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It's the law, court briefs allege, LAUSD needs to include student progress in teacher evals

Two briefs filed this week allege LAUSD needs to include student progress as part of teacher evaluations.
Two briefs filed this week allege LAUSD needs to include student progress as part of teacher evaluations.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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Two briefs were filed this week in a Los Angeles County Superior Court case that alleges the Los Angeles Unified School District is violating a state law requiring student progress be included in teacher evaluations. 

“By failing to assess teachers and administrators based on the progress of pupils and including that assessment as part of the annual evaluation, the LAUSD annually fails in its statutory obligations to the hundreds of thousands of children, their parents and guardians, taxpayers and the community it is responsible to serve,” states a brief by lawyers representing seven unnamed parents.

The suit, filed in November by the Sacramento-based nonprofit Ed Voice on behalf of the parents, is set to go to trial in June.

At its core is the more than 40-year-old  “Stull Act,” which requires school districts “evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to the progress of pupils” on standards established by the district of expected achievement in each subject area at each grade level. 

In 1999, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was a speaker in the state Assembly and sponsored an amendment to include that the Act require evaluation based on student progress on “state adopted academic content standards as measured by the state adopted criterion referenced assessments” or standardized tests.

In an amicus curiae brief filed on Villaraigosa’s behalf, his attorney states that LAUSD is not complying with the Stull Act and that it needs to incorporate student progress as one of multiple measures of teacher effectiveness. 

“Of the 27 indicators of teacher performance in the LAUSD evaluation, not one asks whether students are making gains toward standards,” the brief states.

Though the suit names Deasy, the district and the school board as defendants, it likely provides Deasy with leverage in his fight with the United Teachers Los Angeles to roll out a pilot program that includes student’s academic growth over time as a measure of teacher effectiveness.

A UTLA representative could not be reached for comment. But UTLA President Warren Fletcher has spoken skeptically about value-added models of evaluating teachers. He said studies have shown them to be inaccurate up to 25 percent of the time.

"The kinds of decisions we're talking about, which are decisions about my salary and decisions about whether or not I'm retained in the profession are made on a year-to-year basis," Fletcher said. "A one in four accuracy rate when you're measuring something that's as important as teacher effectiveness just isn't acceptable."

The suit contends that the district has the data and ability to abide by the Stull Act but that “the problem is a district that has relinquished its obligations to the students in order to placate more powerful interests.”

The brief states that in his deposition Deasy acknowledges that the district’s current evaluation system doesn’t account for pupil progress as required by the Act.

According to the brief, Deasy states: “We do not currently construct evaluations of teachers by using how students do over time in terms of their academic outcomes.”

In a recent interview Deasy said he hoped to work with UTLA on implementing an evaluation system that takes into account student progress district wide.

“We want to do so collaboratively we really do,” Deasy said. “But not doing it is not okay.”

“It sounds like a hospital who wants to be rated on everything except for infection rates or a transportation system that’s glad to have an accountability system that doesn’t take into account accident or crash rates,” Deasy continued. “It doesn’t actually makes sense to me.”

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).