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Committee Deadlocks on Teacher Evaluation Bill

Samantha Oltman | April 26, 2013

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Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) sponsored the teacher evaluation bill.

A proposed bill known as SB 441 that would tighten teacher evaluation rules statewide narrowly failed to pass the Senate Education Committee Wednesday — but it’s not completely dead yet.

After hearing impassioned testimony from parents, teachers, and union representatives, the Committee deadlocked 4-4 over approval of the legislation.

But the Committee also voted to reconsider the bill later in an amended form, leaving the door open for a return to the issue.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Ron Calderon (D- Montebello), described the measure as “modest” in its scope.

Just before the hearing, his Chief of Staff, Rocky Rushing, told LA School Report that the evaluation bill is Calderon’s “attempt to modify the evaluation process and to provide better feedback for teachers to allow them to become better educators.”

The main change the bill would make is to update current evaluation law, which grades teachers on two grade levels, satisfactory and unsatisfactory. Calderon’s bill would create four grade levels, to be decided by school districts.

The bill would also require teachers who have taught more than 10 years to be evaluated at least once every three years. Current law only requires veteran teacher reviews every five years. (Read the bill’s text here.)

However, the proposal was opposed by the California Teachers Association (CTA). In a Tuesday post on its website, the CTA wrote that the bill “undermines the usefulness of an evaluation system by focusing on just four unproven measures of performance.”

During the hearing, a stream of supporters — many of them teachers and parents from the Los Angeles area — spoke before the Committee on Wednesday, urging its members to pass the evaluation bill.

One LA-area teacher told the Committee he supported the bill because he had a more “comprehensive evaluation working at Blockbuster than I do as a public school teacher in California.”

Amy Baker, a LAUSD parent, criticized the state for making “no effort to improve our broken teacher evaluation system” and asked the committee to pass the bill because it was “a modest step in the right direction.”

Representatives from teachers unions, including the CTA, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), were also there to argue against the bill, but they were far outnumbered by supporters.

CTA representative Patricia Rucker admitted that her union is unsatisfied with the current teacher evaluation system, but she insisted that Calderon’s bill “does not fix it.”

Lynne Faulks, representing the CFT and UTLA, said her unions oppose the proposal because it “fails to address central issues, such as developing teacher effectiveness and ensuring measurements are effective and fair.”

Calderon defended his intentions, saying, “Nowhere do I say, in this bill or in my remarks, that I’m putting targets on teachers’ backs… We want to give teachers a tool to deal with changes and become successful.”

The debate continued with both sides arguing their technical points, and committee members seemed torn between both sides.

Eventually they voted the bill down, 4-4, with an agreement to hear the bill later, after it’s amended.

Senators Bob Huff, Mark Wyland, Ben Hueso and Lou Correa voted in support; Bill Monning, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Carol Liu, and Loni Hancock voted against the bill; and Marty Block abstained.

Previous posts: Union Tells Teachers How to Protest Evaluations; Deasy Requests Changes to Teacher Dismissal Bill; Union & District Clarify Positions on Teacher Evaluation

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