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Did LAUSD Violate Teachers Union Contract? UTLA Files Complaint

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JOHN DEASY
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent, John Deasy listens to board members discuss budget cuts and layoffs, which include adult education, preschool and elementary school arts programs, in Los Angeles on Tuesday Feb. 14, 2012. The LAUSD school board's postponed the vote on cutting the programs, a decision that could send layoff notices to more than 5,000 teachers, health and human services professionals. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) | AP

Los Angeles Unified's teachers union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the school district, saying administrators failed to negotiate key changes to a controversial performance evaluation system now being used to review educators.

Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said Thursday that the complaint was filed in June with the state Public Employment Relations Board after the school district "unilaterally" imposed revisions in an evaluation developed under court order.

The complaint came to light this week as part of a "toolkit" posted on the UTLA website, advising teachers how to respond when they come up for review. It includes a letter that teachers can give their principals, asserting their collective bargaining rights.

"It has consistently been the position of UTLA that applying cookie-cutter rules and procedures to the teacher evaluation process is counterproductive for both teachers and administrators," the letter says. "It is unfortunate that central Beaudry management is attempting to unilaterally implement these changes in the evaluation process. We all share the goal of an evaluation system where the work and judgment of professional educators in honored."

Los Angeles Unified filed a nine-page response with PERB on Aug. 15, refuting each of UTLA's allegations and asking that the complaint be dismissed.

The teacher evaluation stems from a lawsuit filed in 2011 against the school district and Superintendent John Deasy, claiming Los Angeles Unified was violating a state law requiring that student test scores be factored into teacher evaluations.

A judge agreed and set a deadline for the district and UTLA to develop a new system. After dozens of negotiating sessions, the two sides ratified an agreement in January that emphasizes "robust classroom observation," but also includes the use of standardized test data to help set performance goals.

Fletcher said the evaluation has since been revised without the agreement of the union.

"The ink was barely dry, and the district said it was making a bunch of changes," Fletcher said. "It changes the (classroom) observation protocol and also creates requirements for our lesson plans."

Even before the court ruling was issued, LAUSD was devising and testing a new evaluation that rated a teacher's knowledge and skill in more than five dozen categories.

Deasy said he'd received only positive feedback from teachers who participate in a two-year test of the evaluation, and he expressed disappointment at the union's latest action.

"I was looking forward to having a partner in celebrating great new things and helping teachers get better," he said. "The evaluation provided meaningful feedback to our teachers and was an instrument that honors their practice."

Educators 4 Excellence, a teachers group that advocates the use of student test scores in evaluations, called for union and district teachers to quickly resolve their differences.

"We've been hearing from our members that they've long wanted to have structured conversations about their practice, and the evaluation is a tool to really be able to have those conversations," said Ama Nyamekye, the organization's executive director.

"At the beginning of this new school year, we need our district and union leaders to move past the stalemate and instead, focus their energy on the important work of implementing the new system as a tool to have meaningful conversations about how teachers and students keep growing."

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