Remember when teacher evaluations were the subject of controversy in LA Unified? Not anymore
Only a few years ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District's system for evaluating teachers' job performance was the subject of legal disputes, full-blown lawsuits and bitter fractious debate between district leaders and the teachers union.
Not anymore. Last weekend, the rank-and-file of United Teachers Los Angelesoverwhelmingly approved new contract terms for a teacher evaluation system — and unlike in the past, both sides agreed the talks had gone smoothly.
"One of the things [the union's] chief negotiator said was that the entire process was one that had been very collaborative in nature," said Gifty Beets, co-director of labor relations for L.A. Unified.
"It was a collaborative effort on both ends," said UTLA vice president Cecily Myaert-Cruz, who was on the bargaining team for the union.
The amity didn't come about by accident. As a prelude to this last spring's contract negotiations, representatives for UTLA, the district, and the principals' union all met over six months in 2015 to discuss how to handle evaluations.
The new contract language contains few blockbuster changes to the evaluation system itself. Still, the tone of the debate over the system's future has shifted dramatically, according to Ama Nyamekye, executive director of the teacher advocacy group Educators For Excellence-Los Angeles.
"We went from an age where teachers weren’t getting teachers getting feedback on their practice to a national spotlight on the teacher evaluation effort," said Nyamekye, whose organization tends to provide a counterweight to teachers unions in policy debates.
"Suddenly," she continued, "everyone wants to come into your classroom and give you feedback. And there are a lot of warring perspectives on how to evaluate teachers, from academia, from districts, from unions, from reformers."
Now? "It feels less politicized," said Nyamekye.
But did the harmonious talks between union officials and district leaders produce a better teacher evaluation system? For Bootsie Battle-Holt, a math teacher at Marina Del Rey Middle School, the agreement is a mixed bag. On one hand, she feels the changes make for a process that's less about a "gotcha evaluation" and more about professional growth.
But "the evaluation process right now," Battle-Holt added, "is still the dog and pony show [based on] the one lesson [principals observe] … It needs to be a big, Feature: Remember when teacher evaluations were the subject of controversy in LA Unified? Not anymore | 89.3 KPCC: