Standardized tests, merit pay at stake in LA school board election

An upcoming school board election in Los Angeles will determine whether test-based teacher evaluations triumph over union opposition in America’s second-largest school district.

Three school board seats are up for grabs in the March 5 election, where voters will choose between a slate of candidates approved by the teachers union, and a slate of candidates backed by education administrators.

The latter will be more likely to implement reforms sought by LA Superintendent John Deasy, which include tying teacher evaluations to students’ standardized test scores.

The public has been demanding a better evaluation system for at least a decade,” he said in a statement. “We do this for students every day. Now it’s time to do this for teachers.”

His latest plan would base 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores.  The teachers unions, however, oppose using a fixed percentage measurement.

Though teachers unions are a traditional base of support for the Democratic Party, the LA school board battle has followed a pattern of prominent Democrats and liberals breaking with unions. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a liberal independent, donated $1 million to the pro-reform candidates—provoking the ire of a union boss.

“Mayor Bloomberg has lost the support of public school parents in NY. Now he wants to take his flawed approach in LA,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a tweet.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Bloomberg have all engaged in highly publicized battles with teachers unions in their cities over education reforms like merit pay, evaluations and school choice.

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