Push for teacher evaluations to include student scores: driven by federal money?


California hasn't changed the way it evaluates teachers in four decades. But in the last few days of session, lawmakers are trying to jam through what some are calling "landmark reform" by allowing student test scores to be part of a teacher's evaluation for the first time in state history.

Among the controversial parts: allowing school districts to get input from parents and teachers on how much weight the scores and other factors are given.

"I understand very clearly that Los Angeles is a very different school district than Plumas Unified School District," said state Assm. Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar).

While the powerful California Teachers Association has fought for years against including test scores in evaluations, it is behind this bill.

"This bill as an evaluation bill, we believe is the proper way to go. We believe this is a tremendous improvement," said Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco.

But local school boards and education reformers have lined up against it, saying the measure actually gives teachers unions even more power. They could agree to count test scores as just 1 percent of an evaluation.

"We firmly believe this bill is a significant expansion of collective bargaining for school districts," said Laura Preston, a spokesperson for the Association of California School Administrators.

Opponents also point out the proposal lacks teeth because teacher evaluations cannot be connected to personnel decisions.

So you could have an educator with a bad evaluation, but can't be fired, and vice-versa: A good evaluation doesn't prevent you from getting pink slip.

At stake is $354 million from the federal government. Tie teacher evaluations to tests scores and money will come.

"It doesn't go far enough. It's not specific enough. It doesn't move California forward," said Eric Lerum, vice president of national policy, Students First.

The feeling is that under the current version, the feds will deny the state's application.

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