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Los Angeles teachers may be evaluated based on students' state test scores

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 04, 2012 17:11 PM

The grades students receive can certainly provide a sense of how good of a job their teachers are doing. After all, if half the class is performing in the "C" range, there may be a problem with how the instructor is teaching the material.

However, grades are not the only way to evaluate teachers. The results of state tests, such as the assessments students take through the California STAR Testing Program, can also provide insight into the quality of educators' instruction. This is just one reason why the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) plans to take scores from the California Standards Tests into consideration when evaluating their teachers.

The plan
If all goes according to plan, LAUSD will follow in the footsteps of Chicago and several other cities that factor student test scores into their teacher evaluations, the Los Angeles Times reported. However, the road to developing this plan was anything but easy, and comes after months of tense negotiations with the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union.

The new pact will see to it that teachers are evaluated based on students' rates of attendance, graduation and suspension, as well as a combination of individual and school-wide testing data. Both LAUSD and UTLA agreed that state test scores would not be the controlling factor in instructors' final evaluation.

"It is crystal clear that what we're doing is historic and very positive," John Deasy, the LAUSD's superintendent, told the news source. "This will help develop the skills of the teaching profession and hold us accountable for student achievement."

Educators weigh in
Charles Kerchner, a professor at Claremont Graduate University and a labor relations expert, views the agreement between LAUSD and UTLA as something of "a shotgun wedding," he told the news outlet. However, he also said it is "unabashed good news." Meanwhile, teacher Brent Smiley of Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth, California, said he will vote "yes" on the plan.

"This is a complex agreement and possibly the most sophisticated evaluation agreement that I have seen," Diane Ravitch, an educational historian, told the news source. "It assures that test scores will not be overused, will not be assigned an arbitrary and inappropriate weight [and] will not be the sole or primary determinant of a teacher's evaluation."

While some teachers may worry about what the inclusion of STAR data will mean for their evaluations, the fact that students' test results increased for the ninth straight year in 2012 should be reassuring. According to the California Department of Education, of approximately 4.7 million students, 57 percent scored proficient or above in English language arts, while 51 percent did as well on the California Standards Tests' mathematics section.