AB 5 Public Advocate Support

March 7, 2011

 

The Honorable Julia Brownley

Chair, Assembly Education Committee

California State Assembly

California State Capitol

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

RE:  AB 5 (Fuentes) – SUPPORT

Dear Assembly Member Brownley:

 

Public Advocates supports AB 5 (Fuentes) and its goal to revamp California’s teacher evaluation process and develop one that is fair, transparent, comprehensive and accountable to students, parents and teachers.

 

Public Advocates challenges the systemic causes of poverty and discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible policy and legal victories advancing equal access to education, housing and transportation.  Since its founding in 1971, Public Advocates has served as a key voice for educational equity in California.  We partner closely with community based organizations statewide such as PICO California, Californians for Justice, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), and the Campaign for Quality Education (CQE), a statewide coalition of grassroots, civil rights, policy and research organizations committed to educational equity for all communities in California’s public schools.

 

Public Advocates has participated in the stakeholder meetings that Assembly Member Fuentes has held as he developed AB 5 up to this point.  We applaud his courage in introducing legislation that incorporates multiple measures of both student learning and teaching practice in evaluating whether teachers are effective.  We have confidence in his commitment to address the following concerns and look forward to continuing our participation in the development of the bill:

 

  1. 1. The voices of parents and students are crucial for defining the path to educational success in their community, and these constituencies should be included in the process with teachers and administrators to reach consensus on the best evaluation plan to meet the needs of the school and its students. We agree with the approach in AB 5 to implement the evaluation system through the local collective bargaining process.  Having locally bargained agreements that follow general state guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations is critical to the legitimacy, sustainability and effectiveness of those practices.  Any evaluation that seeks true legitimacy among those it evaluates must involve them in the formation of that evaluation process to ensure it will meet their needs and be used productively to create tangible improvements.

 

However, parents and students must be included in (1) the development of the evaluation system as a whole, and (2) determining how parents’ and students’ feedback will be included as a component of the evaluation. The students and parents of our coalition grassroots organizations attend some of California’s lowest-performing schools and are disproportionately taught by underprepared, inexperienced teachers.  If sound metrics were in place for determining teacher effectiveness, we suspect these students are also those most likely to be taught by ineffective teachers.  Their stake in the evaluation system’s sustainability and success is the greatest.  We know that Mr. Fuentes and his able staff, Ms. Kimberly Rodriguez, are exploring existing models of including parents and high school students in the process of developing local districts’ evaluation systems and incorporating their feedback as a component of the evaluation itself.  We look forward to participating in future stakeholder discussions about these points and know that parents and students statewide will also be in weighing in.

 

2.  All six domains of the California Standards for the Teaching Profession should be included as components of the teacher evaluation system. We agree with the approach in AB 5 of requiring evidence of teacher effectiveness as compared to the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP).  However, many parents and students, as well as the public, are unfamiliar with the CSTPs and their six interrelated domains of teaching practice:

 

• Engaging and Supporting All Students in Learning

• Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning

• Understanding and Organizing Subject Matter for Student Learning

• Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences for All Students

• Assessing Students for Learning

• Developing as a Professional Educator

 

California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP), Commission on Teacher Credentialing (October 2009), available at http://www.ctc.ca.gov/educator-prep/standards/CSTP-2009.pdf

 

Because of this unfamiliarity by the general public, it would be wise to include them in statute.

Including the CSTP in the bill would signal to the public and other policymakers that there are objective standards that teachers are required to meet.  Considering that districts and teachers alike contend that the CSTPs are currently being used for teacher evaluations, it is obviously inadequate to simply refer to them.  Clearly, people do not know what they are.

 

The bill would garner stronger public support if it were clear to parents, students and the public that teachers will be evaluated against these objective standards for teaching practice in addition to measures of student learning.

 

Furthermore, all the CSTPs should be included in a teacher’s evaluation.  Apparently, the current practice is that districts and unions bargain which CSTPs will be used in the district evaluation process.  This, too, is obviously inadequate to satisfy the demand for increasing teacher effectiveness and is probably a reason why so many parents, students and the public do not know that the CSTPs address some of their major concerns. 

 

For example, the CSTPs are clear that the context of teacher standards is important and because of the tremendous diversity of California’s student population:

 

[T]here is a critical need for teachers who are responsive to the varied socio-cultural, racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic, and economic backgrounds of all students and who consider how learning differences and abilities, gender and gender identity, family structure, sexual orientation, and other aspects of humankind influence learning and teaching.

 

As further example, Standard 1 and guidance (Engaging and Supporting All Students in Learning) are relevant to the teacher competencies that students and parents frequently and consistently identify as lacking (with emphases added):

 

Standard 1

Engaging and Supporting All Students in Learning

Teachers know and care about their students in order to engage them in learning. They connect learning to students’ prior knowledge, backgrounds, life experiences, and interests. They connect subject matter to meaningful, real-life contexts. Teachers use a variety of instructional strategies, resources, and technologies to meet the diverse learning needs of students. They promote critical

thinking through inquiry, problem solving, and reflection. They monitor student learning and adjust instruction while teaching.

 

1.1 Using knowledge of students to engage them in learning

As teachers develop, they may ask, “How do I…” or “Why do I…”

know my students as people and as learners?

understand reasons for behavior?

recognize atypical behavior in students?

build trust with students and foster relationships so that students can thrive academically?

adapt my teaching to reflect knowledge of my students?

differentiate instruction based on what I know about my students’ strengths, interests, and needs?

get to know parents and connect with the community where I teach?

 

 

While we understand the author’s interest in providing the most flexibility to districts, if AB 5 is clear that it places new and different expectations on districts and teachers, there will be more public support for it.

 

Assembly Member Fuentes and his staff have expressed their interest and willingness to continue exploring these issues.  For these reasons, Public Advocates supports AB 5.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or need more information about our position.

 

Sincerely,

 

Liz Guillen            Tara Kini

Director of Legislative & Community Affairs            Staff Attorney

(916) 442-3385             (415) 431-7430 ext. 306

(916) 803-5596 (cell)

 

 

 

 

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