By Connie Llanos - Los Angeles Daily News via Mercury News.com | http://bit.ly/axla5E
11/11/2010 - Los Angeles Unified officials took a big step forward Tuesday toward launching a new controversial method to evaluate teachers based on the performance of their students.
The school board approved two consultant contracts to study and develop the new teacher evaluation method, with a combined cost of up to $4.5 million.
One consultant will develop ways to evaluate teachers based on the test performance of their students over time, called the "value-added" method. The other will help develop new guidelines and "best practices" for teachers.
The value-added method compares student performance from one year to the next to evaluate a teacher's abilities. It has been sharply criticized by some union leaders and experts as flawed and unfair, but applauded by others, including President Barack Obama.
"For me, this is historic. This begins to make it real that we are going to establish a process to have a good, fair and robust evaluation for teachers, principals and other key school personnel," said LAUSD board member Yolie Flores.
"We are putting our stake in the ground that quality teaching matters. ... We are done with mediocrity and we are putting a process in place that will begin to guarantee that for our family and our kids."
But Judith Perez, president of Associated Administrators Los Angeles, argued that no proof has been shown that using student test data in educator evaluations improves academic achievement. "There is no consensus among researchers that student test scores should be used for staff evaluation," Perez said. "We need to identify effective teaching practices and share them with administrators and teachers throughout the district."
The vote allows LAUSD to join several other districts nationwide that have pushed for teacher evaluations that use student test data, amidst growing community pressure.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was among the local, and vocal, advocates who applauded the school board for moving forward with plans to revamp teacher evaluations.
"Today's vote speaks to the school board's commitment to include meaningful, data- driven information in the educator evaluation process," Villaraigosa said in a written statement before the vote.
"Teachers are a critical part of the academic success equation, and no meaningful reform would be complete without efforts to bolster educator evaluation."
District officials said the two new contracts will be paid for by federal funds designated for professional development, which cannot be used for programs or to hire back teachers.
The first contract, awarded to New England-based Teaching and Learning Solutions, will cost up to $3 million and will help create teaching "best practices" so that district teachers can have clear expectations to meet and guidelines to follow, district officials said.
The second contract, for up to $1.5 million, was awarded to the University of Wisconsin. The school will help the district begin creating value-added scores for its teachers, termed "academic growth over time."
The district will not be able to overhaul teacher evaluations until reaching agreements with teacher and administrator unions, per state law.
LAUSD Deputy Superintendent John Deasy said the district intends to work collaboratively with teachers to continue developing the new system.
He said that while unions will have to agree to the impact of a new evaluation system, they do not have to agree to the creation of a new process.
Union leaders, though, questioned whether the expense was even necessary because LAUSD teachers and principals have already volunteered to create new teaching and learning expectations and a new evaluation system, at no cost.
"It never ceases to amaze me how, no matter who the management is, or who is on the school board, this district loves to throw away money," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.
"They have people internally and community members willing to give their time gratis to do this already."
- Follow your money as it goes to Vermont and Wisconsin.
- Teaching and Learning Solutions is a Vermont company; it's too bad nobody in California can do this work. The T&LS homepage offers a link from to "a new initiative by Microsoft" – in the showbiz we call this kind of promotion 'product placement'. T&LS has two co-founders, the first is nick-named 'Duffy' and has a background with ETS – the Educational Testing Service; the second's background is with ETS too.
- The second contract was awarded to the University of Wisconsin Value Added Research Center (VARC) , Wisconsin is closer to California…. but… Here is VARC's stated mission: Much basic research remains to be done to build high-quality value-added models and indicators that can legitimately support district and state accountability and high-stakes applications such as pay for performance. NOTE: The outcome of the basic research is pre-established: to build high-quality value-added models and indicators that can legitimately support district and state accountability and high-stakes applications such as pay for performance. This is not scientific research …it's fishing for the desired outcome!