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Education

Teacher Evaluation Overhaul Bill Spiked

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KQED's CY MUSIKER: State lawmakers are racing the clock, trying to clear a backlog of hundreds of bills before their session ends at midnight tonight. Earlier today they sent a pension reform bill to Gov. Brown's desk, and they're still considering sweeping changes to the state workers comp system.

MUSIKER: One closely watched bill died in the Legislature this week. It would have changed the state's teacher evaluation system, and would have allowed districts to include student test scores in a teacher's job performance review. Our education reporter Ana Tintocalis is following the issue. Ana, this bill's author, Southern California Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, pulled the legislation from consideration. Why did he do that?
 
KQED's ANA TINTOCALIS: Well, one of the reasons was opposition was just continuing to grow. More than 50 groups came out against this bill in the final hours. And Fuentes ultimately said there wasn't enough time for him and others to review the final set of amendments. There had been so many changes in the last three days with this bill, that some of them weren't even written down. Also, there's a high cost here. There's a huge price tag attached to the start-up costs of having this new evaluation system and the ongoing costs of making sure it could be sustained.
 
MUSIKER: And that might be one reason it was unclear also whether Gov. Brown might sign this bill. He wasn't looking forward to a bill that would add to the cost for education. 
 
TINTOCALIS: Right. I mean, I don't think Brown would be happy to see this on his desk, because he's trying to sell this Proposition 30, which will give, hopefully, schools some money if it's passed. And this just comes at a bad time. You're asking for this huge price tag of a new evaluation system when schools are just struggling to put basic supplies in their classrooms.
 
MUSIKER: Critics of the bill didn't like some of the amendments tacked on to the measure. What was the controversy there?
 
TINTOCALIS: Well, what the bill was aiming to do was to fix the way teachers are evaluated, because it is a broken system, and many people agree that it is. So what this bill aimed to do was to set a statewide, uniform teacher evaluation system. It would increase performance reviews, more classroom observations, training of evaluators, more feedback for teachers. But one of the hugest sticking points, and this is what there was so much contention over, was that Fuentes wanted all facets of teacher evaluations to be subject to negotiations, from the type of test that was used in terms of student test scores being linked to teacher performance, the type of tests that were going to be used, the number of teacher observations, the point system for all of this to work. And critics said that was just too much -- it was an expansion of collective bargaining that they'd never seen before in 30 years. So they wanted school boards ...
 
MUSIKER: So that would be superintendents, for example.
 
TINTOCALIS: Right. Superintendents, school boards -- they wanted to be calling the shots when it comes to teacher evaluations, because they wanted these evaluations to have more teeth. I mean, this is the biggest criticism here with the whole system is that it's, kind of, this lame system that really doesn't pinpoint bad teachers and their performance. So, this was something that they believed, again school boards and superintendents, would be a step backwards.
 
MUSIKER: The state's teachers' union says that this is a missed opportunity to start more meaningful performance evaluations. What would that system have looked like?
 
TINTOCALIS: Well, it would have looked like a system where teachers were heavily involved in all facets of what this evaluation would look like from district to district. This was a huge expansion of their collective bargaining rights. They would have been able to determine the type of evaluation, the type of tests that would be used to link to their performance. So, for them, they're the losers in this saga.
 
MUSIKER: Is it possible that lawmakers will take up this measure again in the next session?
 
TINTOCALIS: Well, it's uncertain. Someone else will have to try again at this evaluation bill. Fuentes is termed out, and he's running for L.A. City Council. So, we'll see who might take up the cause.
 
MUSIKER: Thanks a lot Ana.
 
TINTOCALIS: Thank you.
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