A new report by EdVoice has discovered that major school districts in California are ignoring a state law requiring them to evaluate teachers by how much their students have learned.
The study, Student Progress Ignored: An examination of California school districts' compliance with the Stull Act, looked at 26 school districts in the state, representing 1.2 million students, finding that only two districts, Clovis Unified near Fresno and Sweetwater Union High in San Diego County, were in full compliance with the law.
Meanwhile, two other districts, Upland Unified in the Inland Empire and San Ramon Valley in Contra Costa County, completely violated the law by disallowing the use of standardized test scores for teacher evaluations, which edvoice says is illegal. Both districts denied the findings.
Upland Unified Supt. Nancy Kelly reported that teacher evaluations for the district are based on professional guidelines chosen by the state and "therefore adhere to the evaluation and assessment guidelines required by the Stull Act."
Spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich for San Ramon Valley did admit that standardized test scores are not used for evaluations, but said other measures of student learning are used in their place. She went on to say that the district has plans to test out a new evaluation system next year that places more emphasis on student academic progress, writes Teresa Watanabe for The Los Angeles Times.
Mixed results were found in the remaining districts.
"Unfortunately, too many school districts are choosing to ignore whether every child under their supervision has been assigned to a truly effective teacher," said Bill Lucia, EdVoice president.
Due to a 2012 court order, the Los Angeles Unified district is currently reworking its evaluation system to include student academic achievement, and was therefore not included in the study.
EdVoice was the group to make that happen through a 2011 lawsuit against the district, arguing that the district was not including measures of how much their students were learning as part of their teacher evaluations. They went on to say that this caused students to be taught by teachers whose effectiveness could not accurately be measured.
As a result, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ordered the district to use state standardized test scores in their determination of student achievement. However, the district was given discretion in their determination of how it judged this progress.
While the district is working out the kinks, EdVoice has chosen to see how other districts in the state are doing by looking at collective bargaining agreements, evaluation forms, district handbooks and memos among other documents.
The study found that only 11 districts used student learning in their evaluation process in some form. There was no evidence of the remaining districts doing so.
EdVoice is asking state officials to keep tabs on district compliance with the law when determining funding levels, in addition to asking families to continue to push for the use of evaluations in order to ensure their children are taught by effective teachers.
"It's undeniable that California's future standard of living and competitiveness will depend directly on how well our public schools serve every student, regardless of heritage and income," Lucia said. "Every child deserves a great teacher."