Friday, October 07, 2005

Proposition 74

Simply put, this proposition would grant teachers tenure after 5 years instead of the current 2 or 3, and would also make it significantly easier to fire teachers. Here are some comments from an LA Times article:

Some rank-and-file teachers say they recognize the need to simplify the dismissal rules for problem teachers, whom one instructor labeled "lost causes."
But many teachers worry about losing legal protections that insulate them against the whims of principals.
"Yes, we need reform, but it doesn't sound like the governor has a good way to do it," said math teacher Carol Silva, who has spent 23 years at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.
"I would like to see the procedures streamlined for people who will not change. But to just have two warnings and you're out, I don't like that. It could make it very arbitrary."

The whims of principals. That is a major concern. Read this email from a fellow member of a maillist I'm on and see if Prop 74 isn't just ripe for abuse. I received permission to post this email, but was asked to edit out identifying items.

CA List Members: This particular initiative is quite worrisome to those of us outspoken teachers who have stood up against bad administrators and bad educational policy. Had this initiative been in place some 10 years ago, neither my husband nor I would still be teaching because we would have been fired. Our offense? We were a "detriment to our school community" because we didn't believe in whole language and we said so. Believe me, it was *extremely* hard doing what we did, even with the protections that we had in place at that time.

My participation in the Commission, my husband's in the various state ed panels and committees, and both of our fights locally against bad policy and for good curriculum all would have been negated had this proposition been in place because we would have been silenced.

You might think that CA curriculum has changed, administrators know better and support good educational practices, standards are in place, etc., so good teachers needn't worry and mustn't be protected against the notion of a bad administrator retaliating against good teachers doing and saying the right thing. Well, you would be wrong! There continue to be bad administrators pushing for the wrong thing, and these bad administrators continue to be angry with outspoken teachers for speaking against the wrong thing. Those schools of ed continue to teach that standards, our state assessment and accountability system, state approved standards-based programs,direct instruction, etc., are bad.

My current principal is terrific, but he is not my only administrator.

I know that xxxx will not appreciate this opening of a can of political worms, but I have to ask that before voting CA folks consider what will happen to the good teachers with weak/bad administrators if this passes. Thanks.

And what about budget crises? The most senior teachers might all of a sudden become horrible teachers--because they're the most expensive.

It's my belief that the Governor proposed this, sincerely, for two reasons. First, he wanted to take the teachers' union down a notch, and second, because it makes sense to get rid of "bad" teachers. On the first issue he failed miserably; he struck at teachers and not the union, and gave the union a strong rallying cry. On the second issue he has a good idea but is throwing the baby out with the bath water--streamlining what I call undue process is obviously overdue, because it really does take an inordinate amount of effort to remove bad teachers--but to make it too easy to remove teachers potentially puts good teachers in the crosshairs. Think about those teachers who go out on a limb, advocating for students. Or those who challenge an administration when it breaks the law, whether intentionally or not. Or those who advocate for the state standards against those who are convinced that they know better, and think that whole language, fuzzy math, and group work are the keys to educational Shangri-La.

If this proposition were going in the right direction but didn't go far enough, I'd vote for it as an incremental improvement. But it goes too far--and Governor, I don't support you on this one.


Anonymous said...

Guys -- think about it for a minute -- why should tenure be granted at all, or as early as two or three years in the profession? It is not that way in the university world. My understanding is tenure does not come before 5 years and after much peer review. hopefully this means the stronger and best teachers are granted tenure. This is not the case in K-12 education. Hang in there 2 - 3 years and you are in for life.

Where does it say the students are entitled to the best teachers possible? Nowhere that I can find. What is right for the students? That they have the best teachers possible regardless of the school they are in.

As one who works in a profession that does not grant tenure. I do not believe it is right for education either.

Now, if you have peer review, teachers from the grade above reviewing those below it, 360 feedback, etc. before and after tenure is granted and teachers can be fired (after showing little or no improvement for a two year period) for not teaching kids then fine, keep tenure. Without this, tenure needs to go.

The union does need to be taken down several notches -- it does not put the children first. Never has. Never will. Period. Paragraph.

Sorry, but it is true in my district and I bet it is true in most districts.

Thanks for letting me post --


Darren said...

Elizabeth, thanks for commenting.

I'll agree with you that the union doesn't put kids first--AND I DON'T WANT IT TO. It's a TEACHERS union, and I want them looking after ME. I don't want them getting involved in politics, I don't want them telling me who to vote for for insurance commissioner or telling me I should vote for the proposition that deals with prescription drugs--I want them focusing on my pay and benefits and nothing else.

Until they do that, they DO need to be taken down a few notches.

Having said that, it's not the change in tenure from 2 to 5 years that gets me about this proposition. It's the removal of so many due process protections that we *as government employees* have, essentially putting us at the whim of an administrator.

And before you bring up "the real world", I've worked there. There's very little about the education field that operates like a business, and this area of hiring and firing people is *not* one of those areas and shouldn't be treated as such.

I can elaborate if you like, but I'm sure you see my point.

tiredofaaronl said...

Tenure is essential to academia. Unlike virtually every other profession, teachers aren't producing or selling anything worth direct monetary value. We don't save lives or cure people either.

I would vote YES on I-74. Are there crazy administrators out there? Absolutely. But there are even more crazy teachers. Two unsatisfactory reviews back to back in two years ought to be enough to fire a teacher without further grace periods. Knowing that there is no longer an urgent two year window to fire a crappy teacher, a principal can give the teacher the benefit of the doubt that they'll improve, knowing that she'll still be able to let the teacher go if they can't get it right with a few more years under their belts.

As it is now, administrators have only two years to decide if they want to keep a teacher...not a very long time to get a sense for how they'll be 10 years down the road. If a teacher showed even the slightest signs of craziness, I'd be inclined to fire them if I was a principal. Increasing the period of tenure will probably eventually REDUCE the firing of California teachers.

As to getting fired for making a hissy fit over curriculum and best practices. Shut up for a few years! We teachers think we're saving the world. We're not. Whole language, direct instruction, group work, blah blah blah. The impact we have on children's lives is minimal. The kids aren't going to die if they miss a year of the best new instruction method. Current theories of learning suggest that most of us adults had pretty crappy educational experiences back in the day. Yet here we are, using the internet, engaging in mature discussions, reading etc...