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A tale of two gatherings: Judge poised for final ruling on teacher evaluation system as LAUSD board meets

LAUSD school board member Steve Zimmer
LAUSD school board member Steve Zimmer
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

On Tuesday, while a judge is due to issue a final ruling on whether the LAUSD is abiding by a state law requiring the use of student performance as a factor in teacher evaluations, a few miles away at L.A. Unified headquarters, school board member Steve Zimmer will introduce a resolution to reject the use of academic growth over time as a system for measuring such progress.

"Academic Growth over Time" is a measurement system developed by the district using state test scores that forms the basis of its current pilot program involving 700 teachers, who have volunteered to try having student progress included as a measurement in their evaluations.

The district's attorneys used the roll-out of the AGT system as an example of how it is working to abide by the 40-year-old Stull Act, which requires student performance be part of teacher evaluations, in the case Doe vs. Deasy.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant issued a tentative ruling today in that case that said the district is not abiding by the Stull Act and must include student progress as a measure in teacher evaluations.

"The District's management has devoted much of the last two school years to the research and development of the system followed by extensive testing of the new evaluation procedures by volunteers and related training," Chalfant wrote in his 25-page ruling. "The District intends to test AGT on a 'no stakes' basis in all of its schools during the upcoming schol year."

The United Teachers Los Angeles have challenged the roll out of the pilot program, and its president Warren Fletcher said the union needs to be involved in the crafting of any such system.

Attorney Scott Witlin, who represents the unnamed parents who brought the case against the district, called the Zimmer measure disappointing. He said the district's attorneys used AGT as the basis of their argument for saying they're in compliance with the law or working toward that end.

"That board member Zimmer is sponsoring a resolution to eliminate the use of AGT for that purpose, not only does it not make any sense, but it goes contrary to the arguments they've put before the court," Witlin said.

Zimmer, who is a named party in the suit, said he believes "student growth and achievement and progress" needs to be included in every stage of the "professional growth process."

"Results matter. But the question is which results, how are they measured, and what is the balanced role in the whole of the equation. The danger, because it's a hot political issue, is that the use of standardized test scores becomes the equation..." Zimmer said.

"I'm trying to define the appropriate application of AGT in this process, and to me, the appropriate application of academic growth over time is school wide, that is one of several important indicators. But I don't think that choosing that instrument or student results from that instrument as a defining moment in the individual evaluation process is appropriate."

In his tentative ruling, Chalfant left the details as to how and when the district must abide by the Stull Act very much up to the district. He said some or all of the issues may require collective bargaining.

"The District may make pupil progress a direct factor in the final teacher and principal evaluations, or it may consider pupil progress indirectly in such evaluations, incorporating it through other measurements and means," Chalfant said. "But there must be a nexus between pupil progress and the evaluations."

Zimmer's resolution will be introduced Tuesday and is scheduled for a board vote June 28.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).