LAUSD sets the bar low for new teachers – report

The Los Angeles Times has done a major investigative report finding that Los Angeles Unified has set a rather low and cursory bar for evaluating probationary teachers for permanent employment. Specifically, according to the report:

Nearly all probationary teachers receive a passing grade on evaluations. Fewer than 2% are denied tenure.
The reviews are so lacking in rigor as to be meaningless, many instructors say. Before a teacher gets tenure, school administrators are required to conduct only a single, pre-announced classroom visit per year. About half the observations last 30 minutes or less. Principals are rarely held responsible for how they perform the reviews.
The district’s evaluation of teachers does not take into account whether students are learning. Principals are not required to consider testing data, student work or grades. L.A. Unified, like other districts in California, essentially ignores a state law that since the 1970s has required districts to weigh pupil progress in assessing teachers and administrators.

These findings are infuriating, both because they suggest that administrators in LAUSD should be doing a much better job evaluating teachers, and because they will give ammunition to teacher-bashers who want to argue that all teachers should receive less job protection. Effective, thoughtful performance evaluations and support early in a teacher’s career can make all the difference in turning an ineffective instructor into a highly effective one. In addition, such evaluations and supports can identify people whose strengths lie outside the classroom, and help counsel them into another profession.
In SFUSD, teachers are probationary for three years before they receive tenure. Having attended a number of meetings where the Board was asked not to “re-elect” probationary teachers, I think I can say that this decision is not taken lightly. Still, I’m going to be sending this L.A. Times article around.

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2 responses to “LAUSD sets the bar low for new teachers – report

  1. Hi David – thanks for visiting the blog!

    Anyway, my quarrel (based on my understanding of the LA Times report) is not with the way teachers were hired, but with the way they were evaluated post-hiring. From what I read in the Times, it appears that probationary teachers received almost no effective feedback on improving their practice, which presumably means that ineffective teachers would stand as good a chance of receiving tenure as effective teachers.
    You say LAUSD has enormous annual hiring needs – I infer that you are arguing that the district can’t be as choosy as it would like, and perhaps that’s just the reality – still, I would think more energy would go into evaluating new teachers if only to help everyone improve.
    Anyway, this is all based on my reading of the LA Times report – so I’d be interested in knowing how you feel it was flawed.
    Happy New Year – let me know when you are next in SF and we can continue the discussion face to face! Rachel

  2. David Tokofsky

    Hi Rachel,

    Try not to bash other places without thorough outreach and communication. I am sure that teachers across California during the 70s and 80s and into the 90s when the state was booming with growth got hired in very similar fashions depending on the demand of each local district. In the case of LAUSD, we needed to find 5000-10000 teachers per year. How many teachers are in SFUSD in its entirety?

    Peace and Happy New Year.

    David Tokofsky