Monday, August 23, 2010

LA Teachers union agrees to reopen talks on evaluations

UTLA head says he's open to a new evaluation system

August 20, 2010 | 10:43 pm
United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy told hundreds of his members Friday night that he is "ready, willing and able" to create a new evaluation system for instructors that is "good for kids and fair for teachers." He indicated this might mean using student test scores as one measurement of teachers.
Duffy, who has steadfastly said he opposes the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, appeared to soften that stance in his speech to UTLA's annual leadership conference being held this weekend at the La Quinta Resort & Club in Indio.
"We are in favor of legitimate uses of student data to help improve teaching," Duffy told the local school union representatives. "We are in favor of a genuine evaluation system that supports teachers and helps them grow in their profession."
John Deasy, deputy superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, told Board of Education members Friday afternoon that he wants to use the so-called value-added analysis of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations and that he is urging the unions to meet with him.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten met with district and union officials during a visit to Los Angeles this week. She has been in favor of revamping teacher evaluations and has helped negotiate contracts that use test score data as one of multiple factors in instructors' reviews.
The Times published an article earlier this week that used a value-added analysis to measure teacher effectiveness. Value-added compares a student to his or her past test performance. The approach measures how much teachers can add -- or subtract -- from students' growth. The method is controversial among some educators and others, but it also has been embraced as one way to judge teachers and principals.
The Times is planning to publish a database later this month showing the value-added ratings of more than 6,100 elementary schoolteachers. In advance of publication, The Times has allowed teachers to receive their score; so far, more than 1,200 teachers have done so.
Duffy said measuring teachers solely by their students' test scores will lead to more "teaching to the test' and reduce critical-thinking skills. He said several experts have decried The Times' methodology as imperfect.
As he took off his jacket in the packed room, Duffy said public education is "under attack like never before and the threats are coming from all sides. The latest attack," he said, "comes from the L.A. Times." 
Many in the audience booed when he named the newspaper.
"It's hard to feel anything but outrage when they drag our profession through the mud," he said.
-- Phil Willon

The head of the Los Angeles teachers union said Saturday that he has accepted city school district officials' proposal to reopen negotiations over teacher evaluations but stopped short of saying whether a method tying teacher reviews to their students' test scores would be on the table.
Los Angeles Unified School District leaders on Friday requested that the union consider making the method, known as value-added analysis, count for part of teachers' evaluations — a move that would transform how instructors are assessed in the nation's second-largest school district.
United Teachers Los Angeles and its president, A.J. Duffy, have staunchly opposed the use of students' standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. But they have come under pressure over the last several days from local leaders and the head of a major national teachers union to accept value-added analysis as one measure of teacher performance, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Duffy has long said the current evaluation system is broken and needs to be revamped, but Saturday's announcement was his first formal step toward opening negotiations over it. This is also the first time in recent years that the district has requested renegotiation of the evaluation system.
The sensitive exchanges between the district and union follow a Times report published last week in which the newspaper, based on a value-added analysis of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers, found sometimes huge disparities in instructors' effectiveness.
In a speech to hundreds of union members Friday night at UTLA's annual conference in Indio, Duffy said that he is "ready, willing and able" to create a new evaluation system that is fair for teachers. "We are in favor of legitimate uses of student data to help improve teaching," he said.
His position on value-added analysis itself was harder to discern. In the speech and an interview Saturday, he voiced strong criticisms of the approach, which estimates the effectiveness of teachers based on student progress on standardized tests. But when pressed repeatedly on whether he would try to take value-added off the table, he declined to answer.
"I've said it the way I prefer say it," Duffy said at the conference, dressed casually in shorts with a wireless headset affixed to his ear. "I am answering the way I think is best."
In the past, he has adamantly opposed any use of value-added analysis in formal evaluations, though he has said he was open to using it as a way to give feedback to teachers.
On Saturday, Duffy criticized The Times for its use of value-added analysis and its plans to publish a database that will include value-added ratings of more than 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers later this month. Duffy said that value-added scores are too narrow a measure on which to rate teachers — they only take math and English standardized test scores into account — and that the database could endanger teachers by publicizing where they work.
Duffy, along with the presidents of the California Teachers Assn. and the National Education Assn., sent a letter to Times editors earlier this week, asking the paper not to publish the database and calling the planned publication a "reckless and destructive move."
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, met with Duffy last week and urged him to consider agreeing to using value-added analysis as one component of evaluations, according to people with knowledge of those meetings. In an interview last week, she said she believes parents have a right to know how well their child's teacher rated, but she opposed making teachers' scores available to the public.
Weingarten is more open to value-added analysis than other union leaders and said she has negotiated 54 contracts in districts where it counted for 10% to 30% of a teacher's overall review.
Duffy refused to discuss the specifics of their meetings.
"She doesn't pressure local leaders to do anything," he said. "UTLA is a giant … so they don't dictate to us."
Weingarten could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Unified leaders last week moved to use value-added analysis in ways that do not require union agreement.
John Deasy, the district's deputy superintendent, sent a memo to board members Friday outlining the district's plans, which include informing teachers and principals confidentially of their value-added scores by October. He indicated that this would not result in any punitive actions but was designed to help instructors improve.
"This will be a no stakes opportunity for educators to begin working with this information that will become part of a new performance review system," he wrote.
He said the scores could help administrators identify struggling teachers for extra help.
In the memo, Deasy also said that report cards for individual schools, which are now made available to the public, would eventually also have value-added scores reflecting the overall effectiveness of their teaching staffs.
Deasy said that he hoped value-added analysis would make up at least 30% of the new evaluation, but that the majority should rest on classroom observation and other factors.
Without commenting on the specifics, four of the seven school board members expressed general support for Deasy's approach last week. The others could not be reached or had not come to a conclusion on the issue. The board members interviewed expressed concerns about the publication of the database.
"I don't want to see these 6,000 teachers be the unwilling pioneers," said board President Monica Garcia.
Teachers attending the conference booed Friday night when Duffy mentioned The Times and expressed doubt about the accuracy of value-added analysis.
The role of value-added could become a factor in upcoming union elections to succeed Duffy, who has reached his term limit.
Jordan Henry, a veteran teacher at the Santee Education Complex south of downtown who announced his candidacy late last week, said standardized testing could play a role in evaluations, although he opposes The Times' plan to publish the database.
He also criticized Duffy's call for a boycott of the paper early last week.
"I was disgusted this week when my current union president called for a boycott…. simply because the L.A. Times took the initiative," Henry said.
Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.
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Story posted 2010.08.21 at 09:12 PM PDT


Clay Boggess said...

Evaluating teachers on student test performance should be included as an objective measurement; however it should only be a part of the evaluation. Other states place too much emphasis on the test and thus the entire school year has now become a one-dimensional 'training for the test' teaching approach.

Anonymous said...

Randi is the death of public school teachers. She has been offered a seat at the billionaire's table and promotes her own agenda while securing her and her partners financial futures at the expense of the rank and file throughout the country.