Let's hope that the California Teachers Association will now stop blocking efforts of reformers to effectively evaluate teachers. Up until now, CTA has protected ineffective and mediocre teachers, but it looks like CTA is going to have to redirect its energies.
The current system of principal evaluations is a joke, but not a funny one. It is based more on politics than on observation and documentation. It has benefited teachers who are good at school politics even though they might be complete disasters in the classroom. CTA has supported the current evaluation system because CTA is a master of school politics.
Oddly, we don't often hear demands from good teachers for an effective, objective evaluation system. It seems that good teachers are similar to bad teachers in one respect: they are equally loath to give up the very human institution of school politics. And of course, administrators also like the politics. They're not anxious to have impartial observers come in and evaluate teachers, either.
I am hoping that things will change now, at least for the teachers union. The only reasonable course of action for CTA to pursue now is to start protecting good teachers by helping to design an accurate, unbiased teacher evaluation system (since it looks like CTA will no longer be able to protect bad teachers).
we should institute effective evaluations before we get rid of tenure. But I suspect that the decision handed down by a Los Angeles judge today (see story below) was probably neede I have said recently thatd
See also: Vergara v. California: the Case That Could Blow Up Teacher Tenure (But who cares? Without a good teacher evaluation system, it won't make much difference.)
to jump start reform. CTA has made it pretty clear that it was not interested in allowing any real reform of any kind.
Calif. court rules teacher tenure creates unequal conditions
By Lyndsey Layton
June 10, 2014
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional Tuesday, saying such laws harm students — especially poor and minority ones — by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.
In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education.
Siding with the nine students who brought the lawsuit, he ruled that California's laws on hiring and firing in schools have resulted in "a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms."
He agreed, too, that a disproportionate number of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.
The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals. The case involves 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The California Attorney General's office said it is considering its legal options, while the California Teachers Association, the state's biggest teachers union with 325,000 members, vowed an appeal.
"Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their professional rights hurts our students and our schools," the union said.
Other states have been paying close attention to how the case plays out in the nation's most populous state.
"It's powerful," said Theodore Boutrous Jr., the students' attorney. "It's a landmark decision that can change the face of education in California and nationally."
He added: "This is going to be a huge template for what's wrong with education."
In striking down several laws regarding tenure, seniority and other protections, the judge said the evidence at the trial showed the harm inflicted on students by incompetent teachers.
"The evidence is compelling," he said. "Indeed, it shocks the conscience."
The judge cited an expert's finding that a single year with a grossly ineffective teacher costs a classroom full of students $1.4 million in lifetime earnings.
The lawsuit contended that incompetent teachers are so heavily protected by tenure laws that they are almost impossible to fire. The plaintiffs also charged that schools in poor neighborhoods are used as dumping grounds for the bad teachers.
Los Angeles School Superintendent John Deasy testified that it can take over two years on average — and sometimes as long as 10 — to fire an incompetent tenured teacher. The cost of doing so, he said, can run from $250,000 to $450,000.
In his ruling, the judge, a Republican appointee to the bench, said the procedure under the law for firing teachers is "so complex, time-consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory."
The judge also took issue with laws that say the last-hired teacher must be the first fired when layoffs occur — even if the new teacher is gifted and the veteran is inept.
The judge declined to tell the Legislature exactly how to change the system, but expressed confidence it will do so in a way that passes constitutional muster and provides "each child in this state with a basically equal opportunity to achieve a quality education."
The case was brought by a group of students who said they were stuck with teachers who let classrooms get out of control, came to school unprepared and in some cases told them they'd never make anything of themselves.
"Being a kid, sometimes it's easy to feel like your voice is not heard. Today, I am glad I did not stay quiet," said one of the students, Julia Macias. "I'm glad that with the support of my parents I was able to stand up for my right to a great education."
The lawsuit was backed by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch's nonprofit group Students Matter, which assembled a high-profile legal team including Boutrous, who successfully fought to overturn California's gay-marriage ban.
Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation's biggest teachers union, bitterly criticized the lawsuit as "yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession" and privatize public education.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan hailed the judge's ruling as a chance for schools everywhere to open a conversation on equal opportunity in education.
"The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students," he said. "Today's court decision is a mandate to fix these problems."
The trial represented the latest battle in a nationwide movement to abolish or toughen the standards for granting teachers permanent employment protection and seniority-based preferences during layoffs.
Dozens of states have moved in recent years to get rid of such protections or raise the standards for obtaining them.
Comments on Voice of San Diego
I have long believed that good teachers hate being part of a system where poor teachers are tolerated.
@Allen Hemphill And yet, oddly, we don't often hear demands from good teachers for an effective, objective evaluation system. The current system is based more on politics than on observation and documentation. It seems that good teachers are similar to bad teachers in one respect: they are equally loath to give up the very human institution of school politics. And of course, administrators also like the politics. They're not anxious to have impartial observers come in and evaluate teachers, either. I am hoping that things will change now, at least for the teachers union. Perhaps the Vergara decision will motivate CTA to start protecting good teachers since it looks like CTA will no longer be able to protect bad teachers.
No chance. The union attitude is that bad teachers pay dues also.
I think the union may decide to rethink its intransigence on the issue of objective evaluations. The Vergara decision is a big deal.
The union is probably going to have to accept that the worst teachers should not longer play exactly the same role as the best teachers. Ineffective and mediocre teachers should have less responsibility and less pay.
Also, your average principal, who, in most cases used to be a mediocre teacher, should have less responsibility than the most effective teachers for making decisions about instruction. Principals have plenty of other responsibilities. Few of them are equipped to serve as true instructional leaders.
The Vergara decision will do very little good unless the current model of school leadership is changed. In my experience, the best principals were the ones who did the least harm. The bad ones can do enormous harm. I hope Vergara will not simply give more arbitrary power to principals. This situation cries out for objective teacher evaluations.