The Pressure is On in L.A.

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Since the release of our report on teacher quality policies in LAUSD, things have been heating up. Several families are preparing a lawsuit against LAUSD for their failure to abide by the Stull Act (1971) which requires teacher evaluations to be tied to student performance. Their efforts coincide with those of the Don't Hold Us Back coalition, a separate but related initiative fueled by community and parent groups. To learn more about their objectives, we spoke with Lisa Ruben of United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

Who is part of the Don't Hold Us Back coalition?

We are a coalition of civil rights, parent and community-based organizations in Los Angeles County who believe that every child deserves a quality public school education and to be prepared for college and beyond. Over 20 organizations have signed on.

What brought your coalition together?

We've seen improvements in LAUSD graduation rates, but it is still just 56 percent. Far too few students are graduating. Over half of LAUSD schools are low-performing. That is just unacceptable. Tuesday's NAEP results show that California lags behind 44 other states. We need to do better.

What does Don't Hold Us Back perceive as the primary lever for change?
We are calling for a District/Labor contract that allows important reforms. The contract is not simply about reaching a labor agreement. What gets written in the contract has a significant impact on the opportunities for children to learn.

What does Don't Hold Us Back propose?
(1) There is a clear need for multiple measure evaluation that is directly tied to professional development for teachers. It should include student data, classroom observations, and student and parental input.

(2) School leaders need more autonomy to hire teachers according to their vision for the school, and their specific student needs, instead of who has been teaching the longest and who is on a "must-place" list.

(3) LAUSD and UTLA have done a great job affording flexibility for innovation in some of their schools. We need this in all schools. Educators should have the autonomy to shape the school and school day, such as the ability to vote on school-based elect-to-work agreements.

(4) Parents need innovations that allow them more choice in schools, for example "Zones of Choice," to enroll their children in the best school instead of limiting feeder schools.

Priya Varghese