LA Mayor Backs Weighing Student Performance in Evaluating Teacher Quality
Several California unions have objected to the Obama administration's Race-to-the-Top program
Stan Wilson CNN
September 12, 2012
"The conference of mayors unanimously supports student growth over time as a measurement in teachers," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who presides over the conference as president. "That should be at least one of the elements of their evaluation, and if you ask mayors across the country, they will agree."
The 59-year-old Democrat told reporters that the issues in New York and Los Angeles, the largest and second-largest public school districts in the nation, are similar to those in Chicago, the third-largest, where thousands of teachers have been on strike since Monday.
"These aren't radical notions, and my hope is the parties will sit down and figure it out -- the public wants to see more accountability," he said.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has been reviewing a system of teacher and administrator evaluations that, for the first time, includes student test scores, said spokeswoman Ellen Morgan.
Several California unions have objected to the Obama administration's $4.3-billion Race-to-the-Top program, which offers federal grants to help states improve failing schools but requires that teacher evaluations factor in student test scores.
The 325,000-member California Teachers Association recently supported a California bill that would have included evaluations of teacher performance, but the measure was pulled after 11th-hour attempts to move it forward failed in the legislature.
In response to the Obama administration's initiative, CTA spokesman Mike Myslinski said, "We agree, as long as multiple measures are used beyond just test scores, and the right remains for using test scores to be negotiated locally to meet local student needs."
United Teachers Los Angeles, a union that represents 45,000 public school teachers and health and human services professionals, has been engaged in a legal battle with the Los Angeles Unified School district involving the use of standardized test scores in contract negotiations.
Such practices have been shown to be "very unreliable and often inaccurate at the individual teacher level because there are many home and school influences on learning other than an individual teacher that cannot be addressed," according to a study released by the California Department of Education.
"Teachers who have many new immigrant students also suffer low ratings when their students are tested before they have had a chance to learn English," it added.
UTLA President Warren Fletcher said his union has developed a plan that uses trained evaluators to assess the performance of teachers. "The plan incorporates data on student outcomes to identify areas of student need and to improve instruction, but test scores are not used for punitive measures," he said in a statement.
While Villaraigosa has no jurisdiction over the Los Angeles Unified School District, he has focused on changing the education process. "We've got to engage in the reforms to get more success in our schools, to increase the graduation rate and make sure that more of our kids can read and write when they graduate," he said.