Seniority has zero to do with educational quality

Seniority has zero to do with educational quality

Appeal

Appeal

I’ve discussed some of the points of the Vergara case in this post: Education Fallacies: Correlation does not equal causation. This month, The California Teachers Association & California Federation of Teachers formally filed their appeal to the ruling in Vergara v.California, which ruled that teacher tenure was unconstitutional in terms of protecting teachers who were not providing quality instruction to students.

SFGate.com writes:

The state and teachers unions have launched a frontal attack on the June 2014 ruling, arguing that neither the judge nor the nine student plaintiffs in the well-funded suit presented any evidence that the laws have harmed students or violated their constitutional rights.

In written arguments filed this month with the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers said the laws are based on sound policies — tenure protects experienced teachers from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals, and basing layoffs on seniority is an objective process that promotes educational quality.

But the unions said those policy questions are legally irrelevant, because the students who filed the suit never showed that the laws affected their education. They showed no evidence that they were taught by an incompetent teacher who would have been fired or laid off had it not been for tenure or seniority protections, the unions said.

“Tenure protects experienced teachers from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals and basing layoffs on seniority is an objective process that promotes educational quality”? There are labor laws in place to protect from arbitrary or politically motivated dismissals. But how can you explain to me that lay offs by seniority “promotes educational quality?” Seniority has zero to do with educational quality. Length of time in a job does not ensure that you are performing at a high level. Evaluations do that.

The ruling in June by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu was the first to strike down a teacher tenure law in any state. The appellate court will hear the case late this year or early next year. If its ruling is appealed further, the case could reach the state Supreme Court by the end of 2016.

Treu’s ruling followed an eight-week trial that included testimony by four students, one parent and competing groups of experts. He found that the laws violate the right of students to educational equality and “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.” The latter finding was based on a 2007 state report that found that students at “high-poverty, low-performing schools” were more likely than others to be taught by inexperienced and unqualified teachers.

We’ll see what the appellate review says of this case.

 

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My public school was not a quality education

My public school was not a quality education

RI Mayoral AcadmiesI no longer live in the community that I went to K-12 school in but I am still connected to many folks through FB. This morning a Warwick, RI city councilor posted an article I did not agree with, making a comment about how she was against the Mayoral Academies. I thanked her for the post, but told her I disagreed with her position. My experience at my high school was not quality and here are some of the various reasons why:

  • There was no direction. We took classes but it didn’t mean anything. There were some outside the box classes, I was part of a marine program once a week that I left the building for, there was a business/finance class I took, we had some history electives I liked where we actually read novels of people in history. Those made sense, whereas “history class” did not. I made no connection between my classes and my life.
  • There are no guidance. In fact my guidance counselor was the worst. and guess what? She was also the head of the RI Guidance Counselors Association for a period of time. What a union waste of time. Never mind that there was no guidance in terms of what you might want to do with your life, but guidance was basically just college applications. My counselor was obnoxious and rude and did not actually help me. I had a healthy list of 7 or so schools, with at least one reach school, one safety school and several match schools. My reach school was GWU. She told me I’d never get in.
    • First – that’s a terrible thing to tell a student.
    • Second, if you are going say something that abrasive to a student you MUST offer some alternatives. I had two schools in Wash. DC on my list. She “nixed” one of them. She NEVER suggested any other DC schools. Could I have done more research, sure. But at the college fair I went to, I only saw those two schools in DC (GWU and Trinity U.) She should have asked me if I knew of others schools in DC besides GWU that I may want to apply to. Because maybe I could have gotten into UMD, or American, or Marymount or something else
    • Third, She never talked with me about what I was interested in or help me find any other schools that might have fit my needs.
  • I graduated with a B+/A- grades and had no idea what I wanted to do. As I ended up in more a social service field – why couldn’t more of the classes fill those topics?
  • The best teachers were the newest ones, which a few exceptions. One of my worst teachers was a senior teacher and he just talked all day. I don’t even remember doing any work. Years later when I returned to get involved in the community, turns out this teacher is the President of the Warwick Teachers Union. What a croc! You want to know why I don’t like teachers unions, because they have leadership that I know was a terrible teacher! What kind of representation is that?
  • I never really learned how to write. I was baffled in senior year English why I couldn’t get a higher grade. I just didn’t learn to write in the way the teacher had expected. All I could do was write in a research based manner. Look something up, and regurgitate it onto the paper. I never learned any analysis or persuasion. I didn’t figure this out until college, where I quickly figured it out and managed to learn how to write in other styles.
  • I could go on but it actually is making me sad how much high school didn’t help me. If you really want to know more, ask.

65% of teachers support: hiring + firing decisions based on teacher’s performance in the classroom, not seniority

I happened across this article from PennCANThe path to success in 2015: Money AND reform” and wanted to share this piece of research:

Third Way, a prominent Democratic think-tank, recently commissioned Jeff Pollack, a prominent Democratic pollster, to analyze voter sentiment on education reform.

The results will be surprising only to those not involved in the daily grind of education policy.

Sixty-five percent of teachers and 86 percent of all respondents said that they either “strongly support” or “support” the following policy proposal: Ensure “hiring and firing decisions are made based on a teacher’s performance in the classroom, not seniority.”

PennCAN found similar results in a poll we conducted in 2013, as have other education reform organizations that have done polling on this issue.

Seems like the only people who don’t want to hold teachers accountable for classroom performance are teachers unions.

The article also talks about how we need Money AND Reform to make a serious positive impact on our kids’ education. This is a message that was loud and clear when I worked at Stand for Children. Stand started as an advocacy group for all children’s issues. It transitioned over time to focusing exclusively on education issues, mostly funding policy. After years of securing hundreds of thousands of dollars for education, the achievement gap still persisted. Instead of sticking to the status quo, they decided that money AND reforms were going to be needed to move our education system forward.

Unfortunately it’s not just about more money. It’s how we spend it and what programs are being utilized. And we must have an excellent teacher in each class and we can only determine that through effective evaluations.

PennCan’s article continues…

Ask any business leader and they will tell you of their disbelief that there is even a debate around this issue. Ask any political insider about this issue and they’ll say it’s impossible to get it done because of opposition from the teachers unions.

But the tide is turning and it isn’t just because teachers themselves are with us. It’s because of lawsuits like Vergera, where Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that seniority and tenure laws have a disproportionately negative effect on minority and low-income students by placing and retaining ineffective teachers in their schools. Politics usually eats policy for breakfast, until the policy becomes so bad that it’s indefensible.

Seems like the truth is that Education reformers want money AND reform and unions just want to pour more money into the system…we’re not against reforms unions want, but unions aren’t inclusive of the reforms necessary to move our education system forward. In essence, education reformers want to see more done to improve and unions want to exclude reforms that are helping students.

2015 will be an interesting year for PennCAN–we have a newly elected Democratic Governor who based his campaign on the development and implementation of a new school funding formula and a Republican legislature that isn’t interested in throwing more money into the same old system.

To be successful in this political climate, advocates will have to devise a plan for bridging this gap. Luckily for us, PennCAN agrees with both the Governor-elect and the Legislature. We have always been and always will be the organization that fights for more money AND more reform. In the next few years, we hope to have both.