Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, right, greets KCRW broadcast… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles' two mayoral candidates said Tuesday that they support making teacher evaluations public, going well beyond a level of disclosure that is supported by top school district officials.
City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti said they backed the release of individual performance evaluations based on so-called "value-added" formulas, which are controversial both locally and nationwide. These measures use the past performance of students on state standardized tests to help gauge a teacher's success, taking into account such factors as race and income.
"I think it's fair — absolutely," said Garcetti, when asked if the evaluations should be made public during an hourlong debate at the Petersen Automotive Museum sponsored by KCRW and Zocalo Public Square. He added that it was important to have a variety of measures to evaluate and compare teachers and to use data to help teachers improve.
Greuel said "yes" in response to the same question, and gave Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy credit for looking at evaluations at all levels of the school system, including principals.
Critics call such formulas unreliable or unfair. Backers say that when done well, they offer due recognition to the work of teachers who take on tougher-to-educate students. While Deasy supports using such formulas, he opposes making them public.
As at most of their recent debates, this one was marked by acrimony from the opening moments.
"There is probably no other subject where my opponent and I differ more than on the subject of education," Greuel said. "I attended Los Angeles public schools my entire life.... I'm the only candidate who has a child attending LAUSD today. My opponent went to private school and eventually private college. And private schools are great, but they are not the reality for most of Los Angeles' children and families."
"If you really want to see a mayor make a difference in our public schools and not just talk about it, put a mom in charge, watch what happens," she said.
Garcetti countered the notion that he was privileged by noting that his grandfather immigrated to the United States with an eighth-grade education, but improved his life through the Army, which allowed his son — Garcetti's father, Gil Garcetti — to become the first in the family to graduate from college.
"Education has always been the great equalizer for our society and certainly here in Los Angeles. My family story is no different," he said.
Garcetti noted that he had been the father of public-school children who had to sit on the floors of overcrowded classrooms, referring to foster children that he and his wife had cared for. They also have a young girl.
"I think moms are great. I love dads too. I happen to be one…. Right now my daughter's too young to be in school, she's only 16 months old," he said. "But she's what propels me in the campaign, she's what propels me in life, to make sure she has the opportunity for a well-funded education system here first and foremost, one that cannot be shortchanged by our state any longer."
The mayor has no official power over the city's schools, but both candidates said they would follow the lead of termed-out Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Mayor Richard Riordan by trying to fix the nation's second-largest school district.
Meanwhile, The Times determined Tuesday that Greuel's campaign organization has suspended her TV advertising two weeks before the election, a move that reflects her continuing struggle to raise enough money to compete head-to-head on the airwaves with Garcetti.
Greuel's cancellation of ad time reserved for Tuesday and Wednesday does not entirely remove her presence from local TV stations. Working Californians to Elect Wendy Greuel, an independent committee controlled by leaders of a union for Department of Water and Power workers, is still running a spot showing former President Bill Clinton talking up her candidacy.
But the cancellation, confirmed by multiple sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, reflects the challenges that Greuel faces in the run-up to the May 21 election as a consequence of raising less money than Garcetti, and spending at a faster pace.