The case in Los Angeles was filed as Doe et al v. Deasy and over the objections of teachers and administrators groups, the Los Angeles Unified School District was ordered Tuesday, by a judge, to use students’ academic achievement in their teachers’ evaluations (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/13/local/la-me-teacher-eval-20120613).
The lawsuit should be called Ed Voice v. LAUSD – but that would make too much sense. Ed Voice, much like Parent Revolution is put together by right wing reactionary forces and they confuse parents into thinking that their Pythagorean approach to measuring student progress, much like astrology, is beneficial and rational.
The astro-turf Doe plaintiffs are “a half-dozen unnamed parents backed by Sacramento-based EdVoice”, “The parents say they filed as Does for fear of ‘intimidation and retaliation against themselves and their children’.” This not only sounds bizarre but reeks of the kind of machinations Green Dot Charter schools used when putting together their Parent Revolution astro-turf parents’ group to fight for charter conversions. This is the norm now, to use fancy named groups to “fight for students” when they are really assembled by capitalists looking to fight for profits.
The Deasy et al, defendants are Superintendent Deasy, the Board of Education, UTLA, AALA (the administrators’ union), The California Public Employee Relations Board and ten Does to be named later. Hopefully Bambi’s mother is not among them (http://bigeducationape.blogspot.com/2011/11/stull-act-ed-voice-v-lausd-lawsuit-less.html).
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant, found that the Los Angeles Unified School District has violated a 40-year-old state law, known as the Stull Act, requiring that evaluations of teachers and principals include measures of how much students learn what the state and district expects them to know.
The issue of course is how one measures student learning and this of course is the economic issue for the testing companies that brought suit.
The most disappointing and not surprising ruling was that Chalfant ruled that the Stull Act requires the district to use California standardized test scores in determining student achievement. He gave the district wide discretion in deciding which yardsticks to use to judge progress in learning its local academic standards, but that is not the issue. The issue is a major ruling for the for-profit testing companies that now have teachers’ performance tethered to illegitimate and child abusing tests. The rest is subterfuge or at best the ‘ortz’.
The judge declined to rule on the key issue facing the district and teachers —how much the district and teachers must negotiate, if at all, in deciding which measures to use to evaluate instructors. United Teachers Los Angeles and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles said they believed Chalfant left the matter entirely to the negotiating table but this could be problematic for many reasons.
One, the teacher unions have capitulated to most if not all of the rancid Race to the top, the child of No Child Left Behind. Capitulation and hand holding has been the union leadership’s mantra for years. Teacher unions, which Wisconsin revealed so dramatically, are so tied to the democratic party, so undemocratic themselves with high paid executives and passive union dues paying members that one cannot count of the unions as presently constructed to go to bat for teachers.
Then there is the other problem: Wisconsin also showed the nation how easily divide and conquer can be used to destroy public unions and teacher unions have been on the block for years. Bleeding members, losing collective bargaining, taking money from privatizers and Wall Street thugs, turning over schools to ‘turnaround artists’, accepting charter schools and the list could go on might mean that teacher unions as constituted might disappear, or at least their collective bargaining might.
In a statement, UTLA President Warren Fletcher said he was pleased that the judge”
“Acknowledged that the teacher evaluation system for LAUSD must be collectively bargained and that the final product must be agreed on by both the school district and the teachers ((http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/13/local/la-me-teacher-eval-20120613).
Sure, the overpaid executives for the union seem pleased when they can spin this loss as a win. It is not a win it is a los for teachers, students and parents.
The big problem, of course, is hanging on to collective bargaining. This will be a chore for a district that has given, lock stock and barrel, 11 schools and the entire real estate they are on to privatizers. The LA Unified Board is made up of supplicants for Broad, Gates and other privatization monsters that have risen as fast as wages have fallen in the last thirty years.
In a glimpse into the future, Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy has said he believes the district has the right to decide on the substance of its evaluation system without negotiations. Mr. Deasy also began a pilot teacher-evaluation program incorporating such information in more than 100 schools. Next school year, he plans to roll out a similar system throughout the district (http://studentsmatter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/SM_Education-Week-Critics-Ask-Calif.-Courts-to-Change-Teacher-Policies_06.05.12.pdf).
In other words, top down allocation of authority is the formula and he plans to carry it out. Including teachers, the actual workers, would be just too democratic and take power from the district administrators that draw their salary by working to privatize LA schools and force testing down the throat of students and teachers along with other didactic feeding tubes.
Scott Witlin, the attorney who represents the unidentified parents in the case, said he feared the union would “attempt to use the collective bargaining process to frustrate the implementation of the law.” So again we see attacks on collective bargaining and the scare tactics that will be used to divide parents, teachers and citizens on this issue.
Now that the court has ruled, LA Unified joins a chorus of districts nationwide that are forced to use panoptic testing devices sold for profit to districts to measure student progress. The whole idea is absurd and the unions should have for years been educating their members, teachers, as to authentic assessment so that they could make an argument for authentic assessment as opposed to corporate tests. But they didn’t and instead just rolled over and allowed the privatized tests to creep into classrooms for decades now. This has now allowed the public to mentally acce3pt these standardized tests as authentic and the narrative from teachers is simply defensive and has no hopes of gaining ground.
Instead the following sentiment has been the main message and has worked well for the right wing and those intent on dismantling teacher unions, public schools and turning them over to Walls Street:
“It’s a signal that the intransigence of the status quo, particularly in California, is not going to prevail,” said Lucia of the educational advocacy group. “Parents are fed up with adults hiding behind excuses to ignore the progress of children (ibid).
Here too the unions have been remiss in educating parents as to what it means to be educated in today’s society and how one goes about assessing for thinking. Instead, they have allowed the corporate media full press to run roughshod over the idea of true, authentic assessment and learning and have failed to even educate their members on what authentic assessment might look like. Unions and their members should be making the argument for authentic assessment not corporate testing, but they do not.
A Dorsey High School chemistry teacher summed up the cementing of false consciousness over testing by remarking:
“Although it may be hard to believe, there are many teachers that agree with the fact that student data should and can be one part of the formal teacher evaluation method. I think this will help celebrate the successes of our students and also give support to teachers who are struggling, because the bottom line is about students and student progress (ibid).
This statement and sentiment that is shared among many teachers is a result of the failure of the union and its leadership to educate their members and fight for students. To spin this ruling any other way is self serving. This is a clear victory for both the private venture capitalists that sell the tests, the captains of districts that mandate them, the union leadership that can now say they ‘did something’ about measuring progress, and the corporate media who will celebrate this as an organ of the one percent.
Those that lose are of course, teachers, students and their parents who now must see a system built around testing, more testing and more testing. As a former second grade teacher in the LA Unified School District in 1987-1989 I can tell you I and many other teachers never used standardized tests to measure ‘progress’ nor did we even look at the results. We used critical thinking standards of assessment, performance assessment, portfolio assessment, journals, one on one conferencing and we taught students how to assess their own learning. But this was all laced to teaching kids to think critically and of course this is ‘out of date’. We now must have efficiency and Pythagorean methods for dictating obedience under the guise of learning.
This is another victory for the privatizers and harbingers of despair and another sad loss for students, teachers, parents and democracy.