The current evaluation system in Los Angeles focuses on teaching methods, such as how a teacher demonstrates knowledge or guides instruction, according to the district.
In his ruling, Judge [James] Chalfant contrasted the high rate of positive teacher evaluations in the district--97.6 in the 2009-10 school year--with low student proficiency in English and math.
"These failures cannot be laid solely at the feet of the District's teachers," the judge wrote. "But the District has an obligation to look at any and all means available to help improve the dismal results of its student population."
Needless to say, the ruling came over the strong objections of United Teachers Los Angeles, the major L.A. teachers union. In the Journal piece, the union's president is quoted as saying that the effect of the emphasis on test scores would be "narrowing the curriculum and really degrading the value of an education." Degrading it more than the current system, which is producing utter failure?
To be sure, performance metrics are not a silver bullet. There are a wide variety of considerations that go into determining a teacher's abilities. But just because test results on their own aren't sufficient to judge the quality of teachers doesn't mean they're not a necessary component of the process -- a process that California is overdue to take up in earnest. For that reason, let's hope that the progress out of Los Angeles spreads statewide.