I generally tend to be pro-union, but a story in today's Los Angeles Times, a must-read for any parent who has a child attending an LAUSD school, really highlights the potential failings inherent in any organization with an interest in self-preservation, which definitely describes UTLA.
UTLA far too frequently stands in knee-jerk opposition to almost all forms of teacher performance evaluation, which as today's article points out, can be far more important than evaluation of a school as a whole. After all, no one shapes your child's day-to-day educational experience than their teacher; the impact of principals, administrators, and school board members are insignificant by comparison.
The Times story deals with "value added analysis" of teacher performance data, based on test scores of that teacher's individual students, across seven years of data. The system of analysis provides information even the teachers themselves interviewed for the article felt was useful, but L.A. Unified has failed to employ the data, "despite encouragement from the district's own experts." But not surprisingly, A.J. Duffy, president of UTLA, "was adamant that value-added should not be used to evaluate teachers."
"Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets," the Times article points out, and nowhere did I learn the truth of that more than right here in Granada Hills, at Van Gogh Elementary.
With Van Gogh, one of LAUSD's highest performing schools, right here in town, I was definitely among the fixated, and fell into the test score trap when it was time to send my son to kindergarten. That's where I learned, through a nightmarish experience that peaked with our teacher deciding to quit her job in the middle of the school year, that a school's API scores reveal little to nothing about what a child's daily classroom experience will be like. We left Van Gogh—which we had entered imagining would be the school of our dreams—sorely disillusioned.
So many parents I've met go on lengthy, intensive searches for "the best school," but forget that even low-performing schools can have individual teachers who are superb, and of course, the converse may be true as well.
L.A. teacher ratings: L.A. Times analysis rates teachers' effectiveness - latimes.com
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