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Contentious Debate Can Give Way to an Agreement on Teacher Evaluations

With teacher evaluations generating heated debates, lawsuits and political battles that show no signs of ceasing, one of the nation’s largest school districts finally came to an agreement on the whole process. And it appears to be an agreement that has buy-in on both sides of the table.

According to public radio station KPCC, the United Teachers Los Angeles approved new contract terms for a teacher evaluation system for Los Angeles Unified School District.. And the feedback was surprisingly positive. Collaboration was the word that was repeated again and again — from those on the bargaining team for the union and those representing the school district.

“It was a collaborative effort on both ends,” said UTLA vice president Cecily Myaert-Cruz.

Here are several interesting outcomes and observations on the process that led to the agreement, which was preceded by lawsuits and intense debates — much like those going on in states across the country.

Collaboration. As mentioned before, those involved worked as a team to determine how teacher evaluations should be handled. Participants said the tone was different when representatives for the district, the unions, and UTLA met over a six-month period to discuss changes. It felt less politicized, said Ama Nyamekye, executive director of the teacher advocacy group Educators For Excellence-Los Angeles.

She also noted that the history of teacher evaluations had shifted dramatically over the years. At one point, she said, teachers were getting little to no feedback on their performance. Later, once education became a hot political button, everyone had a different opinion on how teachers should be evaluated — which led to the contentious debates.

Use objective research and data. Student test scores, when used to play a role in determining a teacher’s performance, has been hotly debated in many circles. However, last year, the Los Angeles group agreed to take the evaluation system back to the drawing board to determine a system. Representatives from all groups were included. “I think this approach is more organic and more authentic,” said Juan Flecha, president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles.

Making it less complex. According to news report, the most significant change the district and union officials agreed upon was shortening the list of performance metrics and focus elements principals will use to evaluate teachers. When evaluating teachers, they will measure performance in seven areas, instead of the current 15.