Panel recommends L.A. Unified teacher overhauls

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One of the many local high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

A 35-member L.A. Unified School District panel meeting tonight expects to forward recommendations to the district’s board of education. If they go into effect, they’d significantly change the way the district evaluates and pays its teachers.

Former L.A. Unified school board member Marlene Canter is on the Teacher Effectiveness Task Force. She told KPCC’s AirTalk that the group took on some big questions — "How are teachers going to be evaluated and is that going to be fair."

The panel would like teacher evaluations to factor in grades from parents and students, along with student test scores. In a statement, L.A. Unified’s teachers’ union said it was opposed to undermining seniority protections. The union’s president took part in the task force and was reportedly open to some of the overhauls.

Teacher and panel member Jordan Henry said the evaluation process has to change. "To me it's going to be a long road to finding a new measure, I believe, a new evaluation system after all, we're just making recommendations, we're not making policy and that's where it's going to get sticky."

Other proposed changes include giving new teachers more support, granting tenure after four years instead of two and paying experienced teachers more pay for working in tough schools. The panel would also like L.A. Unified to push the state to give school districts final say in teacher firings. That would require a change to state law. The school district would have to work out other changes with the teachers’ union.

USC education professor Katharine Strunk said the recommendations are in step with current scholarship about classroom instruction. "All research that we have shows that teacher quality matters more than any other possible input into kids learning that schools and districts can control."

Even if the school board approves the recommendations in whole or in part, UCLA education researcher John Rogers said the economy may create the biggest hurdle to change at LA Unified. "These conversations about a new evaluation system for teachers arise as 9,000 teachers in Los Angeles Unified received pink slips this week."

L.A. Unified’s board of education is set to begin debate on the teacher effectiveness recommendations next month.

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