California Stands Alone in National Teacher Quality Report

A new report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality has found that about two-thirds of states have made significant changes in teacher evaluations in the last two years, although California is a notable exception, writes Howard Blume at the LA Times.

The information comes from a report released Wednesday by the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality.

The Obama administration has pushed teacher quality policies, and others, in selecting states for the competitive Race to the Top grants. More recently, the administration has encouraged states to commit to using data in teacher evaluations when they apply for relief from the strict federal No Child Left Behind law.

But while under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger California embraced key Obama administration policies; but his successor Jerry Brown is much more skeptical. Some critics insist the state is trailing the nation, others applaud California for resisting unproven strategies.

The California Teachers Association and others note that the current standardized tests were never intended to evaluate teachers. The tests are invalid instruments for that purpose, Deputy Superintendent Deborah Sigman said.

Without state endorsement, L.A. schools Superintendent John Deasy is pressing for academic achievement to be part of teacher evaluations. He said that state law gives school systems more latitude than they've exercised. Union leaders disagree, writes Blume.

The district, the nation's second-largest, is in negotiations with its teachers union over evaluations. The LA Times reports that the United Teachers Los Angeles has supported using test data to improve instruction, but not for teacher evaluations.

According the LA Times about 11,500 Los Angeles Unified elementary school teachers and 470 elementary schools are included in The Times' updated database of "value-added" ratings.

Most third-, fourth- and fifth-grade instructors who taught at any point during the 2004-05 through 2009-10 academic years were given ratings in the Times analysis.

The difference between a student's expected growth and actual performance is the "value" a teacher added or subtracted during the year. A school's value-added rating is based on the performance of all students tested there. Small differences in ratings are not statistically significant, particularly for those rated near the average.

The Times concedes that even though value-added measures do not capture everything about a teacher or school's performance, they decided to make the ratings available because they bear on the work of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to the information.

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