Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7) said LAUSD should apologize to parents for ruining their kids’ lives because teachers at the lowest-performing schools are so rarely evaluated, and it takes at least three years to dismiss a teacher who consistently receives poor performance reviews.
“Where’s the apology letter to parents? It takes three years, and we’ve destroyed the lives of 150 kids,” Vladovic said at the Board meeting Tuesday. “I just want to see the apology letter to the parents that says ‘we’re sorry, you’re child’s life has been messed up.’ Because one year of a bad teacher can hurt…Where’s the apology letter for our evaluation system that allows our children to be suffering, and they do. Three years to fire somebody!”
Under terms of the United Teachers Los Angeles contract, a teacher can go five full years without any performance evaluation. About 400 LAUSD teachers have not been evaluated in the last five years, Deputy Superintendent Vivian Ekchian told the Board Tuesday.
“We recognize that there’s no other place that we’re aware of, in private industry in particular, where someone’s evaluation process is every five years,” Ekchian said.
Vladovic was also incensed that there’s no requirement that it be put in writing when and why a principal and teacher agree that a teacher does not need to be evaluated. If a new principal arrives and tries to evaluate a teacher, the teacher can cry foul and claim there was some prior “handshake” deal excusing the teacher from evaluation for five years, Vladovic said. “We don’t have any evidence,” he said. “We don’t really know who’s been excused.”
Ekchian clarified that principals are supposed to make that decision annually so a new principal absolutely has the right to evaluate every teacher on staff once in any given year. However, that’s not happening, in part because the process is so arduous and time consuming, she said.
Vladovic, who worked as a principal and evaluated every teacher on his own staff when he was new to a school, said that LAUSD should identify which principals are evaluating their teachers infrequently.
“If the principal is saying five years to every individual on their staff, and their school is one of the lowest performing schools in the district, somebody’s wrong,” Vladovic said. “I want it in writing who’s being evaluated annually, who’s being evaluated every other year because a principal waived them, and then I want to start looking at the school. If a principal waived 20 percent of their staff and they’re the lowest performing school in the district, what’s going on? Nobody is checking that.”
Last year, only one third of LAUSD teachers were formally evaluated. “I want to know where the other 20,000 of employees are and why they aren’t being evaluated,” Vladovic said.
Board members also questioned the accuracy of the evaluations. According to a recent analysis by the advocacy organization Parent Revolution, nearly all the teachers who were evaluated at low-performing schools — 96% — were deemed to meet or exceed performance standards, even though just 27% of their students met or exceeded the state’s standards in English and only 20% in math.
That’s partly because the union contract limits how a teacher can be evaluated. Out of 61 elements that make up LAUSD’s teacher evaluation framework, the union contract specifies that LAUSD can select only three criteria. Parent feedback and student growth are not among the factors considered. Parents also have no access to teacher evaluations and no way of learning how often teachers at their school are evaluated.
When teachers do receive a poor performance evaluation, “our job is to help the teacher,” said Board Member George McKenna (BD1). They receive about 80 hours of support and coaching to help them get better. “We must improve them before we remove them. That should be our mantra.”
But when a tenured teacher does not improve, the dismissal process is so lengthy and difficult that principals often don’t bother to go through all the steps required for a teacher to be removed. Teachers typically file union grievances against their principal, which takes more time and creates even more paperwork.
Vladovic questioned whether the current evaluation system was actually making things better.
“Does it result in better teaching?” Vladovic asked. “No, it hasn’t made a difference. The perennial schools are still failing. It hasn’t produced the results we want. It has not produced improved student achievement. It hasn’t made us more accountable. And it’s killed off our principals who are now gun shy from doing it.”
The bottom line, Vladovic said: “I believe we’re failing our community and our children.”