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L.A. teachers union urges members to ignore performance program

As L.A. Unified reopened for the new school year Tuesday, the teachers' union is urging its members not to participate in a voluntary performance review program that ties student test scores to teacher evaluations.

In a recorded back-to-school message sent Monday evening to 38,000 teachers and healthcare service professionals, Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, told members he "strongly advises" them to reject district efforts to find one volunteer at each school to participate in the new evaluation program.

"UTLA strongly advises against volunteering for this high-stakes program in the current scapegoating environment," he said. "LAUSD should be putting its efforts into negotiating a meaningful, research-based evaluation system rather than trying to impose a flawed program based on discredited methodology."

Neither Fletcher nor L.A. Supt. John Deasy could be reached for comment.

Two years in the making so far, the district's new performance review system for teachers and administrators considers student academic growth, as measured by standardized test scores, as part of the evaluation for the first time.

About 700 teachers and principals at 100 schools tested the system last year; this year, the district hopes to train all administrators and at least one teacher at each of its 900-plus schools.

No stakes are attached to the evaluations during this voluntary phase. UTLA, however, opposes the program and has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the district over it, arguing that any changes in the performance review system must be negotiated.

The union contends that standardized test scores are too unreliable for use in such decisions as hiring, firing, pay and tenure. Instead, the union has developed its own proposal for an evaluation system that relies mostly on classroom observations by trained evaluators and peer assistance for teachers in need of improvement.

The union plan would use measures of student growth, such as test scores, to improve instruction and identify areas of pupil need but not to evaluate a teacher's effectiveness.

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-- Teresa Watanabe

 
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