Teacher Evaluation Changes Threatened by California Bill

A long-dormant bill that could significantly impede efforts in Los Angeles and elsewhere to use student test scores to evaluate teachers has been revived and faces a key legislative test Thursday.

If passed, the bill would impose a new requirement that all aspects of teacher evaluation systems be collectively bargained, changing current law that school districts believe empowers them to design performance reviews on their own.

Since teacher unions have vociferously opposed the use of test scores in evaluations, saying they are too unreliable for decisions on hiring and firing, the bill would probably weaken the movement to do so.

Critics decried the bill as a bald attempt by teacher unions to kill the Los Angeles Unified School District‘s new voluntary evaluation system, which uses state standardized test scores for the first time to measure how effective instructors are in helping students progress. L.A. Supt. John Deasy has asserted that the district has a right to launch the program without negotiations, a position sharply opposed by United Teachers Los Angeles.

Deasy said the bill, AB 5 by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) and set for review Thursday in the Senate Appropriations Committee, will jeopardize the new program and weaken efforts to hold teachers and administrators accountable for their students’ academic progress.

“This current bill, if passed, would really weaken the progress we’re making,” he said. “It will end a great deal of it.” <Read more.>

Via Teresa Watanabe and Michael J. Mishak, Los Angeles Times.

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Union Shifts Position on Teacher Evaluations

Catching up to the reality already faced by many of its members, the nation’s largest teachers’ union on Monday affirmed for the first time that evidence of student learning must be considered in the evaluations of school teachers around the country.

In passing the new policy at its assembly here, the 3.2 million-member union, the National Education Association, hopes to take a leadership role in the growing national movement to hold teachers accountable for what students learn — an effort from which it has so far conspicuously stood apart.

But blunting the policy’s potential impact, the union also made clear that it continued to oppose the use of existing standardized test scores to judge teachers, a core part of the federally backed teacher evaluation overhauls already under way in at least 15 states.

“N.E.A. is and always will be opposed to high-stakes, test-driven evaluations,” said Becky Pringle, the secretary-treasurer of the union, addressing the banner-strung convention hall filled with the 8,200-member assembly that votes on union policy.

The union’s desire both to join and to stand apart from a White House-led effort to improve teacher performance represents the delicate situation it finds itself in as it confronts what Dennis Van Roekel, the union president, called “the worst environment for teachers I’ve ever seen.” Amid deep budget cuts and layoffs, the union has lost more than 30,000 members this year, and is fighting back against legislative efforts to curtail its collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Arizona and other states.

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