Teaching Profession

California Teacher Evaluation Bill On Hold

By Stephen Sawchuk — August 31, 2012 2 min read

A controversial bill revamping teacher evaluation requirements in the Golden State was put on hold at the last minute yesterday by its sponsor, state Rep. Felipe Fuentes.

“After working on this bill in a transparent and collaborative manner for more than two years, I could not in good conscious [sic] allow the proposed amendments to be voted on without a full public hearing,” Fuentes said in a statement. “There would not be sufficient time for myself or the stakeholders I’ve been working with, to review the amendments that were being proposed. I believe this issue is too important to be decided at the last minute and in the dark of night.”

The move came as a surprising coda to the action on the bill, which was first introduced in 2010 and resurfaced in the last days of the state’s legislative session. It cleared an important committee vote earlier in the week and had the backing of the California Teachers Association, but faced a chorus of critics from some 40 business, civil-rights, and education advocacy organizations.

Fuentes’ bill would have scuttled a 1999 state law specifying that teacher evaluations be based on students’ progress toward grade-level standards, as measured by applicable state standardized tests among other things. Most, if not all, California districts have basically ignored this requirement, but a judge’s ruling in a lawsuit on the matter June had put momentum behind redressing that oversight.

Instead, the bill would have required districts and unions to bargain over the shape of evaluation systems. Critics alleged that the bill’s proponents were essentially trying to do an end run around the June settlement, by making the use of tests subject to local interpretation.

Although an amendment to the Fuentes bill did specify that state standardized tests be used in addition to local measures (i.e., portfolios, classroom assessments), there were some caveats in the language. For instance, the bill would have required the tests to meet “statistical and psychometric standards appropriate for this use.”

That issue, though the most high-profile disagreement between advocates and critics of the bill, was just the tip of the iceberg. Nearly every single major policy tension over teacher evaluation was somehow caught up in the bill, including the frequency of evaluations; how many discrete categories of performance are needed; and how the costs of the reviews, such as training evaluators, should be paid for.

Of particular interest: To help pay for the teacher evaluations, the bill would have re-directed funds for low-performing schools from the 2006 Quality Education Investment Act—a major CTA priority that, among other things, helped keep class sizes low.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.