LAUSD's Deasy, union spar over teacher evaluation measures

February 16, 2013

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.”

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