For the past few years, Los Angeles schools haven’t been making the grade. Teacher evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive, yet all measures show that proficiency in elementary reading and math continue to fall well below the national average. Clearly, something doesn’t add up.An L.A. judge has taken notice of this fuzzy arithmetic. The WSJ reports:
At a hearing Tuesday, Judge James Chalfant said the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the nation’s largest, violated California’s Stull Act, a 41-year-old law that requires teacher evaluations to take into consideration the performance of students.The current evaluation system in Los Angeles focuses on teaching methods, such as how a teacher demonstrates knowledge or guides instruction, according to the district.
It should be noted that L.A. has had more incentive to measure teacher performance correctly than just a desire to comply with the law. President Obama’s $4 billion education fund offers grants based on, among other things, linking teacher pay to student achievement; L.A.’s Unified School District (and California more broadly) has largely let these opportunities slip away. And the teachers’ union, of course, is already bargaining to water down the effect any new evaluations would have on teachers’ contracts. In L.A., the students are failing, but all the teachers are above average—and the union wants to keep it that way.Judge Chalfant’s ruling may force the unions to accept more stringent standards for their teachers, and this may lead to some modest improvement in standards and oversight down the line. But there’s still much, much more to be done.The real goal for L.A. should be a decentralized system in which parents have more choice and teachers have more freedom. If the unions come around to this way of thinking, we may begin to see real improvement.