More amendments coming to AB 5, including sunset clause

With the list of opponents mounting, the author of a bill to rewrite the state’s 40-year-old teacher evaluation law rushed Wednesday to amend the bill for the third time to try to get it through Senate committees and on to the floor of the Legislature by the end of the session tomorrow.

AB 5 author Felipe Fuentes

AB 5 author Felipe Fuentes

Meeting hastily Wednesday evening, ambivalent members of the Senate Education Committee approved AB 5 on the condition that Democratic Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes commit to a series of amendments. He agreed, although the wording won’t be ready until today.

Taken together, the amendments would restore districts’ authority to set local standards used to evaluate teachers and explicitly require that state standardized test scores be used as one measure. Sensing that AB 5 is an uncertain experiment in collaboration between unions and districts, the committee is also requiring that the bill be reviewed in five years and sunset in six if found not to work.

But opponents of the bill, which now include an unlikely combination of activist and civil rights groups, the state PTA, associations representing school boards, school administrators, and individual school districts, appear united in their criticisms that the bill has been rewritten too many times in too few days for its implications to be fully understood. And they argue that the amendments don’t overcome two overriding flaws:

  • AB 5 will limit districts’ control and prerogatives  by subjecting all aspects over teacher evaluations to collective bargaining.
  • The bill includes a requirement, not in the Stull Act, that the tests used to measure academic growth be “valid and reliable” for the curriculum, the pupil being taught and for the purpose of teacher evaluation. Calling this a “poison pill” to discourage the use of test data, critics are predicting that unions will challenge bad reviews and teacher dismissals by hiring experts to testify in Public Employee Relations Board hearings  that the assessments used in reviews weren’t suitable for teacher evaluations.
Arun Ramanathan

Arun Ramanathan

“AB 5 will guarantee that rather than improve the system, California will end up with one of the least rigorous, most inconsistent, and most adjudicated evaluation systems in the nation,” said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-West, which represents minority families.

While districts are predicting a litigious and cumbersome evaluation, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers argue that collective bargaining – guaranteeing teachers a voice – is indispensable to an evaluation system based on best practices. Teachers won’t improve without confidence in the system, Fuentes said, and their participation is vital in setting a combination of criteria that may include multiple classroom observations, use of student portfolios and measures of student progress, and contributions to the school community.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat from Long Beach and chairman of Senate Education Committee, took this optimistic view while suggesting a sunset provision six years after the bill is to take effect. “We are hoping this works out. There is real potential for a robust evaluation process, demonstrating that teachers and administrators can work together,” he said, while acknowledging the possibility that the result may be contentious and unproductive.

But Sen. Joe Simitian, a former longtime Palo Alto Unified board member, abstained on the vote to pass AB 5, saying he wasn’t convinced that the bill represented a step forward and would wait to see the final amendments.

By the end of the evening, Fuentes was calling AB 5 a “pilot program,” although there would be nothing optional about it, and Fuentes resisted the suggestion by Republican Sen. Sam Blakeslee that AB 5 be a pilot only for the 20 percent of low-performing schools that would receive $60 million in funding next year to train evaluators and prepare for the implementation of the law. AB 5 would go into effect for all districts on July 1, 2014, despite uncertain funding for the other 80 percent of schools.

AB 5 has split the parent community, with Public Advocates, the Campaign for Quality Education, and Parent Leadership Action Network Bay Area Plan among the groups who had sought a provision that Fuentes included. It would require that districts seek suggestions from parents on evaluation criteria and then report back to parents after the completion of negotiations with teachers. The presumption is that school board members would at least consider the inclusion of parent and student questionnaires.

What should be negotiable?

The Stull Act has been much maligned, and its mandates have been largely ignored by districts. One reason is that it sets up a pass-fail system with unclear criteria for judging teacher effectiveness. In many districts, 95 to 98 percent of teachers, including probationary teachers, have gotten good reviews. AB 5 would create three performance levels, singling out excellent as well as satisfactory and unsatisfactory teachers, and it would require more frequent reviews for veteran teachers – every three years instead of five. It also would require that districts use the California Standards for the Teaching Profession as objective criteria for evaluating teachers.

Critics agree these are valuable, but AB 5, in explicitly stating that the best practices standards are negotiable, marks a change. The Stull Act requires that districts negotiate evaluation procedures but not the criteria for determining effectiveness.

The Stull Act also includes a key provision that AB 5 eliminated but that Fuentes has now agreed to reinstate: the explicit requirement that districts set academic standards, by subject and grade, for the purpose of evaluating teachers. As Bill Lucia, president and CEO of EdVoice, wrote in a letter to Lowenthal this week, “Establishing expectations for grade level student achievement and linking it to effectiveness of staff is a key feature of accountability” – one that should not be bargained away.

For years, many school boards have ignored the requirement of setting district standards for evaluating teachers; other districts have invited unions to negotiate evaluation criteria. Perhaps signaling a new assertiveness by districts, Los Angeles Unified has said that it alone has the right to create the standards for teacher evaluation. So far, however, it has yet to force the issue, opting for now to create a new voluntary evaluation program.

But if there were doubts about what the Stull Act required, in May, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that Los Angeles Unified must use student results on state standardized tests as well as assessments based on local standards as part of teacher evaluations. Judge James Chalfant has given the district and union until December to come up with a plan for using test results, and to report back to him about the progress next week.

As originally written, AB 5 would have nullified the decision by permitting but not requiring the use of test scores – one reason both state teachers unions pushed hard for the bill’s passage. Fuentes has since amended the bill to mandate the use of standardized test scores, though it would be up to districts to decide how much weight to give them. And the bill now says that local agreements reached before the July 2014 enactment of AB 5 would be grandfathered in. But Lucia, whose organization filed the successful suit against Los Angeles Unified, and Edgar Zazueta, the director for the Office of Government Relations for Los Angeles Unified, testified Wednesday that AB 5 continues to undermine negotiations with the union and would give the union reason to stall.

The Los Angeles Unified ruling was on the minds of Democratic Sens. Loni Hancock and Carol Liu at the Senate hearing Wednesday. Both said they were wary of passing a bill that might interfere with a court ruling and Los Angeles Unified’s negotiations. Fuentes promised the next set of amendments, which will go to the Senate Rules Committee for approval on Thursday, would eliminate any potential conflict. Lucia disputed that this could be done.





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19 Responses to “More amendments coming to AB 5, including sunset clause”

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  1. John Fensterwald on Aug 30, 2012 at 8:43 pm08/30/2012 8:43 pm

    • 000

    Yes, this is true. More on this in a few hours. Thanks, TransParent.

  2. TransParent® on Aug 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm08/30/2012 8:14 pm

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    Fuentes has decided to pull the bill. It is dead for this session.

  3. Gary Ravani on Aug 30, 2012 at 3:49 pm08/30/2012 3:49 pm

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    Above is a link to a Code of Fair Testing from a joint committee of major professional assessment oriented organizations in the US:

    The Code has been prepared by the Joint Committee on Testing
    Practices, a cooperative effort among several professional
    organizations. The aim of the Joint Committee is to act in the
    public interest to advance the quality of testing practices. Members
    of the Joint Committee include the American Counseling Association
    (ACA), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the
    American Psychological Association (APA), the American Speech-
    Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the National Association of
    School Psychologists (NASP), the National Association of Test
    Directors (NATD), and the National Council on Measurement in
    Education (NCME).

    Re the discussions at the legislature and the arguments re AB 5 in editorials, et al, I suggest special attention be paid to:

    o under Test Development

    # 5: “Provide evidence that the technical quality, including reliability and validity, of the test meets its intended purposes.”

    o under Test Users

    # 3: “Avoid using tests for purposes other than those recommended by the test developer unless there is evidence to support the intended use or interpretation.”

    The above point is crucial. It is the foundation of the condemnation of using student test data directly to rate teachers in evaluation by the Educational Testing Service, RAND Corp., and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences as well as other experts. There is NO research based evidence to support that use.

  4. Bea on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:37 am08/30/2012 9:37 am

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    Much noise surrounds Michelle Rhee, Ben Austin, Gloria Romero…but the man behind the curtain is Bill Lucia.


    • Manuel on Aug 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm08/30/2012 12:47 pm

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      @Bea: And behind Lucia is his Board at Ed Voice (Frank Baxter, Eli Broad, John Doerr, Reed Hastings, Carrie Penner, Larry Stupski, Richard Riorda, and Richard Merkin) and at the EdVoice Institute for Research and Education (Eli Broad, Carrie Penner, and Larry Stupski). All of these fine people are well known for championing the education of the masses.

      (EdVoice is a a 501(c)(4))while the Institute is a 501(c)(3. Ah, to have the resources to create organizations that promote my world view.)

  5. el on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:27 am08/30/2012 9:27 am

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    “The bill includes a requirement, not in the Stull Act, that the tests used to measure academic growth be “valid and reliable””

    Oh, the horror.

  6. TransParent on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:25 am08/30/2012 9:25 am

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    @Navigio: You’re welcome. I’m grateful for the validation…I have been singing this song for years. I believe that if we had been having timely, local community-wide conversations about respective proposals that we would not be talking past one another on teacher evaluations, at least not in L.A. As to your question about a “legal precedent not to…”, please clarify; I don’t understand your reference.


    • John Fensterwald on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:58 am08/30/2012 9:58 am

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      Thanks for pointing out the section in the Ed Code, TransParent. Great catalyst for conversation and action.

  7. TransParent on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:10 am08/30/2012 9:10 am

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    @ Navigio: See Govt. Code Section 3547


    • Navigio on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:16 am08/30/2012 9:16 am

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      Wow trans, that’s pretty darn specific. Thanks. Not only does it appear that some districts don’t do this, but that there is legal precedent not to. Do you know what might be the legal basis for that claim? I’ll ask around too..

      • el on Aug 30, 2012 at 11:32 am08/30/2012 11:32 am

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        Our district does all this sunshining, both at the beginning and the end of the negotiation process.

        For what it’s worth, I’ve yet to see any member of the public make a comment regarding the negotiation topics or outcomes in our district during this process. (On the other hand, in general, negotiations have not been controversial in the district either.) This means that the public hearings usually only last about a minute, so it would be easy not to notice them.

  8. Bea on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:08 am08/30/2012 9:08 am

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    This may be a bonehead question: If state standardized test scores are a required component of all credentialed classroom teacher evaluations, how are teachers evaluated if their content area is not tested? Music? Art? PE? Vocational? Higher level high school courses? Are those subject to the disputed local standards? Would those be consistent from district to district?

  9. TransParent on Aug 30, 2012 at 8:38 am08/30/2012 8:38 am

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    As a longtime parent advocate, I would argue that parents are among the best advocates for education policy that makes sense but when we -families, teachers, administrators and policy makers – cannot agree on what good teaching and learning looks like and when we place a higher value on standardized test scores than on having authentic conversations about what we VALUE in public education, when we insist on looking for which teachers qualify to teach using a “value added” equation while not examining research like that reported by UC Berkeley’s Jesse Rothstein ( and perhaps most importantly when we (in L.A., at least) virtually ignore the role to be played by the public (re: collective bargaining as legislated in the Rodda Act which actually gave teachers the right to unionize in California), we are contributing to the problem not working for solutions.


    • Navigio on Aug 30, 2012 at 9:02 am08/30/2012 9:02 am

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      I dont know of a legal way for the public to know what is being negotiated between districts and unions before the result is approved. So I’m not sure there is even the possibility of being involved in that process.

  10. Navigio on Aug 30, 2012 at 8:33 am08/30/2012 8:33 am

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    Why in the world should only ‘valid and reliable’ measures be considered a poison pill? We actually want things to make sense, right?
    Was the provision that defined the validity as state board adoption removed?


    • Chris Bertelli on Aug 30, 2012 at 10:20 am08/30/2012 10:20 am

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      There is no definition or agreement for what constitutes “valid and reliable” so anyone who opposes the use of objective data in evaluations can file suit against the system claiming the data is not “valid and reliable.”

      AB 5 is being jammed through at the last minute for political purposes. It isn’t paid for beyond the first year when the state wants to pull nearly $90 million in funds from low-performing schools to pay for it. It has consequences far beyond what has been discussed here. For example, will this cause the loss of federal School Improvement Grants for low-performing schools? They must implement teacher evaluation systems that meet federal requirements but if those requirements become in direct conflict with state law, do they lose their funds?

      Finally, let’s stop buying into the lie that “teacher input” is synonymous with collective bargaining. Seven hundred teachers in LAUSD volunteered to pilot a new evaluation system there that is directly opposed by the union leadership. Dozens more have worked together to propose specific compromise teacher evaluation systems in LA. AB 5 actually silences these teachers’ voices in the development of evaluation systems by consolidating power in the union leadership.

      • el on Aug 30, 2012 at 11:28 am08/30/2012 11:28 am

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        There’s actually quite a bit of evidence that STAR type test scores are neither valid nor reliable for evaluating teachers.

        Case in point: my kid will score at the top regardless of what teacher she is assigned to for this year. The test does not measure whether the teacher did well by her or not. I don’t want a poor teacher getting a higher evaluation just because my daughter was on the class roster.

        • Manuel on Aug 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm08/30/2012 2:50 pm

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          @el: that ain’t necessarily so. One of my kids had a teacher for Algebra II who was merely adequate. But when the next one had her, she was undergoing a slow breakdown because of the barrage of teacher assaults in the media. Her teaching deteriorated considerably but we did not notice until the CST results came out: our kid had always been in the low advanced band in math and now she was barely basic. Other parents reported the same effect. So, while I contend that the CST is not a true measure of academic achievement, the converse is not true: if the child is not exposed, either in class or outside of class, to the material from which the questions come, there is no way the child is going to do well on it. (There is that tiny probability that it may happen but it probably has the same odds as winning the lottery.)

  11. Paul Muench on Aug 30, 2012 at 7:31 am08/30/2012 7:31 am

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    The confusion around AB 5 has crossed a threshold of reasonability. Any legislator who votes for AB 5 cannot expect any public support if things go bad.

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