District-Union Collaboration on Teacher Evaluation Reforms

Case Studies of Three School Districts in California

by Beth Katz

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Teacher evaluations serve a dual purpose: 1) to hold teachers accountable for the quality of their instruction and student learning; and 2) to motivate and inform improvements in their practice. Given that teachers are considered to be the most important influence on student learning within the school environment, it is not surprising that policymakers look to teacher evaluations as a tool for improving student achievement. The policy landscape surrounding teacher evaluation in the U.S. is rapidly changing. Though reforms may be forwarded by state mandates, federal incentives, and funding from private foundations, implementation occurs at the district level, and in the 45 states where teachers unions are permitted, teacher evaluation procedures may be subject to collective bargaining. It follows that local stakeholders determine, to a large extent, the success of these reform efforts. If efforts to implement new teacher evaluations are to be successful — and ultimately effective — policymakers must understand when and why school district leaders, local teachers unions, and other key players collaborate, and how their interactions influence the reform process and its outcomes.

This dissertation presents three case studies of school districts in California that are working to reform their teacher evaluation policies. My research aim was to identify the conditions that led to successful development and adoption of teacher evaluation policies, as well as the factors that have contributed to challenges in those districts. I created a logical framework to outline the reform process and provide a canvas for telling the story of each case study district and for comparing cases. I explored the roles various stakeholders played over the course of district reform efforts and the evolving relationships between the districts and their teachers unions. I identified several factors that influenced the relationships between teachers unions and districts during the reform process and the policy outcomes of their efforts. Identifying the conditions that enable or impede collaboration can assist policymakers in making decisions that will encourage collaboration and minimize conflict, thus increasing the likelihood that their efforts will produce the desired outcomes. Based on my analysis, I present recommendations for policymakers, practitioners, and for further research.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Background on Teacher Evaluation Policies

  • Chapter Three

    Teachers Unions and Education Reform

  • Chapter Four

    Conceptual Framework

  • Chapter Five

    Research Design

  • Chapter Six

    Case Study District Overview

  • Chapter Seven

    Setting the Stage

  • Chapter Eight

    Approach to Reform

  • Chapter Nine

    Hammering Out the Details

  • Chapter Ten

    Moving Forward

  • Chapter Eleven

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Characteristics of California School Districts

  • Appendix B

    Interview Recruitment Letter

  • Appendix C

    Stakeholder Interview Protocol

  • Appendix D

    Laurel Unified School District Case Summary

  • Appendix E

    Juniper Unified School District Case Summary

  • Appendix F

    Sumac Unified School District Case Summary

  • Appendix G

    Teacher Evaluation Committees

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in September 2015 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Jennifer McCombs (Chair), Rita Karam, and Julia Koppich.

This publication is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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