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School reform groups “Don’t Hold Us Back” exert pressure, but how much influence do they have?




A typical classroom.
A typical classroom.
BES Photos/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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There’s a movement underway in the Southland to pressure the Los Angeles Unified School District and the powerful teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, to “stop putting the interests of adults ahead of children.”

The coalition behind the push, known as Don’t Hold Us Back, is made up of civil rights, parent and community based organizations focused on education reform. They’ve been taking out full-page ads and working behind the scenes to promote changes such as giving schools more freedom to do their own hiring, making student achievement part of any teacher evaluation process, raising the bar on tenure eligibility and allowing bonuses and raises for high-performing teachers.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy largely supports these proposals. UTLA does not. In addition, another education advocacy group threatened yesterday to file suit against LAUSD if it doesn’t comply with a 40-year old law requiring California schools to link teacher evaluations to student performance. Known as the Stull Act, the 1971 law mandates that tracking student progress be an element of evaluations, but leaves the method of evaluation up to the district.

UTLA, which has long opposed the district over the use of student test scores in evaluations, fears that enforcement of the law could shift the power to LAUSD. After months of negotiations, yesterday was the board-established deadline for the players to come to some agreement over proposed contract reforms. Don’t Hold Us Back had also demanded the board respond to their demands for policy changes at that time.

WEIGH IN:

What – if anything – came out of yesterday’s closed-door meeting between LAUSD and UTLA? How much influence do these outside groups have? What strategies will they employ next? Could reviving the Stull Act change the game?

Guests:

Howard Blume, Education Reporter, Los Angeles Times

Elise Buik, President of United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President of Community Coalition