Town Square

should the school district have more discretion in the layoff process?

Original post made by Sandy 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.

Web Link

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.

Web Link

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 Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

This subject is also discussed in the excellent "Getting Down to Facts" studies, which provides the policy guide I'd want to see elected representatives in Sacramento to follow. Yet it's become pretty obvious that Stanford's "extraordinary array of scholars from 32 institutions with diverse expertise and policy orientations" and the LAO can shout up and down all they want about the state of education in California and what to do about it when the politics in Sacramento places current power relationships above the public welfare. It reminds me of what happened with Simpson-Bowles.

Posted by Mr, Slippers, a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm

You know, with California spending less per student than any other state in the union, I think it is important that we continue to focus on incompetent teachers and streamline the process for getting rid of them. Especially the ones with seniority. Whatever happened to the good old days when a community would decide whether to keep a teacher or not? I come from the south, and whenever we got some liberal do-gooder "moderate" in the classroom who wanted to change our community values, we stormed the schoolyard with pitchforks and demanded they go back to Massachusetts or Detroit where they belonged.

Posted by Terminate, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Principals don't seem have the spine, skills, or authority to terminate without the union noose, so YES the board should terminate as needed.

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)

Web Link

and to read about the 2012 update to the studies (link below describing the update)

Web Link

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!

Posted by Terminate, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 21, 2012 at 9:53 am

I didn't say exclude the principal, who could be part of the panel. Sandy, you are touting the CTA union line. Yes, the union noose ties the ability to terminate bad teachers. Instead, CTA and you push KEEPING incompetent on the payroll and in the classroom, and teaching them what they should have learned before certification. Maybe CTA could take on the remedial training, rather than our children and local taxpayers.
The inability to terminate because of seniority, would easily be solved with the elimination of 'tenure' !!! I suppose you'll have a rational to justify tenure too. So many different problems would be solved with the elimination of tenure! People who put children first are for ending that protective shield that ONLY exists in the unique world of teachers.

Posted by Sandy, a resident of Mohr Park
on May 21, 2012 at 10:21 am

Sandy is a registered user.

Terminate, you aren't making the mistake of assuming that I'm a union member, are you? I'm a parent, and my experience with college teaching is primarily in private university environments where faculty are not unionized.

I'm not opposed to terminating teachers if they are persistently unsatisfactory in the classroom, regardless of their seniority. Thus my use of the words "leave", "quit or be fired", and "shape up or ship out". I even said "terminated".

I do recognize the potential costs of using terminations as the only way to improve teaching quality, though. It costs the system a great deal to hire a new teacher, especially mid-year. And do we really want our teachers to just be "competent"? Of course not -- we want every teacher to be outstanding!

Rather than assuming that only teachers who are not yet certified are incompetent, I am assuming that teachers must continue to improve throughout their careers. I think it's quite possible that a teacher who has been competent and even high performing in some years, may not be in the future (whether because of personal issues or organizational issues, such as reassignment to a different school, subject, or grade level, or encountering a particularly challenging set of students who come in below basic and need a different approach to reach proficiency, etc.) That such a teacher can adapt to a new challenge is also a reasonable assumption, I think.

BTW -- I don't think the word "tenure" appears in California's education code. If budget constraints require a district to lay off 1/3 of its teaching staff, then the district can do so, regardless of how many of those teachers have more than 2 years experience and "permanent" status. There are also provisions to call teachers who have been laid off back to work by using certifications to call back a more junior teacher before a more senior one. I would support some additional flexibility in state laws that would give districts leeway to consider other factors in the process of calling teachers back from layoffs.

Oh, and anyone interested in learning more about how the district currently conducts performance appraisals should review item 2.1 of tomorrow night's board packet. it is 26 pages long, but very educational. Here's the link to the PDF of the full board packet:

Web Link

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Sandy, I noticed in the packet that the contract is up for approval for the Assistant Superintendent Educational Services. Yet there is no contract in the packet and no one is named. I cannot find a press release either. Do you know if any word was put out before this approval?

Posted by Sandy, a resident of Mohr Park
on May 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm

hi Kathleen, I was surprised that there was no contract included in the packet, too. Is it in the supplemental materials folder? That's where the blue sheet about the costs of the TA were two weeks ago.

I have not heard anything about who has been hired.

Posted by Mr. Slippers, a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 22, 2012 at 10:09 am

I appreciate your in depth comments, Sandy. I also taught at a private school, Standford, and earned a Master's from a Ivy League School. Your above comments are among the top three you've posted here since I began reading them last year. I can't quite remember the other two, but they were great. What's important is that we find ways to get rid of teachers with seniority -- you know, one's that either the administration doesn't like, or some that the more rational conservative parants find too extreme, or, heck, just as a cost saving measure because new teachers come a bored cheaper than the dead wood that just sits on the pathway gathering moss while students are hiking through the park known as public (socialistic) education. Keep up the good work. We need reform. Not progress, because that's socialist. But reform that is just right.

Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on May 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Mr. Slippers -- I don't think we're on the same page about what legitimate reasons would be for getting rid of a teacher.

I would never support removing a teacher from the classroom simply because of a personal animosity or a political litmus test.

Although I think that current state law regarding seniority is too restrictive, I favor the use of seniority as one of several criteria to consider in layoffs and rehiring.

Posted by Mr. Slippers, a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Of course you wouldn't Sandy. You'd have them fired for other reasons that you didn't specify, such as the one I mentioned regarding senior teachers costing more than junior teachers, or in response to a vigilant community's will. No, I think we're very much on the same page. Together we can try to circumvent union-district contract so as to fire those you and I and the other comnmunity vigilants don't think are up to our really very very nonpolitical standards. Political litmus test? How could anyone even begin to suggest such? Please maintain your vigilance, Sandy. Hold those administrators' and union thugs' feet to the fire of vigilant group justice.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 23, 2012 at 7:15 am

Stacey is a registered user.


Everyone in this community knows how much involved you are in supporting education. Clearly Mr. Slippers is not of this community and knows nothing of your work. Mr. Slippers is anti-education, anti-children, anti-parent, and very likely a shill.

Posted by Mr. Slippers, a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 23, 2012 at 10:23 am

Yet another outstanding post from Stacey who is incapable of expressing a clear idea except when it comes to running down someone in a highly uncivil manner. I've NEVER been talked to like this before! I pity her. Here I am, taking the time to express my vigilance and care along with Sandy regarding how to sidestep union rules and teacher rights in order to get senior teachers fired, and Stacey resorts to unfounded name-calling. Can't we vigilantly try to tie the hands of teachers and their corrupt unions in a caring and civil way? We need to tighten the noose in a caring, civil, vigilant manner, don't you agree? And I leave you with this nugget: How much one cares is far more important than the quality of one's arguments or one's distorted motives.

I tell ya, it's getting harder and harder to be a respectable right-winger posing as a rational, moderate, civil human being.

Posted by Sandy, a resident of Mohr Park
on May 23, 2012 at 11:15 am

One thing I know for sure -- telling the difference between irony and ignorance is exceptionally difficult in online forums.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

Mr. Slippers, Give the sarcasm, hyper-baloney, and utter nonsense a rest. An ineffective teacher can hurt the education of 30 to more than 100 students, and not just for the time a student is present in their class. They also impact the other teachers and the reputation of a school. More efficient tools for removing an ineffective teacher are needed sooner rather than later. No one has suggested this should be some willy-nilly process. By the same token, tenure and prohibitive time/dollar costs make it unnecessarily daunting. And this is not to suggest the system has an inordinate number of questionable teachers.

Posted by Mr. Slippers, a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I agree. We need to find better ways to limit or even bust up teachers' unions. Because teachers shouldn't have rights. Some of them, not ALL of them, but some of them are really really bad. I mean really really bad. And they are because Ms. Rugsinuckle says so. And her definition of incompetence is better than all the hyperbalony and caterwauling and sarcasm you hear from others. Indeed, she doesn't even have to provide it because she doesn't want to. Now, its just ignorant to call a rightwing coven of vigilante blowhards a bunch of rightwing vigilante blowhards. We should treat them like well-intentioned, caring citizens who care soooo much about the children. Even if they are rightwing vigilante blowhards who are too embarrassed to own up to that reality. Sandy, Kathleen, Stacey, let me tell ya, everyone else is just a sarcastic shill. Now, anyone have an extra length of rope available?

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Try as you might, Slipjoint, you cannot blather your way into making me or Stacey or Sandy unsupportive of teachers. But I do have an idea for your rope . . .

Posted by Mr. Slippers, a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Yes, like Ms. Rugsinuckle, I'm very supportive of teachers, too. Why, if they'd be forced to give back some of their outrageous pension money, their taxes would likely go down. See how supportive we are? And like Ms. Rugsinuckle, I support teachers by devising any means available to circumvent union provisions that are aimed at protecting teachers' rights -- like seniority and protection from lay-offs. See, if we could fire these boobs, other teachers would like it. So, don't try to tell us we don't support these teachers who sponge off of the good taxpayer. Teachers are taxpayers too.

(Take note of how both Stacey and Rugsinuckle lapse into the uncannily similar kind of name-calling mode whenever they encounter someone who exposes the silliness of their ideas.)

Posted by Mr. Slippers, a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I forgot to mention that Ms. Rugsinuckle and the rest of us care so much about teachers that we try to remind them that if they somehow got out of that nasty union that raises their taxes, gives them rights they don't need and want, and has secured unGodly pension packets for them, that they'd then no longer have to pay those really really onerous union dues. Yes, we LOVE our public school teachers.