Sacramento schools, teachers reach tentative agreement to study teacher evaluations

The Sacramento City school district and the teachers association announced a tentative agreement Wednesday to develop a new model for teacher evaluations – an issue that pushed the district last month to drop its bid for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The announcement marks a thaw in a long period of icy relations between the district and the Sacramento City Teachers Association over the district’s recent bid to link student test scores to teacher evaluations as part of the federal waiver.

The district was one of eight to receive a waiver under the California Office to Reform Education plan. But it quit the group in early April after the teachers association protested using student test scores as a measure of teacher quality.

Nikki Milevsky, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, said discussions in recent weeks have brought big gains in the teachers’ relationship with the district.

“There have been years of not making much progress,” Milevsky said. “The CORE waiver really put a stop to all working together.”

Superintendent Sara Noguchi called the upcoming evaluation talks “the big win.”

“This has really been coming about for the last four weeks or so,” she said. “We’ve taken some giant steps toward collaboration.”

Under the agreement, Noguchi said, the district and the association each will develop committees by the start of September with a goal of creating a process for evaluations by January, in time for it to become part of the collective bargaining process.

Both sides said student data likely will play some role.

“I know there’s a place for student data. I don’t know exactly where it is other than it identifies areas of strength and weakness,” Noguchi said. “If we use data to set the goals for our work, that’s where it might fit in.

“We haven’t had the conversation with teachers yet. We need to work collaboratively with our teachers,” she said.

Milevsky said student achievement data “is always part of looking at how we’re doing and what we’re doing with our students.”

“So we’ll be sitting down with the district and looking at an updated evaluation, how to improve our craft, whether we need to grow a lot or perfect our art,” Milevsky said.

The district announced last month that it would abandon the plan to work with the other California school districts on the waiver from No Child Left Behind. The federal law calls for all students to reach a “proficient” level on state tests by this school year.

California’s bid for a waiver from No Child Left Behind was rejected in late 2012 after the state declined to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores, a priority for the Obama administration.

But CORE’s commitment to make the link became pivotal in the federal government’s approval last year to grant the nation’s first district-based waiver for school systems in Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Sanger, Santa Ana and Sacramento, which have 1 million students combined.

So far, 43 states and the District of Columbia have received federal waivers, granting the states autonomy in spending millions in federal dollars to aid low-income students.

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