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Large federal grants push use of student test scores to grade teachers

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The move to factor student test scores into teacher job evaluations in L.A. Unified got a big push Thursday. It came in the form of multi-million dollar grants from the US Department of Education.

The federal agency will give L.A. Unified $16 million to start new teacher and principal training, identify and promote expert educators, and create teacher and principal evaluationa that include multiple measures that include student progress on standardized tests.

Executive Director of L.A. Unified’s Talent and Management division, Drew Furedi, wrote the grant proposal.

“As a former teacher, it was important to me to see how my students were progressing,” he said.

There’s one big roadblock to L.A. Unified’s proposal: its teachers union. United Teachers Los Angeles has opposed using student test scores to grade teachers, saying too many factors beyond their control can affect how well students perform on standardized tests. UTLA hasn’t totally ruled out student test scores in teacher evaluations.  The union and the school district continue to negotiate a new teacher evaluation.

Green Dot Public Schools, a charter company that runs 18 LA area schools, received a similar federal grant for almost $2 million. Green Dot’s teachers union agreed earlier this year to use student test scores to evaluate teachers.

Green Dot’s Chief Academic Officer, Cristina de Jesus, welcomed the federal grant as a way to offer newer teachers the support they want.

“We have talented teachers. We want to keep growing that talent. Evaluating how students are progressing is part of the process to help teachers improve their practice,” she said after the grant was announced.

With so much movement on the teacher evaluation front in the state’s largest school district, what do teachers and parents in other Southland school districts think about using student test scores to grade teachers?