The odds of a Chicago-style teachers’ strike happening in California’s largest school district is remote.
That’s the thrust of an insightful analysis by Los Angeles Times reporter Teresa Watanabe.
One of the main reasons, as LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy argues in Watanabe’s piece, is that there is less opposition than in Chicago to linking teacher evaluation to some measures of student progress – and more time to reach an agreement on what proportion of the evaluations should be based on those scores. Under a court order issued by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant, the district and United Teachers Los Angeles have until December 4 to come up with an agreement. The two sides have met at least 20 times over the summer on the issue.
Hundreds of teachers have volunteered to participate in a pilot study of the district’s proposed “Academic Growth over Time” (AGT) tool, which attempts to measure student progress on standardized tests.
Unlike in Chicago, there is no state or local law that specifies how much of an evaluation should be made up of student test scores, although California’s Stull Act does require evaluations to be linked in some fashion to student growth.
There’s also less unanimity in LA among teachers on the issue. As Watanabe notes in another article, the Los Angeles chapter of Educators 4 Excellence, with some 900 members, has proposed its own system for linking teacher evaluations to test scores as well as other measures that individual schools would themselves choose.
Another major difference is that a number of civil rights groups support such a linkage – unlike in Chicago, where there has been vociferous opposition from such groups.
Also, unlike in Chicago, where the school board is appointed by the mayor, teachers have advocates on the LA school board. In fact, the teachers union helped get them elected in the first place.
Finally, Deasy and new UTLA chief Warren Fletcher have a relatively cordial relationship, light years from the incendiary one between Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and Mayor Rahm “Rahmbo” Emanuel. They’ve met 14 times since July to discuss various contentious issues.
But Watanabe ends on a note that cautions not to rule out the prospect of strong labor action in LA.
She cites Peter Brimble, a teacher at Overland Elementary, who says that he would be willing to go on strike if more than 10 percent of their evaluations were derived from educational achievement.
“Test scores are something that can be looked at, but they are not the crucial determinant of how a child is doing or how a teacher is doing,” Brimble told Watanabe, echoing the far more familiar battle cry of teachers. “They are one part of a much larger picture.”