Diary

Get rid of bad teachers in Calif? Good luck with that

Union rules are so convoluted now the worst stay on like the flu

I’m shocked! Shocked, I say! Not by the following, but by the fact this not only appeared in the LA Times, but they actually researched it!

One of the many things that came up during the ongoing California
budget fiasco was the state using the old ploy “If we don’t get this
passed we’ll have to lay off 3,000 teachers statewide!”
to try to scare the populace into pressuring legislators to accept the
Democrat legislators demands (which essentially echoed the teacher’s union demands).

With the scare tactic being used, some were questioning how exactly the pink slips would be issued. Would it go by seniority, or by teacher performance?

The union argued that no accurate measure of teacher effectiveness
exists; therefore seniority would be the only way to go, if layoffs
were to happen at all.

Others (like me) preferred that stagnant, entrenched teachers who
really don’t care about anything except a paycheck and getting the kids
out the door at the end of the day would be the first purged. How that
was accomplished we didn’t care, just do it. Granted, it is a mess
trying to prove a teacher is as described above under the current
system rules, but after so many years of declining test scores and
drop-out rates through the roof…

Anyway, looking at what it would take to actually remove a teacher who performed or even acted badly was, to my amazement, the Los Angeles Times.

The eighth-grade boy held out his wrists for teacher Carlos Polanco to see.

He had just explained to Polanco and his history classmates at Virgil Middle School in Koreatown why he had been absent: He had been in the hospital after an attempt at suicide.

Polanco looked at the cuts and said they “were weak,”
according to witness accounts in documents filed with the state. “Carve
deeper next time,” he was said to have told the boy.

“Look,” Polanco allegedly said, “you can’t even kill yourself.”

The boy’s classmates joined in, with one advising how to cut a main artery, according to the witnesses.

“See,” Polanco was quoted as saying, “even he knows how to commit suicide better than you.”

The Los Angeles school board, citing Polanco’s poor judgment, voted to fire him.

But Polanco, who contended that he had been misunderstood, kept his
job. A little-known review commission overruled the board, saying that
although the teacher had made the statements, he had meant no harm.


Not only are the rules for dismissing a teacher for any reason so complex it can takes years, most schools don’t have the lawyers it would take to even decipher what the rules are or where to start.

Other things the Times found were;

* Building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming,
costly and draining for principals and administrators that many say
they don’t make the effort except in the most egregious cases. The vast
majority of firings stem from blatant misconduct, including sexual
abuse, other immoral or illegal behavior, insubordination or repeated
violation of rules such as showing up on time.

* Although districts generally press ahead with only the strongest
cases, even these get knocked down more than a third of the time by the
specially convened review panels, which have the discretion to restore
teachers’ jobs even when grounds for dismissal are proved.

* Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she can’t teach is
rare. In 80% of the dismissals that were upheld, classroom performance
was not even a factor.

When teaching is at issue, years of effort — and thousands of
dollars — sometimes go into rehabilitating the teacher as students
suffer. Over the three years before he was fired, one struggling math
teacher in Stockton was observed 13 times by school officials, failed
three year-end evaluations, was offered a more desirable assignment and
joined a mentoring program as most of his ninth-grade students flunked
his courses.

As a case winds its way through the system, legal costs can soar into the six figures.

I knew months ago it would end up being something like this, but
still I sit here shocked. I assumed teachers and administration were
just covering for each other with the union jumping in and out as
necessary to complicate things, but as it turns out it’s not only that
but they’ve managed to entrench the whole thing in contracts and rules
that make it nearly impossible to get rid of really bad teachers.

Not one day later, same paper
LA Unified officials are trying to get the state to enact new
legislation to make it easier to fire tenured teachers. The union of
course promises to fight anything resembling this, and the hopeless
majorities Democrats are so beholden to the unions for contributions
the follow up article appears to be more damage control than actual
possibility;

Reacting to a Times story published Sunday about the
cumbersome process for removing substandard tenured teachers in
California’s public schools, L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said
the system is a “sacred cow, and I do think it should be overhauled.”

And farther down;

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who last week
opposed any hasty action on L.A. Unified’s part, said Sunday she
believes the system needs reform. The state should allow the education
code to expire and rewrite it, she said.

But the L.A. Unified resolutions were introduced too late in the
legislative cycle to be considered this year and were politically
motivated, she said.

“Quite frankly, it’s a stunt to make LAUSD look good and Sacramento look bad,” she said.

More like I figured, a stunt and nothing will change unless it’s
hammered at daily by the blogosphere, parents, and the minority
conservatives in state and local government.

Meanwhile, 24 is on and I throw up my hands and dive for the remote.