LAUSD's Deasy, union spar over teacher evaluation measures

A high-profile teacher evaluation agreement was but days old Friday when Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy and the district’s teachers union expressed sharp disagreement over a contentious provision.

United Teachers Los Angeles accused Deasy of breaking a binding agreement by requiring that “data-driven” measures of student achievement be given a “weight limited to 30 percent” of a teacher’s final evaluation. Deasy referred to the figure in guidelines he issued to principals on how to conduct evaluations. In a statement, he said that classroom observations and other similar factors “will remain the primary and controlling factors.”

Deasy “is free to express his opinions, but any attempt to require principals to assign a specific weight to student test data in a teacher’s evaluation is a violation of the protections in an agreement between UTLA and the District,” UTLA responded in a statement.

The dispute came three days after LAUSD’s school board ratified the evaluation agreement that the district and UTLA reached in November. Under a court-ordered deadline, both sides agreed to include measures of student academic progress, including the use of state standardized test scores. UTLA members ratified the agreement last month.

That agreement did not mention specific percentages for the components of an evaluation. It said that scores on California Standards Tests and other non-state test measures, including district assessments and samples of students’ work, “are to be considered an important but clearly limited part of the overall performance evaluation process.” They are not to be considered the “sole, primary or controlling factors” in a final evaluation.

A maximum 30 percent weight for gauging student performance would appear a reasonable reading of the agreement, but UTLA argues that’s for principals, working with teachers, to determine on a site-by-site basis, not for Deasy to dictate. Deasy, in his memo, was asserting the authority to set a uniform standard for administrators.

Deasy had called for using a district-developed, value-added method of interpreting a teacher’s impact on students’ test scores, taking into account a student’s family income and ethnicity. It’s called Academic Growth over Time, and the UTLA succeeded in keeping it out of the agreement on individual teachers’ evaluations.

Some UTLA members wanted standardized tests scores excluded altogether, but the union had no choice. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled last fall that current state law on teacher evaluations, known as the Stull Act, requires that students’ state standardized test results be used in evaluating teachers. Judge James Chalfant left it to UTLA and the district to negotiate details.

What happens next may be determined in the school board elections on March 5, with candidates supporting Deasy and those backed by UTLA competing for three open seats. A handful of wealthy donors, led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $1 million contribution, have given more than $2.5 million to pro-Deasy candidates.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento-based non-profit that brought the suit dealing with the Stull Act issued a cautious statement on Deasy’s guidelines to principals. “The  key question is whether or not the actual progress of pupils toward grade level expectations is included as part of the job performance evaluation.  If indeed it is, it’s a historic day for LAUSD,” wrote Bill Lucia, CEO of EdVoice. EdVoice has reserved the right to return to court if the agreement falters.

Deasy said in his statement that all principals will be trained in using a multi-measure evaluation system by the start of 2013-14. “I look forward to working with the teachers’ union and principals in successfully implementing this system.”

Filed under: Evaluations, State Education Policy, Teaching, Testing and Accountability

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9 Responses to “LAUSD's Deasy, union spar over teacher evaluation measures”

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  1. Eugene on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:10 am03/25/2013 11:10 am

    • 000

    Deasy has been running roughshod over policies and agreements he finds bothersome for 20 years. His is a personal quest for aggrandizement and his claims to be focused on the students is specious at best. His reputation as a union busting, teacher bashing, megalomaniac has followed him from the outset.

  2. CarolineSF on Feb 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm02/24/2013 12:43 pm

    • 000

    (That is — “OK, teachers, since we know that your students’ test scores are not a sound or valid way to evaluate your effectiveness, we’ll only base 30 percent of your evaluation on them.” Make sense?)

  3. CarolineSF on Feb 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm02/24/2013 12:40 pm

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    The other point — which David presumably left out because it’s undoubtedly well known to anyone reading this — is that it’s a universal truth that demographics and other outside-school factors closely correlate with academic achievement. Even though it’s well known, that fact should still be included in all discussions. (That’s why persons with high irony levels refer to the Academic Performance Index as the Affluent Parent Index.)

    Advocates of evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores respond to that by saying that even though we know it’s flawed, that’s the best way we have right now; and by limiting it to a percentage of the evaluation. That could be seen as a questionable response, since the essential point is that many say students’ test scores are simply not a sound way to evaluate teacher quality — and the response from those who still wish to use them indicates that they basically agree with the criticism.

    Discuss among yourselves.

  4. David B. Cohen on Feb 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm02/22/2013 12:30 pm

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    Those who know me will be tired of hearing this, but I think it’s important to include in any reporting on this topic that the tests in question were not designed or validated for that evaluative purposes; they produce unreliable results, and are not instructionally sensitive (see James Popham on that topic). This whole approach is pure politics. It won’t improve teaching or learning. It may improve test-taking. It will increase teaching-to-the-test and test cheating. It won’t improve efforts to recruit and retain teachers.


    • John Fensterwald on Feb 23, 2013 at 8:31 am02/23/2013 8:31 am

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      David: Perhaps you have commented on the use of value-added metrics for district use. If not, please comment.

  5. CarolineSF on Feb 19, 2013 at 10:19 am02/19/2013 10:19 am

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    In relation to the LAUSD school board election, this is the Los Angeles Times’ endorsement of a school board member’s re-election — yes, the candidate the Times SUPPORTS:

    “We consider [Monica] Garcia a poor choice for the school board, and we always have. … [She is] a divisive and sometimes careless force on the board who lacks grace and thoughtfulness as its leader. Her positions seem less considered than reactive. … her response when challenged … is simply unacceptable. … [She has] a dismissiveness and lack of basic understanding that is truly disturbing.”

    As my mother likes to say, aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?,0,22933.story (Posted for purely informational purposes.)

  6. John Fensterwald on Feb 16, 2013 at 9:45 am02/16/2013 9:45 am

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    John: I have now included the wording of the agreement (which I had trouble finding late last night). You can see the alternatives for teachers who teach non-CST subjects on pages 3 and 4 – items d, f, and g. They include schoolwide CST and value-added data, district assessments and other school-level data, such as attendance, suspension and A-G pass rates.

    Navigio: You are right, AGT school-level data can be used. It is less volatile than AGT data for individual teachers with fewer fluctuations year to year and subject to other problems. But, as I wrote, AGT for individual teachers – the union’s main objection – cannot be used.

    I was careful to state in the first paragraph “weighted limit of 30 percent.” That is the maximum, so, in one sense, Deasy is providing broad guidance, so that principals will not violate the agreement by giving too much weight to test scores. Makes sense to me, and it would limit the number of appeals by teachers who would argue that a principal who chose a weight of 35 or 40 percent is violating the agreement.

    UTLA President Warren Fletcher didn’t respond to my request for a comment, so I can only infer that the union’s view is that Deasy is strongly signaling that 30 percent is the weight principals should use – with no variation – since he has often cited that percentage as the precise weight he’d want to give the use of AGT. It’s a subtle but clear directive.

  7. john mockler on Feb 16, 2013 at 7:38 am02/16/2013 7:38 am

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    John So what is used for the majority of teachers for which STAR test scores are not available?


    • Navigio on Feb 16, 2013 at 9:02 am02/16/2013 9:02 am

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      The agreement includes both CST and AGT school level performance as a metric. In addition, it includes a number of other non-CST-based methods that are supposed to be used anyway. The decision of how to use those seems to be a site-level one from the agreement. 
      Anyway, it seems like deasy’s memo just specifies a limit and not a strict percentage to be used, ie sites could choose to use less. Is the press release wrong? It sounds different than what was described in the article. 

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