A major study on teacher quality makes clear just how sclerotic the Los Angeles Unified School District has become—but while the diagnosis and prescriptions are clear, the prognosis is far from certain. The National Council on Teacher Quality’s 58-page report, “Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in LAUSD,” was commissioned by the United Way and several civil rights groups and paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. While the report focuses on Los Angeles, many of its findings are applicable to other school districts around California, where collective bargaining agreements have hamstrung administrators and state laws supersede local policies.
Such studies are vital because they spotlight problems and prescribe a course of action, but they’re only half the battle. The other half, of course, requires implementing needed reforms. New LAUSD superintendent John Deasy welcomed the report, but he knows as well as anyone that the most effective reforms would require fundamentally revising the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the United Teachers of Los Angeles—something that the union and its bought-and-paid-for board of education are simply unwilling to do.
The report, published in June, urges major changes to the union contract and to state law. Teacher evaluations should be overhauled, along with tenure rules and work schedules. Rules should be changed that assign teachers to particular schools based on seniority considerations. Compensation should reward performance, not just advanced degrees and years of experience. Another prescription would incorporate standardized test scores into teacher evaluations—a reform already in effect in Washington, D.C., Florida, Maryland, and Colorado. And the report recommends delaying tenure or permanent status until a teacher has been in a classroom for four years, instead of the two years the current contract stipulates. Read More