The Blog at CTA

Capitol News: Measure to Protect Class Size Reduction Program Moves to Appropriations

The Assembly Education Committee passed a bill that would enforce the state's Class Size Reduction program for grades K-3. Because of the state's budget crisis, penalties for districts failing to comply width the state's CSR program have been significantly reduced.  AB 558, by Assembly Member Ken Cooley (D-Carmichael), over the next three years restores the penalties districts face if they increase class sizes above the limit.

Maintaining small class sizes is important because studies consistently find that smaller classes have a significant impact on student learning, particularly for students living at or below the poverty line and minority students.

The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee  for a hearing.

Read more »

Capitol News: Assembly Education Hears Measure Protecting Class Size Reduction Program

Sets Vote for May 1

On Wednesday, April 24th, he Assembly Education Committee heard testimony about a CTA-supported bill designed to help protect the state's vital Class Size Reduction Program.

Desa Bushnell, a first-grade teacher at Sierra Oaks K-8 school for 17 years, told lawmakers that smaller class sizes are vital to helping students achieve excellence.  Bushnell testified in support of CTA-backed AB 558, by Assemblymember Ken Cooley (D-Carmichael), a measure that encourages school districts to maintain their class size reduction programs despite more than five years of devastating funding cuts.

The Cooley bill eases the financial penalties districts pay when they allow class sizes to rize above the 20:1 target in Grades K-3 and core academic subjects.

Without the Cooley bill's passage, financial penalties levied when class size exceeds that number in any room could lead districts to abandon all limits as a way of saving money. Instead, the measure would maintain at least partial fiscal incentives for districts that preserve their efforts by keeping their average class size below certain limits.

Cooley recognizes that funding cuts have made it more difficult for districts to achieve the objective of about 20 students per classroom, so the bill would reduce the maximum number of students and still receive the monetary incentive, while gradually increasing the penalty on the incentive for every student over 20.

The April 24th hearing was a designated "testimony-only" opportunity, width lawmakers expected to vote on this and other measures during the panel's May 1st hearing.

Read more »

Teachers Disappointed at Legislature's Failure to Approve Evaluation Revamp

The California Teachers Association is expressing disappointment that lawmakers failed to approve AB 5, a CTA-supported landmark measure by Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes (D-Los Angeles) that would have transformed the state's antiquated teacher evaluation system into a highly useful process that would help teachers improve their professional skills.

“California’s educators are disappointed that the Legislature missed a great chance to change the state’s teacher evaluation system in a way that would have improved our profession and student learning. AB 5 by Assembly Member Fuentes was based on sound research about how you build strong learning communities for students width a comprehensive teacher evaluation system," said CTA President Dean Vogel in a statement released to the media.

“The California Best Practices Teacher Evaluation bill was an opportunity to get beyond the simple test score debate and to develop meaningful teacher assessments based on multiple measures of accountability. Teachers will continue to press for fair reforms like those outlined in this bill," stated the CTA leader.

"Assembly Member Fuentes worked diligently width all stakeholders for two years to create a comprehensive package. We thank him for his leaderships on this effort. CTA will continue to press for the rigorous and fair reforms like those outlined in this bill to transform a teacher evaluation system that is currently superficial and cursory, and so contrary to fostering the collaboration we know is necessary to improve student achievement.”

To read more about what is essential to a quality and comprehensive teacher evaluation system, see the CTA Teacher Evaluation Framework.

Read more »

L.A. School Board Member: Transform Evaluations - Approve AB 5

An influential member of the Los Angeles Unified School District has added his voice to those, including the California Teachers Association's, calling on lawmakers to approve AB 5, a comprehensive reform of the 40-year-old Stull Act that governs the evaluation of teachers.

LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer has written a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown expressing his support for the bill by Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes that would provide "transformational change" that Los Angeles' students need.

Writes the Board Member: "Each and every Los Angeles student deserves a system that measures teaching and learning in dynamic ways that honor their multiple intelligences. And every teacher who has dedicated their life to educating our next generation deserves a new system that improves the profession and respects their lifework. AB 5 sets the framework for this to happen across our state."

The full text of the two page letter is below.



Read more »

We need new way to evaluate teachers

Op-ed published by San Francisco Chronicle 8/24/12

by Eric Heins

Everyone is talking about teacher evaluations these days. We all know that how we evaluate teachers now is not working for teachers or for students. The real question is why.

Some reformers are looking for a silver bullet to answer that question.

Some are avoiding it all together, and instead are blaming teachers for all that's wrong width our public schools.

And some, like members of the California Teachers Association, are offering solutions focused on bolstering student achievement and generating meaningful feedback to teachers to help them improve their craft. CTA also supports pursuing a collaborative approach to reform by including local school administrators, educators, parents and community members.

There are many problems width the teacher evaluation system in California. First and foremost is the frustration that teachers have width a process that is often cursory, superficial and inconsistent. The system largely is based on singular "drive-by" observations by a principal or administrator that provide incomplete portrayals of a teacher's skills and do very little to advance a teacher's instructional practice.

AB 5, legislation introduced by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar (Los Angeles County), recognizes this frustration and provides a new approach to evaluating teachers. It is one that is comprehensive, based on best practices and includes multiple measures for assessing teacher effectiveness. It merits passage in the Legislature.

The approach AB 5 champions was developed to strengthen the skills of teachers to improve student learning. It is based on standards of professional practice that acknowledge the multiple responsibilities of educators. It highlights how a teacher's skills contribute to student achievement and school success, and requires teachers to be evaluated more often.

Second, it is time for all of us to get beyond the test score debate. Parents know that a single test score does not define their child. And a single test score can't define teacher effectiveness.

The reality is that every student is unique and has different abilities, motivations and outside-of-school support. A teacher's job is to help students reach their fullest potential but a teacher's evaluation must acknowledge the unique situation of each student as well.

AB 5 is a step in the right direction. It calls for multiple measures of accountability. District and state assessments can be part of those measures. An amendment just added to the bill will clarify this intent.

Also, teachers routinely use and give tests. A teacher's knowledge of how to use tests and assess student data should be part of any evaluation process. AB 5 calls for this.

AB 5 also recognizes that every school district is a little community, each width specific needs, based on their student population and demographics, which shape the work of teachers. That is why local educators, parents and administrators know what's best for their students.

AB 5 continues the practice of locally negotiating a new teacher evaluation system. It requires input from educators and parents to ensure local conditions and student needs are considered. AB 5 provides resources to ensure that evaluators receive the training and support they need to conduct fair and accurate evaluations. And it provides support for teachers to improve their practice.

California teachers are leading reform efforts. CTA supported a State Board of Education application for a waiver from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind that was filed in May.

It's time for California to join countries like Finland, which is highly recognized for its well-performing schools and which pays little attention to standardized test scores. Let's instead focus on multiple measures of teachers to ensure kids get a well-rounded education and grow into critically thinking adults.

Eric Heins, a teacher in Pittsburg, is vice president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association.

Read the Op-ed on SFGate

Read more »

CTA Takes Lead on Reform, Improvement to Teacher Evaluation System

CTA is pressing the legislature to approve AB 5 - a landmark measure that would implement best practices and common standards for teacher evaluation.

Teachers have long expressed dissatisfaction width the current process. Because evaluators need to treat all of our members fairly, the evaluators need training to make sure they understand how teacher evaluation is supposed to work.

Learn more about the bill by reading the background paper on the issue that is embedded below.

Then go to the CTA Legislative Action Center to learn more about the issue.


Read more »

Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

© 1999- California Teachers Association