After months of negotiations, the Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union have reached a compromise that will now use a controversial multifactor system to evaluate teacher performance.
In a two-thirds vote, United Teachers Los Angeles members ratified an agreement with the district that calls for evaluations based on a mix of raw data from the California Standards Test, "robust classroom observation" and school-level data based on the concept of Academic Growth over Time.
One of the earlier and more controversial proposals from Superintendent John Deasy -- to use AGT results of individual students in evaluating a teacher -- will not be factored into the final evaluations, although those individual scores can be used to give "perspective" in looking at past CST results by the teacher.
"It's a historic day for the teaching profession in Los Angeles and, more importantly, it's a landmark day in what I think really is an essential civil rights struggle to make sure that every child in the district has an excellent teacher in their classroom," said district board member Steve Zimmer. "I hope this vote forever puts to rest the notion that this teachers union doesn't care about children and doesn't care about excellence."
The action was prompted by a court order last summer that required the district and its unions to comply with the Stull Act, which requires student test scores be a factor in evaluating teachers and school administrators.
Results of a weeklong voting process by UTLA were announced Saturday afternoon showing that 11,185 union members voted "yes" and 5,707 cast "no" votes.
"I'm very encouraged by the high percentage of the approval," Deasy said. "And look forward to the next stage of working together."
The inclusion of AGT scores was among the major sticking points during negotiations as union leaders argued that individual AGT scores were too unstable to accurately evaluate a teacher's performance.
But with the district allowing for the use of schoolwide averages, UTLA officials say the change is now more fair.
Diane Ravitch, a former U.S. assistant secretary of education, who is a leader in the fight against the use of test scores in teacher evaluations, said in a statement Saturday that the ratified agreement "assures that test scores will not be overused, will not be assigned an arbitrary and inappropriate weight, will not be the sole or primary determinant of a teacher's evaluation."
Student test data will not account for more than 50 percent of the teacher evaluation, Deasy added.
"We worked hard at the bargaining table to craft a system that intelligently uses student data in the evaluation of teachers," said UTLA president Warren Fletcher.
"This was a reasonable way to comply with the court order without doing harm to instruction, and that was an important goal for us."
Now, LAUSD and UTLA officials must meet again in the coming weeks to discuss the implementation of the new evaluation system.
"With all compromise comes a very hard road, filled with a lot of struggle, but I'm absolutely convinced it's the right road," Zimmer said. "We have a long way to go, but this agreement paves a clear pathway for making sure that we have excellent teachers in every classroom in this district."
Staff Writer Barbara Jones contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org 818-713-3623 twitter.com/LADNMarMendoza ___