Teacher evaluation in the City of Angels

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In case anyone thought they could press the "easy button" after introducing teacher evaluation, a recent LA Times article reminded us once again just how hard it is to get implementation right.

LAUSD is currently in its second year of piloting its new observational rubric, one with 61 separate indicators. As we noted last year in our State of the States report on teacher evaluation, too many indicators can result in the observation feeling too much like a punchlist. What's more, it's just not scalable: one LAUSD principal told a reporter that it took 16 hours to complete one observation.

To be sure, these sorts of comments could be chalked up to principals having to change their roles from building to instructional leaders. The reporter goes so far as to suggest that a major issue is principals' mastery of typing. But there's probably a lot more than a grain of truth to these concerns about evaluation becoming a time sink.

On the other hand, the article has quite a bit of good news. It used to be that more than 99% of teachers in LAUSD were deemed satisfactory even though fewer than half the district's students were proficient in reading. That won't happen with the new system. And the teachers the reporter talked with clearly value the richer feedback they get from the new evaluation system.

Perhaps LAUSD should take a page from an early adopter: DCPS cut the size of its rubric by almost a third with no apparent loss in sensitivity. Flexibility in the service of focus is no vice.

--Sudipti Kumar