The Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking the assistance of California's Public Employee Relations Board mediator in order to break the impasse in its negotiations with the United Teachers Los Angeles, the LA Daily News reports. The current round of negotiations is about the development of a new teacher evaluation system which must take into account student achievement metrics such as test scores.
The district is operating under a time constraint, as it has until December 4th of this year to devise the new system. Earlier this year the district was found to be using a review process that was in violation of the 40-year-old Stull Act which requires that some measure of how well students are learning the material mandated by the state curriculum play a part in how teachers are evaluated. In 1999, in an amendment co-sponsored by current mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa, specifically named the state-mandated standardized test scores to be used at as that measure.
State Superior Court Judge James Chalfant set the December deadline as part of his decision in the case and ordered the district to begin negotiating with teachers union immediately. District Superintendent John Deasy hoped that an agreement with the union could be reached by the October 9th meeting of the district's school board, but announced on October 5th that an agreement wasn't in sight.
UTLA President Warren Fletcher released a statement late Wednesday saying the 40,000-member union was engaged in "good-faith bargaining with LAUSD officials over developing a fair and effective teacher evaluation system.
"We believe we are making progress and that LAUSD's request for impasse was premature. That said, if the state wants to appoint a mediator to help the process along, we welcome that involvement," he said.
Currently, the district is running a pilot program on a complex evaluation system called Academic Growth Over Time, which combines several factors including classroom test results and demographic data to arrive at a teacher effectiveness score. All LAUSD schools have been using the system to evaluate their teachers for the past two years, although the results are currently non-binding.
The union objects to the use of AGT exclusively because they believe it is too volatile. However, UTLA says it is open to AGT making up a part of a comprehensive evaluation system.
"As education professionals," Fletcher said, "teachers are eager for our performance to be evaluated in a meaningful way that offers us feedback and support to improve our practice for the benefit of our students.