LA Union Approves Using Test Scores in Teacher Evaluation

United Teachers of Los Angeles, the largest teachers union in the city, has given its agreement for the standardized tests results to be used as part of the teacher evaluation process starting this year. The union's attorney conceded this point during a court hearing which was part of a lawsuit against the district and the union brought by parents who claimed that the defendants violated parts of a 41-year-old state law that governs how teachers' performance was assessed.

After the conclusion of the hearing, the UTLA attorney Jesus Quinonez explained that his acceptance was contingent on the ability of the union and district officials to work out a compromise on how much of a role test scores will play in determining the teachers' final performance ranking. This brought an immediate response from Scott Witlin, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the successfully concluded lawsuit.

"This is exactly what we were concerned about — that [UTLA] would say one thing in court and change their position thereafter," said Scott Witlin, an attorney for the group of unidentified parents.

The case in question, which was filed jointly by parent and education advocate groups, claimed that by refusing to use test scores in the Los Angeles Unified School District teacher assessment system, LAUSD violated both the Stull Act, which required a use of some measure of how well students are learning the material, and a 1999 amendment introduced by the then-Representative and now-Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa that standardized test scores be the measure used. Earlier this year, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant sided with the plaintiffs and ordered the district to begin using a student achievement metric in teacher rankings and told district officials to present a progress report on September 4th. He further set December 4th as final deadline for the district to prove that they've modified their evaluation system accordingly.

The teachers union's commitment to launch the new measures this year came after Witlin told the judge he believed all sides were dragging their feet on negotiating a new evaluation system.

UTLA attorney Jesus Quinonez sharply disagreed with Witlin, saying all parties were "very serious" about an agreement.

For the past several years, LAUSD has been running a limited test of an assessment system that uses student test scores as part of the teacher ranking computation. Currently, about 700 district teachers and 100 schools are participating in this pilot program. Although all district instructional and administrative staff is scheduled to get training in the system this year, Superintendent Deasy has previously said that he was uncertain about when the system was going to be rolled out to all the district's schools.

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