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Scramble Over Teacher Evaluation

Hillel Aron | August 30, 2012

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It was a mad scramble in Sacramento yesterday, and well into the night, with state legislators trying to get every bill they possibly could out the door before recess, Friday at midnight.

And perhaps nowhere was the scramble madder than in the Senate education committee, where lawmakers desperately tried to amend AB 5, a bill that would change how public school teachers are evaluated.

Among many issues being debated are the appropriate use of student achievement in teacher evaluations, the role of local bargaining agreements, political relationships between unions and Democratic lawmakers, and the fate of the lawsuit known as Doe v. Deasy, which would make student achievement part of teacher evaluation in LAUSD.

John Fensterwald of Ed Source has been tracking the bill and explaining its evolution wonderfully: “Taken together, the amendments would restore districts’ authority to set local standards used to evaluate teachers and explicitly require that state standardized test scores be used as one measure,” he writes in this story (More amendments coming to AB 5).  However, “sensing that AB 5 is an uncertain experiment in collaboration between unions and districts, the committee is also requiring that the bill be reviewed in five years and sunset in six if found not to work.”

Superintendent John Deasy and others in Los Angeles are worried that AB 5 could disrupt ongoing negotiations mandated by a judge in Doe v. Deasy to create new teacher evaluations that include some measure of pupil progress.

In an email to me yesterday, Ben Golombek, Deputy Chief of Staff to Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (AB 5’s sponsor) wrote that “there’s also a provision in the bill that would allow any current evaluation process can stay in place for the duration of the agreement, so whatever agreement they reach under Doe v. Deasy in LA will stand.”

But opponents of the bill, which now include an unlikely combination of activist and civil rights groups, the state PTA, associations representing school boards, school administrators, and individual school districts, appear united in their criticisms that the bill has been rewritten too many times in too few days for its implications to be fully understood.
“I think it’s a huge issue to take up and try to push through in the session’s last days, when everybody trying to lead school districts is saying it’s a bad idea,” said Peter Birdsall, director of the statewide county superintendents association in this Sacramento Bee story (California lawmakers scramble to rewrite rule for evaluating teachers).
And Bill Lucia, CEO of Ed Voice, disputes the claim that the amended AB 5 would allow Doe v. Deasy to stand.  “That’s not clear at all,” he told me yesterday. “Right now [UTLA and the district] don’t have a contract.  It would give UTLA every incentive to drag their feet.”


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