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 is 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," says Democratic Assm. Felipe Fuentes of 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 bleive is the proper way to go. We believe this is a tremendous improvement," says Dennis Kelly with United Educators of San Francisco.
However, 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 one percent of the evaluation. "We firmly believe this bill is a significant expansion of collective bargaining for school districts," says Laura Preston with the Association of California School Administrators.
Opponents also point out that the proposal lacks teeth because teacher evaluations cannot be connected to personnel decisions. So, you could have an educator with a bad evaluation but who 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 the money will come. "It doesn't go far enough. It's not specific enough. It doesn't move California forward.," says Eric Lerum with Students First. The feeling is that under the current version, the feds will deny the state's application.