Friday, June 13, 2014

John Thompson at The Chalkface Expores the Subtleties of the Tenure Battle

Something tells me...that getting rid of our due process rights won’t be a promising tactic for recruiting and retaining new teacher talent..... Without seniority, this school closure mania gives districts a Get Out of Jail Free Card – they can commit age discrimination at will.....Obamacare might now be the best education reform of his administration. .. John Thompson
Some more great points from John Thompson:
If reformers spent more time in schools, I bet they would recognize the pattern that has been obvious throughout my career. In many or most classrooms with an incompetent teacher in my inner city school, the current bad teacher replaced the previous bad teacher, who replaced a previous bad teacher. Why? Qualified teachers won’t volunteer for those jobs. And, that is why so many principals grant tenure to teachers who aren’t capable of teaching in tough classes. If they fire that teacher, what is the chance of finding a better applicant next year?
An important point here that John might emphasize: There are excellent teachers who just aren't as capable of teaching in tough classes as they might be in classes of eager, on-grade level learner. In fact many teachers who are "capable" use survival rather than the best pedagogical techniques. I know I had to use different tactics with the tougher classes -- I had to work very hard on building community before the academics. Nothing like a fight breaking out to ruin a lesson. Other than one particular class out of the 17 self-contained classes I taught, I rarely had fights due to this effort. And even in that class I managed to get that under control within a few months. But did academics suffer? Hell yes. Those trials I held to adjudicate the tensions between some of the kids took time.
Reformers, including those who might have fought against civil service laws in the age of Progressivism, say that tenure was designed to protect teachers against political pressure. What do they think we’re facing today? Don’t they understand the political pressure we are under to practice educational malpractice in an age of test and punish, and rushing through a skin-deep test prep guide? Even with due process, it’s not easy to advocate for high-quality instructional practices... 
My friend - an ed notes reader who will recognize his words -- used to refer to teachers as "New York's Meekest." I would claim that with the Bloomberg Leadership Academy "gotcha" squad of principals, even teachers with tenure were fearful of being sent to the rubber room gulag for minor transgressions.

Here is a superb point.
In my experience, when bad teachers aren’t removed, the collective bargaining agreement usually has little to do with the outcome. In my experience, health issues and disability law are a much, much bigger factor than tenure. Perhaps the ineffective teacher tries to hold on for too long because he can’t lose his health insurance, and the administrator is loath to put him on the streets without medical benefits. As my former union local president used to say, nothing would help us improve teacher quality as much as universal health insurance. Had reformers been willing to address the real problems in schools, and not scapegoat teachers, Obamacare might now be the best education reform of his administration
John points to why many experienced teachers run from tough schools if they can.
Without seniority, this school closure mania gives districts a Get Out of Jail Free Card – they can commit age discrimination at will.
If conservative or liberal reformers doubt that that is a key reason why the modal years of experience of teachers has dropped to one year, they might want to stroll through a few turnaround or transformation schools. Plenty of great veteran teachers would love to cap their careers by helping to turn a school around. We have 1.6 million teachers approaching retirement, and our knowledge could be invaluable. How many are welcomed in SIG schools with their focus on test scores? Where are the teachers with institutional memories and where are they not? The next time a reformer is taken out on a SIG dog and pony show, they might want to count the number of twenty-somethings in the building and ask why.
Read John's entire piece, Why Tenure is Essential

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