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UTLA head says he's open to a new evaluation system

August 20, 2010 | 10:43 pm

United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy told hundreds of his members Friday night that he is "ready, willing and able" to create a new evaluation system for instructors that is "good for kids and fair for teachers." He indicated this might mean using student test scores as one measurement of teachers.

Duffy, who has steadfastly said he opposes the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, appeared to soften that stance in his speech to UTLA's annual leadership conference being held this weekend at the La Quinta Resort & Club in Indio.

"We are in favor of legitimate uses of student data to help improve teaching," Duffy told the local school union representatives. "We are in favor of a genuine evaluation system that supports teachers and helps them grow in their profession."

John Deasy, deputy superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, told Board of Education members Friday afternoon that he wants to use the so-called value-added analysis of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations and that he is urging the unions to meet with him.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten met with district and union officials during a visit to Los Angeles this week. She has been in favor of revamping teacher evaluations and has helped negotiate contracts that use test score data as one of multiple factors in instructors' reviews.

The Times published an article earlier this week that used a value-added analysis to measure teacher effectiveness. Value-added compares a student to his or her past test performance. The approach measures how much teachers can add -- or subtract -- from students' growth. The method is controversial among some educators and others, but it also has been embraced as one way to judge teachers and principals.

The Times is planning to publish a database later this month showing the value-added ratings of more than 6,100 elementary schoolteachers. In advance of publication, The Times has allowed teachers to receive their score; so far, more than 1,200 teachers have done so.

Duffy said measuring teachers solely by their students' test scores will lead to more "teaching to the test' and reduce critical-thinking skills. He said several experts have decried The Times' methodology as imperfect.

As he took off his jacket in the packed room, Duffy said public education is "under attack like never before and the threats are coming from all sides. The latest attack," he said, "comes from the L.A. Times." 

Many in the audience booed when he named the newspaper.

"It's hard to feel anything but outrage when they drag our profession through the mud," he said.

-- Phil Willon