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Teachers group unveils its proposal for new evaluations

June 13, 2012 | 12:05 pm

Teacher Maria Duarte goes over fractions and division with her fourth grade math class at Los Angeles Elementary School in 2011.

A group of Los Angeles teachers Wednesday unveiled their own proposal for a new performance review system that would use both state standardized test scores and assessments chosen by individual schools to measure how well instructors help their students learn.

The proposal by Educators 4 Excellence, whose L.A. chapter of 900 teachers was launched last November, came one day after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge found that the Los Angeles Unified School District had violated a state law requiring the use of such student achievement measures in its instructor evaluations. It is the latest in a flurry of recent proposals by L.A. teacher and community groups to endorse the use of student test scores in job-performance reviews.

Ama Nyamekye, executive director of the educators group, said  her members hoped to break the current stalemate  between L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles over the district's new evaluation system. The district has launched a voluntary review program using student test scores as one measure of instructor effectiveness, but the teachers union has opposed it and filed an unfair labor practice complaint over the program's introduction without collective bargaining. UTLA has developed its own performance review proposal that uses test scores to identify areas of student need but not to judge teachers.

Nyamekye said her group tried to bridge the gap between the two sides in such areas as how to measure students' academic growth. Under the proposal, student growth would account for 40% of the teacher's score, but only half of that would come from the district's Academic Growth Over Time measure, which is based on state standardized test scores. The other half would come from assessments chosen and even developed by each school's teachers and administrators to give them the local flexibility and control that UTLA has requested. For those who teach subjects not tested by the state, the proposal would increase the weight of observations and locally developed measures.

"We would love to see this proposal bring the district and union together," Nyamekye said.

Observations by trained administrators would account for 50% of a teacher's score. Teachers would also be able to select a peer to observe them for extra input to the administrator. Their contributions to the school would count for 10%, with half the score based on student feedback.

Nyamekye said surveys of her members found that teacher evaluations ranked as the top concern, over seniority-based layoffs and other issues. That's because teacher reviews affect a range of other issues, including student achievement, professional development and staffing decisions, she said.

"We have to get teacher evaluations right," she said. "It's a linchpin issue. Change is going to happen with or without teacher input, but the only way change will be sustainable and workable is to engage teachers."

The educators' group, first launched in New York, is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, United Way of Greater Los Angeles and other donors. About 80% of the Los Angeles chapter's members are  L.A. Unified teachers, Nyamekye said.

The group plans to present their proposal to L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, teachers and other educators, community leaders and elected officials in a meeting later Wednesday.

Two other education groups came forward June 1 with proposals for new teacher performance reviews that also endorsed the use of student test scores as one measure to determine teacher effectiveness. Those groups also called on the district and the union to come together and move forward on a new review system.

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-- Teresa Watanabe

Photo: Teacher Maria Duarte goes over fractions and division with her fourth-grade math class at Los Angeles Elementary School in 2011. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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