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L.A. Unified: Teacher evals "should be private conversations"

The nation’s second-largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, opposed press efforts to publish teacher evaluations, according to a letter from the school district (PDF) to the Los Angeles Times that was obtained by the writer Alexander Russo.

The letter urges the Los Angeles Times not to publish a second batch of teacher evaluations that the newspaper calculated and published anyway on Sunday. It was signed by LA superintendent John Deasy as well as the president of the city’s school board and two civic leaders, the president of the city’s chamber of commerce and its United Way chapter.

“The individual evaluations, in our opinion, should be private conversations that are intended to help professionals improve their performance in the classroom,” the letter argues.

Deasy’s position stands in sharp contrast to the one New York City school officials are taking in a court battle with the teachers union. School officials here argue that teacher evaluations calculated with value-added formulas are statistics that are subject to public information laws and therefore can be released to the public.

The Los Angeles Times first reported its own calculations of teacher effectiveness last year, using the value-added model, which measures teachers’ relative success at improving students’ test scores. The teachers whose students show the most progress on tests are rated the highest.

The Times’ decision sparked other press outlets, including several in New York City, to seek information on teacher evaluations.

It also met with criticism from two University of Colorado researchers, who did their own study of the same data. They found that the Times’ value-added model didn’t take factors into account that might have altered teachers’ scores, such as schools’ student demographics.

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