How come bad teachers get to keep their jobs just because they've been around a long time, while bright, hardworking young teachers are laid off?
One reason is that there is currently no meaningful system to evaluate teachers.
Student's video puts school cuts on personal level
Los Angeles Times
June 26, 2009
David Vera took up an L.A. school board member's challenge, using images to portray the harm caused by slashed budgets. Education advocates hope his work gets a wide audience.
David Vera, 18, has his young heart set on becoming a film editor or an actor. So the challenge posted on the door of his film arts class at Monroe High School in the San Fernando Valley held obvious appeal.
...The challenge had come from Los Angeles Unified School Board member Tamar Galatzan...
His favorite teacher got a pink slip.
That would be Travis Aranaga, an ambitious young teacher in his third year and loving every minute of his job. Aranaga's parents were both teachers, and he always knew he wanted to follow them into the profession. He went and got two masters degrees and threw himself into the job at Monroe.
But none of that mattered. The school district based its job cuts on seniority alone, and Aranaga's neck was under the budget ax...
"That's a special student," said Barbara Avery, telling me Vera was a delight to have in class, and his French wasn't bad, either. "Every once in a while, you get a kid like that."
Avery agreed. "It's just horrible," she said. "Absolutely horrible."
There has to be a way for teachers, administrators, parents and students to fairly evaluate teachers, Avery said, so that when layoffs are necessary, experience is not the only consideration.
She expects to get some heat for advocating that sort of reform. She's Monroe's co-chapter chair of United Teachers Los Angeles, and the union has staunchly defended basing layoffs on seniority, not evaluations.
I should note that Avery and Aranaga hesitated before speaking their minds, something few of their colleagues are willing to do publicly. But they felt it was important to do so, and Aranaga added that he felt "hung out to dry" by union leadership.
"I'm not saying old teachers are bad," said Aranaga, "but for every five good ones there's a bad one, and there's no way to get rid of those guys."
Avery said more than 20 Monroe teachers got layoff notices, and it appeared that roughly a third of them would actually lose their jobs.
"And some of those teachers are better than I could ever hope to be," said Aranaga. "In their first year, they're better than I can be."
Here are the videos. The winners are labeled. David Vera's is at the bottom, Monroe High School #4.