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Teacher Evaluation Bill, Backed by Unions, Withdrawn as Legislative Session Ends

September 6, 2012

In last week’s blizzard of legislative activity, a bill that would have overhauled the way teacher evaluations are conducted (AB 5, introduced by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar) was withdrawn before coming up for a floor vote.

AB 5 had drawn support from teacher unions, and faced stiff opposition from some school districts and several prominent education reformers. It would have allowed school districts to disregard standardized test scores in evaluating teachers, added an "excellent" teacher evaluation option to the current pass/fail-type system, and made evaluations more frequent.

But before the bell rang last Friday marking the end of the legislative session, proponents said they realized they would not have enough time to vet their proposal and scrapped it.

“I believe this issue is too important to be decided at the last minute and in the dark of night," said Assemblyman Fuentes, the bill’s sponsor.

Dean E. Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, said “California’s educators are disappointed that the Legislature missed a great chance to change the state’s teacher evaluation system in a way that would have improved our profession and student learning. AB 5 by Assemblymember Fuentes was based on sound research about how you build strong learning communities for students with a comprehensive teacher evaluation system. It’s unfortunate that we could not have real conversations about this legislation so all could have understood how the legislation worked. We recognize why Assemblymember Fuentes decided to pull the bill as he could not allow proposed amendments to be voted on without a full public hearing.”

Vogel continued, “The California Best Practices Teacher Evaluation bill was an opportunity to get beyond the simple test score debate and to develop meaningful teacher assessments based on multiple measures of accountability. Teachers will continue to press for fair reforms like those outlined in this bill. It would have increased the frequency of teacher evaluations and stressed that local educators, parents and administrators know what’s best for local students. It would have provided a much needed common framework for teacher evaluations based on standards of professional practice that acknowledge all the responsibilities of educators that contribute to student achievement and school success.”

Vogel concluded, “Criticism about the bill’s call for continuing the practice of collectively bargaining for teacher evaluations is misguided. You can’t craft a fair and comprehensive teacher evaluation system without including the professionals who are in California’s classrooms every day. Assemblymember Fuentes worked diligently with all stakeholders for two years to create a comprehensive package. We thank him for his leaderships on this effort. CTA will continue to press for the rigorous and fair reforms like those outlined in this bill to transform a teacher evaluation system that is currently superficial and cursory, and so contrary to fostering the collaboration we know is necessary to improve student achievement. ”

The California Federation of Teachers issued a statement saying “The failure of AB 5 to make it out of the California Legislature is a setback for the education community and all those who believe education reform requires a truly collaborative effort.”

“It is revealing that the opponents of AB 5 scorned the idea promoted by the leading educational research institutions in our country that test results, to be of any use in evaluation, must be based on valid and reliable tests,” said Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers.

The CFT statement also said “The attack on teacher unions during the AB 5 debate is part of an on-going effort to shift discussion away from the real issue confronting public education—namely the massive underfunding of public schools.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, said “Forcing through a last minute bill to create an unaccountable, weak teacher evaluation system was going to harm parents, teachers, and students. That's why leaders in both parties and across the ideological spectrum have spoken out against it. And it's why a broad coalition of education reform advocates, including StudentsFirst members throughout the state, spoke loud and clear, and secured a victory for California students.”

Rhee added, “We have a long way to go in California to improve student learning, but blocking this special interest give away was an important step forward. I am looking forward to working cohesively with our education advocate partners, parents, teachers, and community members to craft thoughtful, comprehensive teacher evaluation legislation.”

AB 5 had been criticized in several newspaper editorials published by the Sacramento Bee, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Source:  EdBrief Staff