L.A.'s new teacher evaluation gets mixed grades

Students and faculty members stage a sit-in in front of the school president's office at California State University, Northridge demonstrating against proposed budget cuts at all 23 Cal State University campuses statewide on April 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The second largest school district in the country is jumping right into the controversy of how we evaluate teachers. Los Angeles officials recently issued reports showing parents how their kid's school stacks up.

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports that, for some parents, it was a rude awakening.

Mark Ludena got some bad news this week. The elementary school his son attends is considered below average in both English and math.

"It's not good," Ludena said. "I fear for my child's education and what's going to happen in the future."

Ludena now knows this thanks to something called "value added analysis," a way to evaluate teachers and their schools. It takes student's past test scores and predicts how they should do the next year. If they do better than expected, the teacher "added value." if they do worse, the teacher "subtracted value." Los Angeles Public Schools' brand new superintendent made the data public for the first time this month.

"I think we are obligated to help teachers grow in their skill set and one of the ways to do that is to understand how students are actually doing over time," said John Deasy, superintendent of Los Angeles Public Schools.

Many teachers, including Robin Potash, who has been in the classroom for 28 years, feel test scores should not be the main way we judge teachers because every student is different.

"We're not working in a factory with little parts of machines. We're working with human beings," Potash said.

Yet school district leaders say test scores are necessary. Simply sitting in a teacher's classroom for a day to evaluate them hasn't worked because nearly all teachers end up ranked at least satisfactory. So now the district wants to use test scores to grade its teachers but the unions are not happy.

"We don't want a system where we eventually get to a place where principals can fire teachers because their test scores aren't good enough. That's not the kind of education system that we need," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles

Even supporters of value added analysys admit it should not be the only way to measure teachers.

"It's not a silver bullet. (It's) not perfect, but it's a critical tool that parents need to have in their tool box when we're talking about empowering parents to take back their schools for their kids," said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, a local non-profit.

Parents like Mark Ludena just want to make sure their kids can succeed.