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Who's teaching L.A.'s kids?

A Times analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back.

August 14, 2010|By Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times

Without reliable information, it comes down to trust. Which instructor a child gets is usually decided behind closed doors by principals and teachers, whose criteria vary widely.

"Mi niƱo, all his teachers are good," said Maura Merino, whose son Valentin Cruz was in the fifth-grade class of John Smith, the low-performing Broadous teacher, last school year. "He never had a problem. Everything is OK."

Merino said it's hard for her to tell the difference between teachers because she doesn't speak English. If she knew her son was assigned to a struggling teacher, "I wouldn't know what to do," she said, speaking in Spanish. "But I would try to get him to the best."

In a conversation after school one day, several Broadous teachers, including Aguilar and Smith, said parents should have the chance to see how teachers measure up.

They "might be more empowered to demand a good teacher," said teacher Eidy Hemmati. And it might keep teachers "on their toes a little bit more," Smith said.

But many others say it would be impossible to accommodate every parent's desire for the best teacher, and publicizing disparities would only turn one educator against the other.

Broadous Principal Stannis Steinbeck refused even to discuss the differences among her instructors, hinting at the tensions that might arise on staff.

"Our teachers think they're all effective," she said.

Times data analyst Sandra Poindexter contributed to this report.

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