The first thing we need to do as educators in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is to acknowledge some of the achievements of Dr. Deasy and hold on to them.
First thing, was his vision of social justice. To me this means Dr. Deasy’s sense of urgency in ensuring those students who live in poverty have a solid education.
Second, his partnership building with very strong members of the community, particularly the United Way of Los Angeles, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation. We need our business leaders to invest in our public schools for the obvious reasons but we (teachers) also need to look at these two partnerships via the lens of parents and the business community, as the future employers of our students. We also need to have the support of the business community in our plans and in helping us achieve our goals.
Next, the new evaluation system based on the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching and Learning, (which is used in districts across the United States) called here in Los Angeles, the Teacher Growth and Development Cycle (TGDC). The Danielson Framework is based on strong research of successful teaching practices. The new evaluation process also requires administrators to be in classrooms a lot. In my 21 years of experience across five different schools, I learned that many principals are not in classrooms as much as you might think.
Lastly, we need to get technology into the hands of all our students and their teachers. Too many students in LAUSD schools do not have access to readily available technology and therefore are unable to meet the Common Core State Standards.
As we move forward, important members of the LAUSD community must keep some things in mind.
The new interim superintendent, Ramon Cortines, needs to bring teachers back into the conversation in all matters that will directly affect life at schools and in classrooms. Teacher voice has not been solicited in several impactful areas: breakfast in the classroom, iPads (and their curricula) in the classroom, and interim assessments and professional development for Common Core. You need the voices of those of us on the front lines if we as a district are going to be successful. Under Mr. Cortines last stint as Superintendent, he established Public School Choice, which allowed teachers to design, open and run schools according to their plan. As a result, we have some amazing educators exercising even greater leadership in LAUSD and they need to be praised and highlighted.
Alex Caputo Pearl, president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), and his campaign “The Schools LA Students Deserve” is a great step in the right direction because it shows that teachers care deeply about things that parents care about. One of the biggest complaints the union has with the district right now (besides pay) is the new evaluation system based on the Danielson framework. Although I understand some of their concerns I am not sure why we are not moving forward with this multiple measures tool. UTLA scored a huge win with the district compromising on not rating teachers as Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, etc. The district also compromised in letting teachers choose their own data to show growth in student achievement. I think with more dialogue between UTLA and the district this matter can be resolved and teachers can move forward fully embracing a powerful tool for improving their instruction.
I urge the school board to include teachers in the conversation in selecting the next superintendent. As articulated in the LA Times recent editorial, the essential role your collective leadership will play in the days ahead has the attention of this entire city.
For all the criticism Deasy’s leadership style received, we must acknowledge that some urgency is needed to accomplish the efforts teachers and students deserve. We can get caught up in the criticism or we can come together to call for the leadership we need looking forward.
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