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UTLA Files Action Against District Over Teacher Evaluations*

Hillel Aron | August 21, 2013

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teacher_evaluation_clipart-e1366148884439The teachers union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against LA Unified over the new teacher evaluations. The union took the complaint to the Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, a quasi-judicicial state agency that hears public employee disputes.

In addition to the legal action, the union has distributed letters for teachers to give to their principals, expressing opposition to the new evaluations and the use of standardized test scores in setting objectives for teachers in initial planning conferences.

Superintendent John Deasy said he hadn’t seen the letter but had heard about it.

“I don’t even know what to make of it,” said Deasy. “I’m sad and disappointed. We’ve been trying to implement a balanced and multiple-measured evaluation system for years now. It seems we’ve been blocked at every turn to provide teachers with meaningful feedback.”

UTLA President Warren Fletcher was not available for comment.

The dispute over teacher evaluations dates back to a 2011 lawsuit filed by seven unnamed parents and a charter school operator named Alice Callaghan against LAUSD and Deasy. The suit alleged that the district was violating the 1971 Stull Act by not using an objective measure of “pupil progress” to evaluate its teachers.

In June of last year, Supreme Court Judge James Chalfant agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered the district, UTLA and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, the administrators union, to develop new evaluations based in part on student progress. In November, UTLA and the district signed a seemingly historic agreement, in which test scores would be included in the evaluation of teachers and principals.

But Deasy announced in February that “student achievement,” as a mix of test scores, graduation rates and other data, would count for 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, the union cried foul. Fletcher told LA School Report in February, “If the superintendent wants to advise principals, that’s an appropriate role. But we negotiated an agreement that made sure weighting would be determined in real life classrooms. If specific numeric requirements are being created, that would be a violation of the agreement.”

Both sides have since been negotiating. But in May, the district rolled out its new evaluation — the Teacher Growth & Development Cycle, a 30-page performance review that includes, according to the Daily News, “classroom observation, parent and student feedback, community contributions and student test scores.”

On its website, the union said the district was “arbitrarily” imposing the new evaluation “without negotiating it with UTLA.” It has advised teachers to tell principals about their objections by returning the letter, but not to refuse to participate in the new evaluation process.

“It has consistently been the position of UTLA that applying cookie-cutter rules and procedures to the teacher evaluation process is counterproductive for both teachers and administrators,” reads the letter in part. “It is unfortunate that central Beaudry management is attempting to unilaterally implement these changes to the evaluation process.”

“I’m still looking for a partner to help advance and celebrate good teaching,” said Deasy, referring to UTLA leadership. “I live in optimism that that partnership will be there eventually. In the meantime, we follow the law and the Stull Act.”

Administrations union President Judith Perez said she sympathized with the teachers’ predicament.

“Evaluation is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining,” she said.

Perez also said that she has asked the district’s general counsel what principals should do if they receive the letter objecting to the new evaluations. She hasn’t heard back yet, she said.

“Our principals are stuck in the middle,” she said. “Hopefully this will not alienate people form each other.”

* Correction: An earlier version of the story said the complaint was filed this week. It was filed in June.

Previous posts: Teacher Evaluations Still a Work in Progress;  Revamp Teacher Evaluation Plan, Says LA TimesUnion Tells Teachers How to Protest EvaluationsTeachers & Principals Question Deasy Teacher Evaluation Plan

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