The teachers union objected to how much an academic intervention program for teenagers might cost. The Obama administration insisted that grant approval be tied to whether teachers are evaluated in part based on their students' test scores. Both parties refused to compromise. And as a result of stubborn officials clinging to their ideological positions, the students of the Los Angeles Unified School District are probably out of the running for a $40-million grant that could have reduced dropout rates and boosted achievement.
After California failed in 2010 to secure a $700-million Race to the Top grant — a one-time infusion of federal education funding — L.A. Unified and other districts in the state were given an opportunity to apply directly for much smaller sums. One catch: Grant applications must include a promise to tie teachers' performance ratings to their students' scores on standardized tests. To ensure that this happens, unions must sign the applications. But such evaluation policies have been anathema to union officials, who argue, with some validity, that the tests are a limited and sometimes misleading measure of student performance.
L.A. Unified's application for $10 million a year over four years called for intensive academic help for low-performing students to reverse the trend of dropouts in early high school. Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles refused to sign, citing both the cost and the teacher evaluation provision.