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should the school district have more discretion in the layoff process?
Original post made
by Sandy, Mohr Park,
on May 18, 2012
I came across two interesting pieces recently that I thought members of the community might want to read. The first is a report by the Legislative Analyst's Office about how the layoff process works for California public schoolteachers. It includes some recommendations about how to change the layoff process, including some ideas about reducing the impact of seniority on the sequence of teachers laid off and rehired, and about increasing local control over those decisions.
The second is an opinion piece in the LA Times that comments on the role that the CTA has played in state politics around education reform, written by a former speechwriter for President GW Bush who lives in LA. The piece takes aim at the impact CTA has had on making it difficult to fire ineffective teachers.
What would you tell your elected representatives in Sacramento that you would like to see changed about how teacher layoffs and rehirings happen?
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on May 21, 2012 at 9:28 am
Sandy is a registered user.
Mr Slippers -- I appreciate your cynicism. There has been a lot of resistance to educational reforms until more funding is put back into K12 from the state, and I can understand where that comes from. However, I think we need to do both -- more funding, but into a reformed system. At a minimum, the state needs to relax some requirements to give school districts some room to experiment.
Terminate -- I can't imagine a system where principals could be kept out of the process for evaluating teachers. Perhaps they need more training in providing the kind of feedback that would motivate a really poor teacher to get better ASAP, or leave. In my experience, though, it's really painful to be in a classroom day after day when you feel like you're not making any kind of difference to your students. If a teacher can't get useful coaching on how to improve, then the most likely outcome is that they quit before they need to be fired.
I'm not sure what you mean by "the union noose". Do you really think that teachers should have no rights to due process before being terminated?
Stacey -- thanks for mentioning those Getting Down to Facts studies. I found it useful both to examine the research summaries from 2007 (link below)
and to read about the 2012 update to the studies (link below describing the update)
As Fensterwald writes, "Imazeki noted "pockets of progress," with Los Angeles Unified, which is piloting new teacher evaluations based on multiple measures and San Francisco Unified, which passed a parcel tax to fund more professional development, better evaluations, opportunities for master teachers and incentives for teaching in hard-to-staff schools. A reconstituted state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, to which Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond was appointed, is focusing more attention on teacher training programs. There's been some action in the Legislature. However, provisions under the current version of AB 5, the primary bill proposing changes to teacher evaluations, would take effect only once cost-of-living adjustments owed to schools are paid back a process that will take years. Another approach that Imazeki proposes is for the Legislature to do no harm and get out of the way. "At a minimum, state policy should focus on removing regulatory barriers to these local efforts and encourage further experimentation," she wrote, noting that these policy changes would not require additional money."
It seems like there has been some progress in terms of making systematic data available about students as they move through their grade-level assessments, but resistance to tying students' assessments to assessments of teachers. I'm not even sure if principals have access to that kind of data about their teachers, or even if teachers have access to data about their own performance over time.
Gov. Brown has opposed the implementation of CALTIDES and some speculate that it's because unions also oppose the system. Still, I think the rationale that Fensterwald provides in the blog post I quoted above is valid: "The focus should be on locally generated and collected data that teachers, parents, principals and districts find useful, not on data for researchers and policy analysts." I'm not convinced that statewide data collection will get feedback to districts, principals, and teachers fast enough to make a difference for students.
The Commission on Teacher Credentialling scandal was truly horrific. It takes far too long for the state to revoke teaching licenses for teachers who have committed crimes that should result in being banned from the classroom forever. Still, school districts have to do their due diligence before they hire a new teacher. If there are any skeletons in the closet from a teacher's previous school, PUSD has a responsibility to find that out before making a job offer.
The best levers that the school district has in ensuring teaching quality are: selecting teachers with a track record for quality teaching, providing them with professional development and coaching that push them to continue to improve and innovate in their teaching, and ensuring that they are not "alone in the classroom" for too long. That's where I think that Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) is key, because a principal is not always the best subject area expert to provide coaching for every teacher. Getting coaching from colleagues is less adversarial, more relevant, and potentially much more effective.
I understand why the district and APT have agreed to stretch out the time periods for veteran teachers from every 4 years to every 5, given the cuts that have been made in the staff of assistant principals. It's no longer realistic to expect an elementary school principal to visit every classroom two or three times a year, given that there are no other administrators on site to back up the principal in getting all the other required admin work done on a day-to-day basis. From a triage point of view, it's more important to have frequent class visits and formal performance appraisals for teachers who are new to the district. But it's really hard to make sense of community comments that the administration is top-heavy and should be cut down in size, and at the same time that poor teachers aren't getting the scrutiny needed to make sure they shape up or ship out. If we want principals to pay more attention to teacher quality, then we need to give them the time they need to do so.
OK, enough with my essay on teacher performance appraisal and performance improvement systems. I have essays to grade from my MBA students.
Other comments are welcome, of course!