No New Laws to Guide Teacher Evaluation Process Negotiations for the 2015-2016 School Year

During the 2015-2016 school year, many school districts will be studying changes to their teacher evaluation instruments and proposing changes to teacher evaluation procedures at the bargaining table.  High profile litigation filed recently in Contra Costa County, alleging unlawful collective bargaining agreement language in thirteen districts across the state, has highlighted the issue during the summer.  Unfortunately, there won’t be any new laws to provide districts with direction as to how to go about this process.

Senate and Assembly Democrats prefer a system that would provide local control of the teaching standards and more participation from the teachers and their unions in defining what those standards look like, while Assembly Republicans are proposing changes which would clarify the criteria that go into determining satisfactory teacher performance and require more frequent evaluations and more input from students and parents in the teacher evaluation process.  Unable to get sufficient agreement on the details of these bills, Democratic sponsors of the two main teacher evaluation bills decided to make them “two year” bills, meaning they will not go to the Governor’s desk this year and will not be implemented for 2016.

SB 499 and AB 575

Democrats proposed both SB 499 and AB 575, both of which would require school districts to implement a “best practices teacher evaluation system” beginning on July 1, 2018.  The bills require that the evaluation system be negotiated locally by each district with the teachers’ exclusive representative.  Governing boards must hold public hearings and seek public comment on the development and implementation of the evaluation system.  Each school district would be required to include the current six California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP) in the process, and a seventh teaching standard relating to utilization of different methods that contribute to students’ academic growth.  State Board of Education waivers of the new teacher evaluation requirements would be prohibited.

The bills would change the frequency of evaluations for permanent teachers who have been employed for at least 10 years with a school district to every three years.  Districts would be required to evaluate teachers based upon three performance levels, rather than merely finding a teacher satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

AB 1078

Republicans proposed AB 1078 which encourages school districts to use peer observations and surveys of parents and students as part of the evaluation and assessment guidelines or criteria for certificated employees.

All certificated employees would be subject to being evaluated annually and an evaluation of the employee’s performance would be determined as either “highly effective,” “effective,” “minimally effective,” or “ineffective,” with the first two levels being considered satisfactory and the latter two levels being unsatisfactory.

Given the current composition of the State Legislature, this bill has little chance of becoming law.

Significance of the Proposed Bills to School Districts

Advocates of SB 499 and AB 575 argue that the bills would strengthen the evaluation system by requiring full compliance with California teaching standards, which are optional under existing law, and would require certain elements that could not be negotiated away.  Opposition groups, including the California School Boards Association and Students Matter (an organization supporting the plaintiffs in the Vergara case), argue that the bills would expand the scope of bargaining and mandate the use of the CSTPs, eliminating waivers that would allow districts to implement alternative, innovative teacher evaluation systems.  In light of such uncertainty, districts which have a vested interest in pursuing an innovative evaluation system may wish to push for one this year in bargaining so as not to be boxed in to limited options by future Legislation.

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