Thursday, June 26, 2014

Teacher Tenure Litigation Spreading Quickly, Part II: Reasons to Be Cautious

As emphasized at the end of my post earlier today on the spread of litigation (and policy initiatives) attacking teacher tenure, ineffective instruction is a serious problem in disadvantaged schools, but the causes and solutions are not obvious as the cases might imply.  The California litigation is premised on the notion that tenure and due process protections are the cause and getting rid of them are the solution (along with replacing them with value added-metrics).  This may very well be right.  I will reserve judgment for a while longer.  Without endorsing the contrary position either, I offer this from the LA Times as food for thought:

[The]s ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu declaring all sorts of job protections for teachers "unconstitutional" is being hailed by a certain category of education activists.

What's curious about this is that they seem to have a unanimous view about the reason California schools are supposedly so bad: It's the teachers unions.

Not the imbalance of financial resources between rich districts and poor. Not the social pathologies--poverty, joblessness, racial discrimination, violence--that affect educational attainment in disadvantaged communities. Not California's rank at the very bottom of all states in its per-pupil expenditures, at $8,342 (in 2011), according to the quality index published by EducationWeek. That's 30% below the national average of $11,864, reflecting the consistent shortchanging of the K-12 system by the state.

But California ranks much higher compared with other states in measures of teacher incentives and working conditions, so clearly those are the factors that need to be changed.

To Judge Treu and the plutocrats who funded Vergara v. California, the lawsuit on which he ruled, what's "unconstitutional" about California's school system is that teachers have too much due-process protection from being fired.

 Observes David B. Cohen, a schoolteacher and associate director of Accomplished California Teachers, an education advocacy group associated with Stanford University, one should be "suspicious of wealthy and powerful individuals and groups whose advocacy for children leads to 'reforms' that won’t cost a cent, but will weaken labor."

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