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.