Take Two for March 06, 2013

UTLA's Warren Fletcher on Steve Zimmer, teacher evaluations, and more

UTLA President Warren Fletcher

Grant Slater/KPCC

UTLA President Warren Fletcher

Teacher's Union President Warren Fletcher joins the show for his take on last night's elections.

Interview Highlights:

On supporting incumbent Steve Zimmer:
"Because the lion share of out of town money, the lion share of money that was coming in to recharacterize this something not about Los Angeles, but about some abstract issues. Because the lion share of money went outside of LA into Kate Anderson's race, we felt that we needed to respond. We were outspent by a factor of many times.

"What brought this forward, what actually made this a victory was that teachers were walking the precincts, teachers were on the phone, telling the people, telling the parents and community in 4th District, this is what the schools need. And when it comes to money versus credibility, we're happy that we have that credibility, because it means that even when giant amounts of cash come into this district, giants amount of cash come into these campaigns, we can still be heard and we are proud of that."

On Deasy's memo that test scores will count up to 30-percent of teacher evaluations:
"I believe is that what the memo said is that it was up to 30 percent, and UTLA's position is that when you use cookie-cutter numbers, what you're doing is that you're undercutting the judgment of both teachers and principals who have the best idea about how to weigh things, how to factor things issues like student testing. We wanted to negotiate an agreement that integrated student test data, because that is required in the state education code, but we wanted to do it in a smart way in a way that it allowed for the judgment of teachers and the judgment of principals at each school and in each setting to be the controlling factor.

"We're continuing to fight this out on the specifics, but the overall goal, which is to make sure that as test score data is used, it is used to help improve instruction as opposed to use it in a cookie cutter, reductive way. That continues to be what UTLA is fighting for, and we're working with the district. One of our biggest fears is when you use cookie cutter numbers, 30 percent, 20 percent, you create incentives to narrow the curriculum and we never want to do that.

On why it's wrong to have student test scores count "up to 30 percent" of a teacher evaluation:
"It's a huge difference because if you use a cookie-cutter number like 30 percent what you're doing is you're copying what's been done in Illinois and New York, Massachusetts where the state legislator mandated this exact percent. We find is that our colleagues, those teachers in those states, they keep telling us that when you do that kind of cookie-cutter approach, you end up shoe-horning into that evaluation process things that really aren't natural parts of evaluating the teacher and it ends up having the effect of it creates incentives for the teachers to narrow the curriculum.

"I'm an English teacher. And the heart and soul of teaching high school English is teaching writing and teaching literature. If I am told specific test percentages that it's going to be that kind of cookie-cutter approach, it's going to create an incentive for me as an English teacher, for me, to teach a little bit less writing, a little bit less literature, and a lot more giving my student a five-paragraph essay and asking them the topic sentence of the third paragraph. It starts to mechanize teaching and we don't want that."

 


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