A judge has ordered the Los Angeles Unified School District this week to begin using student academic achievement in computing teacher evaluation scores, the Los Angeles Times reports. The ruling, which will have a huge impact on teachers working in LAUSD schools, says that the current assessment system used by the district puts it in violation of a 40-year-old Stull Act, which requires that some measure of how well students are learning material mandated by the state curriculum, plays a part in how teachers are evaluated. In 1999, in an amendment co-sponsored by the current mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, specifically named the state-mandated standardized test scores be used as that measure.
The decision, rendered by the Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant, was in response to a lawsuit filed by education advocates and parent groups, seeking to have the scores included in the district's teacher assessment process.
Chalfant said the law required the district to use California standardized test scores to determine how well students have mastered state-required material. But he gave the district wide discretion in how to measure pupil progress in meeting its own local academic expectations. Which specific measures are used, how they are incorporated into performance reviews, how the different elements are weighted and how administrators are trained in using them "may well be a matter subject to collective bargaining," he wrote.
After the lawsuit was filed, Villaraigosa came out strongly in support of the plaintiffs, releasing a statement and even submitting an Amicus Brief to the court. Although the ruling is only preliminary, its impact is still expected to push LAUSD towards adopting the standardized testing standard.
In doing so, the district will be imitating a number of districts and states across the country who've begun integrating standardized test scores into teacher evaluations. The move has also received significant support from the Obama Administration, and U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
Bill Lucia, president of EdVoice, a Sacramento-based educational advocacy group that brought the lawsuit on behalf of the unidentified parents, said the ruling would clear the way for more effective evaluations that will help students and struggling staff.
"It's more likely we'll be able to identify struggling staff members and give them the help they need to improve," he said. "This will be better for kids."
President of the United Teachers Los Angeles, Warren Fletcher, released a statement reiterating the union's opposition to the use of student test scores in teacher assessment. He said that if the district wishes to redesign the format of teacher performance reviews, these changes must first be negotiated with the union membership.