The recent approval of a new evaluation system by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is an important step that puts student performance measured by tests into the formula for evaluating teachers.
An agreement between the leadership of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and teachers, which takes student learning into account, is big news, even if it was achieved reluctantly.
Despite the fact that more than two thirds of educators approved the agreement, it was reached between UTLA and the LAUSD last December at the last minute, as the court-ordered term was expiring. To get to that point, a suit was filed against the LAUSD for failing to comply with the Stull Act, which for the last 41 years has required school districts to evaluate their employees’ performance in a reasonable way based on student progress. In 1999 the law was expanded to require evaluation based on student progress on standardized state tests.
The agreement is significant because both the LAUSD and UTLA have reason to celebrate. For the LAUSD this is the first time it has gotten teachers to accept the use of tests in evaluations. For UTLA it is a way to control which exams and how they will be used.
It is also a victory for students, since they always come out winning when the adults at the LAUSD and UTLA manage to reach an agreement.
While we do not think this will close the chapter on evaluations, it marks the opening of a conversation to move toward a system that is increasingly fair for students and teachers alike.
It is true that a significant number of students are at a disadvantage due to poverty, a lack of school resources, and the fact that they do not speak English, but this does not leave teachers free of any responsibility for the students’ learning. A balance must be maintained, and this agreement is a step toward that goal.