By UCLA IDEA Staff | http://bit.ly/9LpLHl
03-19-2010 --On Tuesday, a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) task force recommended changing the teacher-evaluation process along with other recommendations designed to improve students’ access to highly qualified teachers. The 50-member task force made up of administrators, teachers, union members and parents began meeting in September. Headed by state Board of Education President Ted Mitchell, the panel will present its final recommendations next month to the LAUSD board of education.
Standardized tests would be part of a teacher evaluation system that includes other components such as feedback from parents and teachers, along with observations from peers and administrators.
Reactions have been mixed. Some people have praised the panel for suggesting much-needed changes, while others worry about too much weight placed on standardized test scores. (Los Angeles Times, The Educated Guess). The final balance between scores and other factors is hard to determine before the final recommendations are settled and make their way into education policy.
Another recommendation is to extend teachers’ probationary period before they get tenure from two years up to four, and still another would offer higher pay to excellent teachers who were willing to teach at low-performing schools.
Recommended also are new procedures for dismissing ineffective teachers and promoting others to roles such as coaches and content experts. (Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, KPCC). Typically, teachers resist simplistic formulas for “merit pay,” but are more open to differentiated teacher assignments where some teachers are paid more than others depending on their unique skills and the greater responsibilities they assume.
John Rogers, director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, said for evaluations to work effectively they must operate as a system that provides opportunities for growth, meaningful feedback and support (Orange County Register).
However, the infrastructure that such a system must rest upon is further weakened by the current economic crisis with most schools cutting back on resources that help teachers in classrooms. Just this week, more than 22,000 teachers statewide received pink slips. According to the latest California Educational Opportunity Report released by UCLA IDEA, more than 70 percent of principals statewide reported cuts to professional development.
The new LAUSD recommendations appear to be consistent with the Obama administration’s education plan. Teacher evaluations feature prominently in Race to the Top, a $4.3 billion program that provides extra funding for states that realign their educational practices with the president’s reforms. The evaluations are also a component of the No Child Left Behind overhaul. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress on Wednesday that the president’s proposal would emphasize academic growth, encourage better teacher evaluation systems, and support education and career advancement programs. (New York Times,Education Week, Christian Science Monitor).