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First academic study of controversial LA Unified teacher evaluation program

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Pilot program using student tests scores to evaluate teacher gets its own good grade in first study.

An academic study of a teacher evaluation method that looks at how much teachers are able to improve students' test scores gave the pilot program a good grade. But the study comes too late -- the teacher's union and Los Angeles Unified School District agreed not to use the measure in the district's new teacher evaluation protocols.

The Academic Growth over Time became a lightning rod of criticism by the teachers union and some academics. At issue was whether it was fair to judge a teacher's effectiveness by looking at how a student's test scores had improved from year to year. Critics say the method doesn’t accurately capture all the factors in and outside the classroom that go into improving a student’s test scores.

USC researcher Katharine Strunk studied how it was implemented in group of L-A Unified schools last academic year.

"It indicates that the principals and other leaders that were assessing teachers using these protocols did a nice job doing that," she said. "It means that the value added score, the AGT that was generated, is also a solid measure. I think it speaks well for the district.” 

Strunk released her findings at a San Francisco conference this weekend attended by other researchers and L.A. Unified administrators.

An LA Superior Court judge ruled last year that the school district must begin including student performance data in teacher evaluations.

Superintendent John Deasy had pushed hard for Academic Growth over Time to be included in the revamped teacher evaluation. But he reached a compromise with the teacher's union to use simple test data instead. 

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