In California, there is a battle going on between a “reformist” group called Edvoice and the United Teachers of Los Angeles. California has a forty-year-old law called the Stull Act, which says that a teacher’s evaluation will include evidence of student progress. But how is “progress” defined?
Some “reformers” will use any and all opportunities to make standardized test scores the measure of teacher quality, because that guarantees that 1/2 of all teachers will be below the mean and thus many will be “ineffective” by design. Knowingly or not, they seem eager to create evidence of failure.
This principal says that “progress” means far more than bubble-test scores:
|To willingly comply with policy that one knows is heinous, is nothing short of injurious to both individual teachers, teachers’ unions, and students. I have been a teacher and principal in California for my entire educational career (30+ years) and can tell you with certainty that VAM based on California’s Stull Act (AB 293) is a complete perversion of that bill’s purpose, and most importantly, practice.
I am not a lawyer, but I do know that past practice and precedent count for a lot in legal circles and California’s Stull Act has never been interpreted to mean that teachers must be evaluated on a student’s standardized test scores. The bill simply states that teachers will be evaluated on “student progress”, but since when is a student’s progress limited to a standardized test score? To go along with VAM based on standardized test scores is to make an assumption that the sum and substance of a student’s school performance and experience is limited to the bubbles he or she is filling in on any given day: an absurdity. Since 1971 when the Stull Act went into effect, “student progress” was something that was interpreted by the teacher being evaluated and the school principal. Yes, the evaluation could include test scores, but just as valid were criterion referenced tests, publishers tests, student portfolios, teacher observations, principal observations and, as of late, even the observations of other teachers or bargaining unit members. The important thing was the agreement between the teacher and principal about what was appropriate considering the teacher’s stated goals.
To indicate that UTLA should “go along” with despicable policy is a symptom of exactly why teachers across the nation have found themselves in a predicament like they’ve never before experienced. Standing up against policy that is just plain wrong has nothing to do with hiding anything. Indeed, going along with such policy as VAM shows a willingness to comply with atrocious policy, even though you know that it is injurious to both students and teachers, an act that doesn’t garner the respect of anyone. It’s time to draw the “line in the sand” and do what we know as professionals is the right thing: resist VAM and encourage our unions to fight it at every opportunity.