Parents seek new teacher evaluations by September
Los Angeles parents planned to press for a court order Tuesday forcing the nation’s second-largest school district to begin using student test scores in teacher evaluations by early September.
In a closely watched case that could transform teacher performance reviews in California, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant last month ruled that the Los Angeles Unified School District has violated a 41-year-old state law, known as the Stull Act, requiring that evaluations include measures of students' progress in learning what the state and district expects them to know.
Attorneys for a group of unidentified parents argued that the absence of a rigorous evaluation system that effectively identifies weak teachers for help or, if needed, dismissal, deprives students of their constitutional right to educational equality.
Scott Witlin, an attorney representing the parents, said that the district and unions representing teachers and administrators are pushing for a later deadline in December. That, he said, is too late.
He also criticized the slow progress of negotiations between the district and unions over evaluations and said he will ask the judge to order the parties to bargain every day until they resolve the issue or reach an impasse.
“They are absolutely dragging their feet,” Witlin said.
Under Los Angeles Supt. John Deasy, about 700 teachers and principals at about 100 schools are participating in a voluntary evaluation program using a measure based on student test scores known as Academic Growth Over Time. The district plans to train all principals and teachers in the program over the next year but has not decided when to begin using it for all employees.
United Teachers Los Angeles has opposed the voluntary program, saying evaluations must be negotiated and that test scores are too unreliable for use in such high-stakes decisions as firing, tenure or merit pay.
UTLA has unveiled its own proposal for an evaluation system earlier this year that uses data to identify areas of student need but not to judge individual teacher performance.
-- Teresa Watanabe
Photo: Kimberly Leyva looks up and listens as her teacher, Kyle Hunsberger, explains a class exercise in his pre-algebra class at Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School on June 13. He is a willing participant in LAUSD's new teacher evaluation program, which is being tested by 700 volunteers at 100 schools. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times