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UTLA’s Confusing Flip-Flop on Evaluations

Samantha Oltman | December 12, 2012

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UTLA President Warren Fletcher

While union president Warren Fletcher has claimed victory on a recent court-ordered tentative agreement on teacher evaluations, a closer look might leave rank-and-file teachers scratching their heads.

UTLA has consistently opposed any use of student test scores in teacher evaluations in the past. So it was unexpected when the union leadership signed off on using raw standardized test scores such as the California Standards Tests (CST) — a single test measure that UTLA has denounced for years.

Scott Witlin, an attorney who represented parents in the Doe v. Deasy lawsuit that compelled the district and union to reach the agreement, called UTLA’s acceptance of CST scores “ironic.”

“For years, the teachers union complained that individual test scores were insufficient because they didn’t account for other factors,” Witlin said.

The union’s decision to back an agreement using the CST over a more comprehensive student performance measurement that considers a host of socio-economic factors, called Academic Growth Over Time (AGT), has perplexed some UTLA-watchers.

Some LAUSD teachers have already taken issue with UTLA’s flip-flop on test scores.  Using CST scores “would distort or falsely attribute student performance to teachers,” David Cohen wrote on the Accomplished California Teachers blog

Academic Growth Over Time (AGT), a metric launched last year by LAUSD, takes into account numerous factors when measuring progress, including English language acquisition, single-parent households, and ethnicity, and is generally thought to be a more balanced tool to measure progress.

Larry Sand at Union Watch speculates that without AGT there is little accountability and, “way too much wiggle room.” (read it here).

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