Assembly Bill 5: A Giant Step Back for Teacher Evaluation in Los Angeles

The lightning speed at which our infamously slow state legislature is trying to pass a statewide teacher evaluation framework can only mean one thing -- lawmakers don't want anyone to understand what's really in there.

That's because if Californians -- and teachers especially -- had a second to look inside the legislation, they'd see that lawmakers are about to remove any chance that the state's educators have of receiving the meaningful feedback and support they need and want to improve their craft. Governor Brown should denounce this effort and veto the bill if it comes to his desk.

Here's why.

The bill would effectively override current state law that requires that student growth data -- the only objective measure of a student's improvement from year to year -- be one factor in a teacher's annual review. Known as the Stull Act, the provision was recently upheld in court and LAUSD is now under a court order to implement a teacher evaluation system by the end of the year. Many teachers, including the 1,000 plus members of Educators 4 Excellence-Los Angeles, support using this data as long as it's paired with other measures like classroom observations, peer reviews and student surveys.

The legislation, called Assembly Bill 5, on the other hand, would require each aspect of a teacher evaluation system be collectively bargained at the local level. And since most teachers' unions -- including UTLA -- strongly oppose the use of test score data in assessing teacher performance, it's unlikely they would ever agree to an evaluation system that includes it. While the collective bargaining process itself is important and respectful to teachers, a state framework that sets overarching guidelines on critical components is absolutely necessary.

In other words, teachers are left in a no-win situation -- either they continue to not receive proper evaluations of their work or they get an evaluation system that only tells them half a story about their performance.

And it's not just teachers who will suffer as a result. Students lose. After all, they need educators who are constantly improving, receiving feedback and targeted support, to ensure that they receive the education they deserve.

Additionally, taxpayers will feel the pain for years to come. This bill will stymie any attempts both the state and the city have made to win hundreds of millions of dollars in federal education grants that are contingent upon having a strong teacher evaluation system. Every grant recipient to date has said they would use test score data as one factor in evaluating educators. We're not going to be the exception.

Further, additional costs will come from the fact that California will be deemed "failing" under current federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates. Currently, 33 states have received waivers from the NCLB mandates by promising to implement robust teacher evaluation. If California passes AB5 our chance of receiving a similar waiver will diminish greatly. If lawmakers can't stand up for teachers and students and pass a better bill, then they should at least do the right thing for the state's shaky bottom line. This bill isn't just bad policy. It's bad business.

For the past few months, it seemed like our schools were finally starting to move in the right direction. The LAUSD district and union got together to negotiate a new contractual agreement that empowers teachers at the school level. The Stull decision gave teachers and parents hope we'd have an evaluation system in place by December. There were finally incentives to compromise. If this legislation becomes law, it will simply force everyone back into their corners. E4E members will do everything in their power to make sure that doesn't happen. Let's hope the governor steps up as well, before it's too late.

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