LOS ANGELES — The battle over teacher tenure is about to go national. A California judge Tuesday declared the system unconstitutional. On Wednesday, the group that paid for the lawsuit in California says it may challenge tenure lawsin 12 more states.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu did not mince words. In his 16-page decision he wrote, “The number of grossly ineffective teachers has a direct, real, appreciable, and negative impact on a significant number of California students … The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”
The judge said ineffective teachers disproportionately impact low income and minority students and getting rid of bad teachers is nearly impossible.
His ruling eliminates California’s teacher tenure system, in which after just 18 months on the job, teachers are given strong job security. It also prohibits laying off teachers based only on when they were hired.
So we’re back to this subject! TENURE
Here is a series on tenure written by Frederika Jenner over at blog Does Experience Count. Go read as it will give you insight on tenure from an educator’s view. Before you take shots at Jenner go read her views. She not sugarcoating some of the public concerns and has valid concerns. She says, “We need to develop teacher internships and residency programs that overlap the college student teaching experience with paid classroom experience, while having new teachers work directly with master teachers. We need to require that all working teachers pursue a master’s degree related to their teaching assignment.” I can agree with her position and rather go on a witch-hunt within K-12 perhaps the Rodels and the Markells of the work follow the yellow brick road back to our universities and colleges. If we’re going to track students from “cradle to career” perhaps we need to track teachers from college freshman to classroom. So please go read Jenner’s blog post.
So now we look in on tenure from narrow-minded public view! Many see tenure as a union thing whereas no matter the teacher performance rating unions will fight tooth and nail to protect teachers. I don’t see it this way and see due process protecting worker’s rights. However, my beef which is nothing new is I take issue with the VT (Voluntary Transfer) process where a teacher can decide to leave one school in which they were hired to serve and VT to another if there is an opening. The fuzzy part of this process and I hope someone will jump in here and clarify is, is there a seniority process in the VT process whereas, can a teacher with greater seniority bumped out another teacher looking to VT into the same school despite differences in teacher performance ratings. Meaning one teacher rated ineffective or unsatisfactory having seniority over a teacher rated satisfactory or above?
Sadly to say, many of the teachers who VT are going to lower performing high poverty schools. Why? Because these schools have the most positions open and higher teacher turnover. Am I citing a myth? Personally I may be looking through corporate glasses where one is hire to fill a position and just can’t decided I don’t like my peers or supervisor so I’ll just move to another position. Why do teachers VT? Could it be they have personality conflicts with their building administration or peers? They did something unprofessional but not illegal and it’s just best they VT? Their evaluations continue to be poor and the building administration may decide to terminate?
What happens to high needs schools when they become dumping grounds for VT and under-performing teachers who stay because they have no where to VT to? Then there is a the question of how can teachers maintain “Highly Qualified” status at the same time being rated unsatisfactory, needs improvement or ineffective! How can a teacher rated at the bottom of the barrel be rated “Highly Qualified”? Then there is, what about the kids? Parents of our low performing schools must be blind not to ask what their child’s teachers performance rating is! Also, what about the PTAs in these schools? You’d think they take a position of saying we rather have a new rookie teacher out of college than a seasoned on who has been rating poorly.
Back to Jenner’s concerns with the need to provide more mentoring for all new teachers and for those who need such intervention. I don’t see teachers with low performance ratings necessarily bad teachers. And let’s face it, surely we have building administrators with questionable skills. No doubt there are those personality conflicts and teachers are on the low end of the stick and make the choice to VT. As for standardized test being part of the teacher rating process, that should be dumped. It clouds the issues!
I guess the point I am trying to make is yes we need better mentoring programs for new teachers and teachers who seem to struggle. But also, I have deep reservation about the VT process. Why should I as a parent settle for a teacher with poor performance ratings at one school that may drive the need for VT teaching my child. Then there is the so-called commitment of superintendents and school boards to turning around low performing schools. How can you claim that commitment if you permit a VT process that allows poor performing teachers in these schools? Sorry to say, the VT process may be one of those cracks in the system. It needs to be studied, evaluated and changes made addressing areas of concern.