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L.A. Unified says deal on evaluations meets court order

District files brief by judge's deadline, but details remain unresolved in agreement with union on using student test scores to assess teachers.

December 04, 2012|By Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Unified School District filed court papers Tuesday asserting that a new tentative agreement with the teachers union has satisfied judicial orders to use state standardized test scores in instructor evaluations.

The deal, reached last week after months of intense negotiation, would allow data from the tests and other sources to be used as one measure of teachers' effectiveness for the first time.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant had ordered L.A. Unified to show that it was using test scores in evaluations by Tuesday after ruling earlier this year that state law required such data as evidence of whether teachers have helped their students progress academically.

"Pupil progress will now be incorporated in the final evaluation of teachers," the district said in its court filing.

Crucial details remain to be worked out, such as how data would be used and how much that should count in the final rating. The agreement proposes to evaluate a teacher's effect on students' learning in part with an unusual mix of individual and school-wide data from such sources as state standardized tests, high school exit exams and district assessments, along with rates of high school graduation, attendance and suspensions.

Although hailed by many as a creative, groundbreaking proposal that would help teachers improve, some criticisms are emerging. A number of teachers said they still oppose any use of student test scores in evaluations. Meanwhile, some outside groups have challenged whether the agreement goes far enough in using such data and having it apply directly to a performance review.

In a step that was mostly a formality, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted 5 to 0 Tuesday to file the tentative agreement with the court. Two board members, Tamar Galatzan and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, were absent from the brief closed session discussion.

Board member Richard Vladovic said he and his colleagues felt good about the deal.

"There was concurrence that this was truly a compromise and both sides were very positive and very directed in what they did," Vladovic said Tuesday. "Both parties did the right thing and put in sufficient protections so due-process rights are protected."

He added: "The kids are the real benefactors of this agreement."

The school board has not yet scheduled a vote to ratify the deal and probably won't do so until and unless teachers approve it. That union vote is scheduled for January.

United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher said he would urge members to back the agreement. He said standardized tests "will always be a less than perfect way of introducing data into an evaluation. However, with the mandates of state law, we needed to find a way to incorporate them into the process."

Advocates for the Los Angeles parents who sued the district over what they viewed as ineffective teacher evaluations said they were pleased with the agreement and supported the court filing. They urged teachers to approve the agreement.

"Now is the time for UTLA to put up or shut up," said Scott Witlin , an attorney for the families.

"We'll be watching implementation closely," said Bill Lucia of EdVoice, the Sacramento-based organization that brought the lawsuit. "The adults have an opportunity to get it right to the benefit of the kids and improving effectiveness of struggling staff."

teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

howard.blume@latimes.com

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