Archive for December, 2014

Tenure Issue 1: Dismiss the Teacher

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Have you read about the June 2014 Vergara vs. California decision?

High school students in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Alum Rock Unified School Districts brought the case to court because their education was impaired by “bad” teachers that were not dismissed even after long time complaints. These teachers are not the ones you hear about that have sexually harassed girls and boys, that have kept alcohol in their desk drawers in order to take a shot during breaks, or that have disrupted faculty meetings with argument, resorting to insults and physical intimidation. They can be dismissed quickly.

The teachers described in the Vergara decision deliberately performed poorly in the classroom insulting, berating, or ignoring student requests. The students cower in their seats, fearful of asking questions, or shout out in frustration.

Would you not think that there should be a procedure for the principal to dismiss that teacher immediately? It isn’t that easy.

Teachers unions formed long ago to protect teachers’ rights after an unending list of circumstances when a teacher was dismissed for untenable reasons. Now with tenure established, there is a specific set of judicial procedures that must be followed to terminate employment. Teachers are protected from unfair harassment, but “bad” teachers are protected too.

Step One to remedy this situation that wreaks havoc in the public schools is for unions (I’m a member of CTA) to rework the process for dismissal. It’s not hard when a teacher is arrested, but any number of procedures can delay the termination of a teacher like those brought up in the Vergara trial.

It is true that students deserve a qualified teacher who teaches the subject and that treats his or her students with respect. That is how the classroom should be managed, not by dictatorial insult and punishment.

Step Two, with high quality in mind, upgrade the status of teaching. Every education article you read says raise the salary and stabilize the workload so that each state can attract people who will stay in the field.

The quality of teacher preparation must be upgraded and not by slo mo action. California State Universities have begun this effort.

Professional development programs, especially with the Common Core State Standards implementation, can ease the fears about something new. Coalition for Community Schools and Communities in Schools are two organizations dedicated to caring for qualified teachers country-wide. Seek out their models.

Political policy awareness in the state government and the local community is a priority. One of the strongest decisions in the suit was to revise the “last in, first out” teacher layoff policy. The California State Legislature’s goal for the new session will be to rework (with the unions) that part of the tenure regulations. In addition, one benefit in Teach for America’s program is the Leadership for Educational Equity.

How can students be assured of success if the people teachers elect to support education do not step up?