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Federal grant comes with strings

Race to the Top looks at student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.

September 29, 2012|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

As part of Glendale Unified's quest for millions in federal Race to the Top funds, district officials are in union negotiations over a big string attached to the money: using standardized student test scores to evaluate teachers.

Much is as at stake — in order to qualify in the competition for what could be $40 million over four years, Glendale Unified and its teachers union must agree on a system for using student test scores during teacher evaluations. The negotiations currently taking place center on just how much weight to give those test scores during the evaluation process.

District officials say the test scores will be just one factor in teacher evaluations.

“We don't evaluate students on just one measure. We're not going to do that to the teachers,” said Assistant Supt. Maria Gandera. “That would not be fair.”

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After summary evaluations that include class observations and evaluations of student exams and writing samples, Glendale teachers will either meet the district's satisfaction or not.

State exam results have not been part of the evaluation formula for “well over the last decade,” Gandera said.

In addressing the school board during last week's meeting, Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson said the new evaluation method “could be done very well, and could be done very poorly.”

The district and teachers union must reach an agreement before the grant's Oct. 30 deadline.

School board President Christine Walters said she's hopeful that the district can reach an agreement with the teachers.

“I'd be happy to help the teachers take some leadership in helping figure out what is appropriate data evaluation,” she said. “I think objective measures are a very important piece of a performance evaluation.”

Adding the test scores into the fold can establish a new conversation about a typically sensitive topic, school board member Joylene Wagner said.

“The big thing is to acknowledge that [test scores] have some weight. That has been rejected so far,” she said. “We don't want to make teachers' lives worse but we want to make the conversation better. I would love us to find a way so that [teachers] can recognize — this isn't about hammering them at all.”

Some teachers agree that student test scores should be part of the evaluation process.

Glendale High School teacher Olivia Macaulay — this year's districtwide “Teacher of the Year” — believes in both teacher accountability and using data as an approach to instruction.

She supports the district going after the grant, even if it means incorporating test scores in evaluations — so long as they inform a piece of the evaluation and not the whole.

“The bottom line is we are all here to make kids be successful in their futures, which is our future. How you evaluate that, I don't know,” Macaulay said.

School board member Mary Boger said she does not want test scores to be “a huge part” of teacher evaluations because she believes standardized tests can overlook other factors in student success.

She referred to how the district has used test data “to drive where we're going,” adding: “I think it's something we all have to live with — that we're going to pay attention to these test results.”

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