Grassroots Movement Calls for LA Teachers Evaluation Reform

Parents and education advocates are suing L.A. Unified in an effort to enforce an overlooked state law that requires teacher and principal evaluations to be linked to student achievement, writes Steve Lopez at the LA Times.

California finds itself having to lay off thousands of teachers and other staffers every year, and spends less per pupil than all but a few states.

And a movement of parents, advocates and organizations that calls itself Don't Hold Us Back, is demanding that L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles come together to hammer out some big-ticket reforms.

As the movement includes many groups that are stereotypically anti-union, critics say it is attempting to engineer a shift to privatize public schools for personal gain. However, the alliance also includes groups that have traditionally backed UTLA.

On Oct. 24, the group sent a letter to L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, UTLA leader Warren Fletcher and L.A. Unified board members, demanding reforms for the sake of the district's 700,000 students.

"We recognize student test scores have been increasing incrementally over the last few years," said the letter. "However, incremental advances are simply not enough. When only 56% of our students graduate from high school in four years, we are failing close to half of our kids and consigning them to a life of poverty."

The movement wants to give more power to schools to make their own decisions on curriculum and hiring, with guarantees that parents and staff at failing schools can opt to turn things over to charter organizations or other alternative operators, writes Lopez.

They want student achievement to be a part of teacher evaluations, with professional development provided for instructors who need it and higher pay for more effective teachers, with quality, rather than just seniority, to be a priority.

"A lot of teachers we work with are just absolutely fed up with both the funding situation and the bureaucratic nature of teaching in LAUSD," said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president of South L.A.'s Community Coalition.

Although it's parents and activists who are demanding changes, Harris-Dawson thinks it's teachers who can best make that happen by challenging UTLA and the district to better represent their interests, writes Lopez.

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