teacher. That’s almost sure to change by the end of next year.

“We need to fully flesh out what this is going to look like, what data points are going to be used,” said Lucas. “And the state testing is changing substantially for next year.”

Previous posts: Revamp Teacher Evaluation Plan, Says LA TimesUnion Tells Teachers How to Protest EvaluationsTeachers & Principals Question Deasy Teacher Evaluation Plan

Senators’ Silence Dooms Teacher Evaluation Bill

To the surprise of almost no one, a bill that sought to make changes to California rules on how to evaluate teachers failed to pass the Senate Committee on Education during its second-chance hearing Wednesday.

What was particularly notable about the bill’s failure was the absence of the majority of the Committee’s members during the hearing and the vote.

Last week, the members had deadlocked 4-4 on the legislation, dubbed SB 441, with one abstention. This week, only three out of nine senators — Senators Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad), Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), and Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) — voted “yes.”

The other six members of the Committee sat silently when their names were called. (Watch video of the roll call here, around the 2:59 time mark.)

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Morning Read: Lawmakers Stall on Teacher Evaluation Bill

Bill to Alter Evaluations of California Teachers Fails Again in Senate
Legislation that would alter how California schools judge teachers flunked another test on Tuesday, failing to advance for the second time in a week. Sac Bee
See also: LA School Report

Duncan Says It’s Still Possible for State to Get NCLB Waiver
California remains interested in receiving a waiver from sanctions under the No Child Left Behind law, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Wednesday it remains possible for the state to get one. EdSource

L.A. Mayor’s Race: Wendy Greuel Uses Web Chat to Target Women
The chat participants, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, L.A. Unified President Monica Garcia, longtime civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and operatives from the Feminist Majority and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project, urged Los Angeles viewers to join their canvassing efforts on Greuel’s behalf. LA Times

Poll: Should Breakfast Be Banned From the Classroom?
Should under-nourished students be allowed to eat in the classroom? The issue became a hot topic this week after Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy passed on making a decision, putting the future of a pilot breakfast program into the hands of the school board. KPCC
See also: LA School Report

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Senators Absent for Teacher Evaluation Hearing

The empty seats at the Senate Education Committee’s May 1 hearing on SB 441. via Twitter

A bill known as SB 441 that proposes changes to California’s rules on teacher evaluations is being considered a second time today by the Senate Committee on Education today — but eight out of nine of the Committee’s members have been absent from the meeting.

Scheduling might explain at least in part of the reason why only Senator Carol Liu is present at the hearing. This is a particularly busy day in Sacramento, as the deadline for the policy committees to report fiscal bills to the Fiscal Committee is Friday, May 3.

But another possible explanation might be the controversy surrounding the proposal, which pits the state teachers unions, who oppose the proposal, against reform advocacy groups like StudentsFirst, who support it.

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Union Re-Launches Deasy Evaluation Effort

Superintendent John Deasy

Apparently not content with its recent poll on LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy’s performance, UTLA is now embarking on a “Superintendent Performance Review” that calls on teachers to review Deasy’s work.

The union’s announcement of the new Deasy survey appears somewhat more neutral than it was for the last survey, which indicated what the union thought about the superintendent through mocking cartoons. (See the first survey announcement here.)

The union characterizes the new survey as reversing the evaluation tables with a “Stull Deasy” theme. (In LAUSD, to “Stull” someone is to evaluate them, per the Stull Act, which requires teacher evaluations.) The survey asks UTLA members if they think Deasy is “fair,” “effective,” “the best,” or “the worst.” There’s been a spike in negative evaluations of teachers since Deasy has arrived, and no doubt some teachers will be more than happy to return the favor.

LA School Report has contacted UTLA for more details, including why the union is doubling up on its review of the superintendent. The evaluation is scheduled to be distributed by Friday, May 3, and is due back by May 10.

Previous posts: Union “Surveys” Teachers for Deasy Criticism; Teachers Vote Against Deasy, For More Teachers; Teachers Vote on Deasy Tomorrow, Too

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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Committee Deadlocks on Teacher Evaluation Bill

Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) sponsored the teacher evaluation bill.

A proposed bill known as SB 441 that would tighten teacher evaluation rules statewide narrowly failed to pass the Senate Education Committee Wednesday — but it’s not completely dead yet.

After hearing impassioned testimony from parents, teachers, and union representatives, the Committee deadlocked 4-4 over approval of the legislation.

But the Committee also voted to reconsider the bill later in an amended form, leaving the door open for a return to the issue.

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Morning Read: Did UTLA Leaders Make a Deal With Candidate?

Rumor of Deal Roils Teachers Union
The leadership of the Los Angeles teachers union is roiled over whether its officials made a private deal with a Board of Education candidate whom critics view as an ally of anti-labor forces. LA Times

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Donates $350,000 to LAUSD Reformer’s Campaign
With the runoff now less than a month away, Bloomberg has given the coalition an additional $350,000 – again at Villaraigosa’s request – to support the election of Antonio Sanchez to the District 6 seat. LA Daily News
See also: LA School Report

Teacher Evaluation Bill Opposed by Unions Dies in Committee
Legislation that would have required more frequent evaluations of educators was killed by a state Senate committee Wednesday under strong opposition from teachers’ unions. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, SI&A Cabinet Report

Jerry Brown Vows Battle With Democratic Critics of Education Plan
Gov. Jerry Brown offered a spirited defense of his plan to overhaul the state’s education system Wednesday and warned Democratic critics of his plan that they were “going to get the battle of their lives” if they attempt to change key parts of his proposal. LA Times
See also: EdSource, Fresno Bee

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Morning Read: Unions Oppose Teacher Evaluation Bill

Teacher Evaluations: Let the Battle Begin
On Wednesday, the state Senate Education Committee will take up a bill by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, that would adopt a formal state standard for evaluating teachers. SD Union-Tribune Editorial

A Student With Promise, a Teacher Who Had to Help
Brought to the U.S. as a baby, Itzel Ortega had no way to get financial aid to become an architect. Then a former teacher, recalling her own story, stepped in. LA Times

L.A. Unified Teacher Arrested for Alleged Child Porn Possession
Douglas Randolph Collins, 46, of Valencia, was taken into custody at the Van Nuys Education Center, where he had been sent after being removed from the classroom after authorities began investigating child porn allegations in October. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News, HuffPo

LA Mayor’s Race: How the Candidates Stand on Your Issues
Even though the mayor doesn’t have any direct authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District, many voters said they want the next major to play a role in education. Neither Greuel nor Garcetti has indicated they would follow Antonio Villaraigosa’s lead. KPCC
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Morning Read: District 6 Runoff Ramping Up

In L.A. School Board Race, Sky-High Spending Continues
Record spending will continue in the last remaining race for a seat on the Los Angeles school board, as a political action committee has put together a war chest of about $600,000 to use on behalf of a candidate endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. LA Times
See also: LA School Report

State Probes Burbank Third Grade Cheating Report
Burbank school officials say a third-grade teacher has been put on leave after a student reported a got help with answers on state standardized tests. KPCC
See also: LA Times

State Toughens Regs for Interns Teaching English Learners
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing will now require non-credentialed Teach For America teachers and other intern teachers to receive more training in how to teach English learners and to get weekly on-the-job mentoring and supervision. EdSource

Democratic Party Schism Over Scandalous Schools: Gloria Romero, Slimed by Teacher Unions, Says Sober Up
A few days ago, the teachers union wing of the California Democratic Party tarred the growing numbers of breakaway Democrats who, in sync with President Obama, point the finger at teachers unions as a big obstacle to fixing crappy schools. LA Weekly

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Analysis: Worried Teachers, Union Publicity Stunt

Via LA Times

Most of the news coverage surrounding last week’s union straw poll on LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy focused on the whopping 91 percent of teachers who expressed “no confidence” in his leadership and treated the result as if it had some sort of real-world impact.

What got left out or minimized along the way was the reality that the vote was really nothing more than a “push” poll crafted by UTLA leaders to generate negative responses (teachers were encouraged to vote against Deasy) and that the result was largely the result of budget cuts and tougher evaluations in recent years that have cost thousands of teachers their jobs and put many more in an angry, uncertain mood.

There were however at least a couple of voices out there challenging the coverage, including Educators 4 Excellence and — somewhat of a surprise — the LA Daily News editorial page.

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