Just days before a court-ordered deadline, L.A. Unified and its teachers' union announced a "historic" tentative agreement allowing administrators to use student test scores in teacher evaluations.
Under the agreement, teachers' final evaluation will include student results on the California Standards Test from the previous year or years, in addition to the schoolwide Academic Growth over Time measure. They will also be judged on students' California High School Exit Exam scores, API scores, graduation and dropout rates as well as classroom observation.
Individual teacher AGT scores will not be part of final evaluations or be used to come up with specific performance goals.
Superintendent John Deasy said teachers will be held accountable for improvement by both individual students and their school. "So there's collective and individual [measure], which is a good balance in my opinion of both how the whole school's doing and how my classroom is doing."
The seven-page agreement was signed by both Deasy and UTLA President Warren Fletcher and will be presented to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant Tuesday. Deasy said the new evaluation measures will go into effect immediately after being approved by the school board and teachers' union.
Fletcher said he thought the agreement was "good" — that it was properly focused on helping teachers get better rather than just scoring them.
"Instead of the approach using test scores, I think this agreement is about using test data — state-mandated test data — in a way to help teachers and in a way to help improve instruction," Fletcher said.
Union leaders had resisted using test scores as a measure of teacher effectiveness, saying they were concerned that they were not an adequate representation of what was going on inside classrooms. But Deasy said those concerns were addressed by the addition of broader schoolwide measures.
The two parties were required to reach an agreement to comply with Chalfant's July ruling in Doe vs. Deasy by Tuesday.
The suit was filed in November by the Sacramento-based nonprofit EdVoice on behalf of seven unnamed parents. The core of the brief centers on the 41-year-old Stull Act, which requires school districts to “evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to the progress of pupils” on district standards of expected achievement in each subject area at each grade level. The act was broadened in 1999 to require evaluation based on student progress on state standardized tests.
In his ruling, Chalfant left the details of how the district must comply with the "pupil progress requirement" primarily to its discretion and asked it to negotiate with its unions where appropriate. L.A. Unified and its administrators’ union reached an agreement in September.
Attorney Scott Witlin, who represented the parents suing the district in the case, said he was "gratified" to learn that an agreement had been reached. Witlin had not had a chance to review it in detail.
"It looks like it's a credible step toward holding teachers accountable for the results of their efforts," Witlin said. "And that's exactly what the law requires and I think that's what the students in L.A. deserve."
Deasy said he believes this agreement "fulfills both the spirit and the letter of the law in the Stull Act."
Individual teacher Academic Growth Over Time score will only be used for feedback and to improve instruction "and shall neither for the basis for any performance objectives/strategies nor be used in the final evaluation," the tentative agreement states.
Teachers with 10 or more years of experience will be allowed extensions on their evaluations so that they are not evaluated this year but perhaps next year or the year after, as is allowed by the Stull Act, Fletcher said.
The California Standards Test and Academic Growth Over Time score reports linked to individual teachers will be treated as a confidential personnel record because it is used to evaluate performance, according to the agreement.
Deasy said he will be working in the coming weeks to specify how this new agreement to include test scores will impact the teacher evaluation.
"It will not be the majority of an evaluation," Deasy said. "At the end of the day, it will be an appropriate, significant, and limited portion of the total evaluation, which means that it's less than the majority. And it will be my responsibility to give guidance to the system and the principal on how to use that. And I will be developing that guidance in the days to come."
The agreement also includes the creation of a six-person steering committee, including three members appointed by the union and three by the district. The committee will help mediate any conflicts.