UTLA Still Blocks Teacher Evaluations: Charges LAUSD with Violating Union Contract

United Teachers Los Angeles has filed an unfair labor practice charge against LAUSD, claiming the district altered the terms of the recently amended teacher evaluation system without the union’s consent.

This change is the result of a 2011 lawsuit filed against LAUSD and Superintendent John Deasy that charged LA Unified with violating a state law requiring student test scores to be factored into teacher evaluations. The judge ultimately upheld this charge, setting a deadline for LAUSD and UTLA to develop a new teacher evaluation system that adheres to state law. In January, after dozens of negotiating sessions, both parties ratified an amended evaluation system that includes both more thorough classroom observation and the use of standardized test scores to aid in setting performance benchmarks.

UTLA has backtracked, however, claiming that the district altered the terms of the new evaluation system after the union-district negotiations. Warren Fletcher, the president of UTLA, charged that “The ink was barely dry, and the district said it was making a bunch of changes. It changes the (classroom) observation protocol and also creates requirements for our lesson plans.”

While the union frames its allegations against LAUSD as dissatisfaction with a lack of consultation by the district about certain changes to the system, union rhetoric suggests that UTLA fundamentally opposes the new system as a whole. For example, a recently released “toolkit” on the UTLA website that advises teachers how to respond when they come up for evaluation suggests that the union disapproves of any objective measure of teacher performance. The most contentious of these measures is the inclusion of student test scores, weighted at up to 30 percent, in determining teacher evaluation ratings. Though about 30 states require the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations (some accounting for up to 50 percent of a teacher’s rating) UTLA continues to deny the effectiveness of such empirical analysis.

“It has consistently been the position of UTLA that applying cookie-cutter rules and procedures to the teacher evaluation process is counterproductive for both teachers and administrators,” a letter from the UTLA “toolkit” states. “It is unfortunate that central Beaudry management is attempting to unilaterally implement these changes in the evaluation process. We all share the goal of an evaluation system where the work and judgment of professional educators is honored.”

LA Unified filed a response with the Public Employment Relations Board on August 15th, refuting UTLA’s allegations and requesting that it dismiss the complaint. The issue remains unresolved, however, forcing students to return to schools where many teachers fear transparency and fight to delay the implementation of a legally compliant evaluation system.