By Ben Velderman

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District will soon make student test scores a component of the teacher evaluation process, assuming that members of the local teachers union sign off on the deal.

The tentative agreement would make students’ standardized test scores one of a variety of measurements used to determine a teacher’s classroom performance. District officials and union leaders have agreed that test scores will account for less than half of a teacher’s rating, and possibly as little as 25 percent, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Classroom observations will remain the heart of the evaluation process, and several other factors – including schoolwide scores, attendance rates and class grades – will be considered alongside test scores, reports the Press-Telegram.

One labor relations expert told the Times that the tentative deal is “a shotgun wedding,” a reference to the court order that required LAUSD officials and union leaders to reach an agreement on teacher evaluations by Dec. 4.

Since the new evaluation process is very complex and time-consuming for administrators to complete, teachers with 10 years or more of experience will only be evaluated every three to five years, reports the Times. Veteran teachers are currently evaluated every two years.

“This is a historic agreement – the first of its kind,” said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, according to the Press-Telegram. “This will help improve the practices of teaching and hold us accountable in meeting standards of the teaching profession.”

The evaluation deal may be “historic,” but it shouldn’t be seen as revolutionary. Student learning will be only a sliver of a teacher’s overall effectiveness rating.

And even if this new evaluation formula results in exposing LAUSD’s ineffective teachers, removing them the classroom remains an extremely difficult and expensive process. Given the district’s difficulty in removing even potentially dangerous teachers from its payroll, it seems highly unlikely LAUSD schools are going to be purged of many (or any) incompetent teachers.

The best case scenario seems to be that Los Angeles families will be able to use the new evaluations to identify which teachers are acceptable to teach their children and which ones aren’t. And that’s assuming that evaluations will be open to public inspection.

Still, it is noteworthy that America’s second-largest school district has taken a baby step toward greater accountability for teachers. That’s a minor victory, and school reformers should accept it.

But let’s leave the back-slapping and high-fiving for victories that result in noticeably better schools for the children. And this agreement isn’t one of them.

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