Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

Steven Singer, teacher, was outraged by the cover of TIME that said it’s nearly impossible to fire bad teachers but tech millionaires have figured it out.

He writes:

“It is IMPOSSIBLE to fire a bad teacher.

“Unless of course you document how that teacher is bad.

“You know? Due process. Rights. All that liberal bullshit.

“Thank goodness we have tech millionaires to stand up for the rights of totalitarians everywhere!

“A slew of Microsoft wannabes is taking up the mantle of the bored rich to once again attack teacher tenure.

“They claim it’s almost impossible to fire bad teachers because of worker’s rights.

“You know who actually is impossible to fire!? Self-appointed policy experts!

“No one hired them to govern our public schools. In fact, they have zero background in education. But they have oodles of cash and insufferable ennui. Somehow that makes them experts!

“I wonder why no one wants to hear my pet theories on how we should organize computer systems and pay programmers. Somehow the change in my pocket doesn’t qualify me to make policy at IBM, Apple or Microsoft. Strange!”

And be sure to read the imaginary editorial meeting where they decided to let know nothing millionaires tell schools how to do their job.

The leaders of the BATs sent the following letter to TIME magazine in response to the magazine’s insulting cover story about American teachers:

They wrote:

As delegates of an organization that represents the collective voices of 53,000 teachers, we take issue with the cover selected for the November 3 edition of Time. We believe that the image is journalistically irresponsible because it unfairly paints teachers and teacher tenure in a negative light.

The gavel as a symbol of corporate education, smashing the apple – the universal symbol of education – reinforces a text applauding yet another requested deathblow to teacher tenure. Instead of clarity, this continues the misconception that tenure ensures a job for life. It does not. It ensures “just cause” rationale before teachers can be fired.

In addition, the cover perpetuates the pernicious myth of the “bad” teacher and tenure as the prime enablers of larger failures in American education. This is a false narrative. These failures are due to structural inequalities and chronic underfunding in our educational systems, not due to teachers and teacher tenure.

The cover feeds this narrative with the misleading statement, “It is nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.” A few months ago talk show host Whoopi Goldberg made similar statements suffering under the same basic misunderstanding of teacher tenure as something akin to what college professors enjoy rather than a simple guarantee of procedural due process which is its function in K-12 education.

Nevertheless, opponents of teacher tenure have consistently invoked the “bad teacher” argument as pretext to attack not only teachers but also teacher unions, arguing that they place the needs of students second to the protection of underperforming teachers.
In fact, teacher tenure has served as an important protection to allow teachers to advocate for students— especially with regard to maintaining manageable class sizes, safe instructional spaces, the needs of students who are English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities.

Given the massive increase in student enrollments, one of the greatest shortfalls is in the number of teachers themselves. A simple accounting of all the teaching positions lost in the great recessions reveals that the nation would need 377,000 more teachers in the classroom just to keep pace not to mention combat the shameful shortage of teachers of color.

In its haste to disparage teachers, the cover inadvertently tells a larger truth. The instrument used to destroy teacher tenure is wielded against the entire profession. It seeks to obliterate due process for all teachers rather than to ensure its proper use.

More significantly, the cover uncritically situates the tech millionaires as saviors without revealing their own self-interest in the tenure fight, the creation of a nation of corporate-run franchise schools taught by untrained teachers and measured by high stakes test developed and administered by those same millionaires.

In an age where transparency in politics and journalism is sorely needed, we regret Time’s decision to proceed with a cover so clearly at odds with the truth.

The Badass Teachers Association
(Created by BAT Administrators and edited by Marla Kilfoyle, Melissa Tomlinson, Steven Singer, and Dr. Yohuru Williams)

The cover of next week’s TIME magazine is deeply insulting to hard-working teachers, with its headline, “Rotten Apples” and the claim that it is nearly impossible to fire tenured teachers (but tech millionaires who know nothing about education know how to do it: abolish tenure). As most people in the education field know, about 40% of those who enter teaching leave within five years. More: tenure is due process, the right to a hearing, not a guarantee of a lifetime job. Are there bad apples in teaching? Undoubtedly, just as there are bad apples in medicine, the law, business, and even TIME magazine. There are also bad apples in states where teachers have no tenure. Will abolishing tenure increase the supply of great teachers? Surely we should look to those states where teachers do not have tenure to see how that worked out. Sadly, there is no evidence for the hope, wish, belief, that eliminating due process produces a surge of great teachers.

Jersey Jazzman here begins a series of posts about the TIME article. Some said it wasn’t as inflammatory as the cover. JJ says that may be so, but the article is nonetheless a font of misguided opinion.

Ewin Chemerinsky, Dean of the School of Law at the University of California in Irvine, wrote this compelling article about the Vergara decision and teachers’ due process rights.

 

He writes, in part:

 

American public education desperately needs to be improved, especially for the most disadvantaged children. But eliminating teachers’ job security and due-process rights is not going to attract better educators — or do much to improve school quality.

 

In recent months, several respected progressive scholars and politicians have endorsed litigation, like a successful case in California, to weaken the protections afforded public school teachers. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown is spearheading a suit in New York. Their goals are laudable, but their means are misguided.

 

The problem of inner-city schools is not that the dedicated teachers who work in them have too many rights, but that the students who go to them are disadvantaged in many ways, the schools have inadequate resources and the schools are surrounded by communities that are dangerous, lack essential services and are largely segregated both by race and class.

 

Taking the modest job security accorded by tenure away from teachers will address none of these problems.

 

The causal relationship alleged by the plaintiffs in these lawsuits — that teachers’ rights cause minority students to receive substandard educations — is belied by readily available empirical evidence.

 

If the plaintiffs were correct, similarly situated students in states with weak protection of teachers — such as Texas, Alabama and Mississippi — would have higher levels of achievement and the racial achievement gap would be smaller in those states. But there is no evidence that minority students in Houston, Birmingham or Jackson outperform those in Los Angeles or New York.

 

He adds:

 

One of the biggest challenges in education today is teacher retention. In the District of Columbia, 80% of teachers leave within five years. Getting rid of tenure and due process will not encourage more teachers to stay in the profession. It will drive them out and discourage other qualified people from entering the profession in the first place.

 

The plaintiffs who are bringing these lawsuits have misappropriated the soaring rhetoric and fundamental principles of the civil rights movement. Civil rights lawyers have worked for decades to end racial segregation in schools and neighborhoods and equalize school funding.

 

Cloaking the attack on teachers’ rights in the rhetoric of the civil rights movement is misleading. Lessening the legal protections for teachers will not advance civil rights or improve education.

 

TIME Magazine has a cover story called “Rotten Apples,” in which it falsely asserts (on the cover) that “It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher. Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That.” Here is a link to the cover and a petition denouncing this slander.

This TIME cover is as malicious as the Newsweek cover in 2010 that said, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers. We Must Fire Bad Teachers. We Must Bad Teachers,” and the TIME cover in 2008 showing a grim Michelle Rhee with a broom, prepared to sweep out “bad” teachers and principals. (As we now know, Rhee fired many educators, but saw no significant gains during her tenure in office.)

This non-stop teacher bashing, funded by millionaires and billionaires, by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and even by the U.S. Department of Education, has become poisonous. Enrollments in teacher education programs are declining, sharply in some states. Experienced teachers are retiring early. Teaching has become so stressful, in this era of test mania, that our nation’s biggest teacher issue is recruiting and retaining teachers, not firing them.

Since when do tech millionaires know anything about teaching children? Why should they determine the lives and careers of educators? Why don’t they volunteer to teach for a week and then share their new wisdom?

Randi Weingarten is fighting back against TIME’s scurrilous cover. She is organizing a campaign to let TIME know that they have outraged and insulted America’s teachers. This bullying has to stop! Speak out! Tweet! Sign the petition! Write a letter to the editor! Organize a protest at TIME headquarters. Don’t let them get away with bullying teachers who earn less, work harder, and have greater social value than the writers at TIME or the tech millionaires.

Randi Weingarten writes:

From: Randi Weingarten
Date: Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 5:36 PM
Subject: Teachers aren’t rotten apples

Time magazine is about to use its cover to blame teachers for every problem in America’s schools. On Monday, Nov. 3, this cover will be in every supermarket checkout line and newsstand across the country—and it’s already online.

When I saw this today, I felt sick. This Time cover isn’t trying to foster a serious dialogue about solutions our schools need—it’s intentionally creating controversy to sell more copies.

We’re running a petition demanding that Time apologize. Will you help us spread the word by using the tweets below to call on Time to apologize?

This midleading @Time cover hurts teachers and damages the mag’s own credibility. Ask them to apologize! #TIMEfail

Why is @Time attacking teachers? This misleading cover is more about sales than truth. Demand and apology! #TIMEfail

.@Time should do the right thing and ditch the planned anti-teacher cover! #TIMEfail

Once you’ve tweeted, please sign the petition telling Time’s editors to apologize for this outrageous attack on America’s teachers.

The millionaires and billionaires sponsoring these attacks on teacher tenure claim they want to get great teachers into the schools that serve high-need kids. It’s a noble goal, but stripping teachers of their protections won’t help.

In fact, this blame-and-shame approach only leads to low morale and high turnover, making it even harder to get great teachers into classrooms. Just today, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky wrote a fact-based argument that tenure protections help recruit and retain high-quality teachers! In fact, there is a strong correlation between states with strong teacher tenure and high student performance.

And Time’s cover doesn’t even reflect its own reporting. The Time article itself looks at the wealthy sponsors of these efforts. And while it looks critically at tenure, it also questions the testing industry’s connections to Silicon Valley and the motives of these players.

But rather than use the cover to put the spotlight on the people using their wealth to change education policy, Time’s editors decided to sensationalize the topic and blame the educators who dedicate their lives to serving students. The cover is particularly disappointing because the articles inside the magazine present a much more balanced view of the issue. But for millions of Americans, all they’ll see is the cover, and a misleading attack on teachers.

There are serious challenges facing our schools—tell Time that blaming teachers won’t solve anything.

When we work together instead of pointing fingers, we know we can help students succeed.

In places like New Haven, Conn., Lawrence, Mass., Los Angeles’ ABC school district and many others, union-district collaboration is leading to real change2.

Instead of pitting students and teachers against each other, these districts are showing how we can build welcoming, engaging schools by working together to give kids the education they deserve. As a result of this collaborative approach, once-struggling schools all over America are turning around.

When we collaborate, we’re able to recruit AND retain high-quality teachers, and reclaim the promise of a high-quality education for every student.

And when we work together, we can also change tenure to make it what it was supposed to be—a fair shake before you are fired, not a job for life, an excuse for administrators not to manage or a cloak for incompetence.

But instead of a real debate, Time is using the cover to sensationalize the issue so it can sell magazines.

Tell Time magazine to apologize for blaming teachers in order to sell magazines.

We need to have a substantive, facts-based conversation about the challenges our schools face and the real solutions that will help educators and kids succeed.

Help us tell Time that blaming teachers isn’t the way to help struggling schools.

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

1 “Teacher Tenure: Wrong Target”

2 “Four Solutions to Public School Problems”

Steven Singer, teacher, describes the accumulating series of insults and indignities heaped upon teachers by the federal and state governments and by politicians who wouldn’t last five minutes in a classroom.

He writes, in indignation and fury:

“You can’t do that.

“All the fear, frustration and mounting rage of public school teachers amounts to that short declarative sentence.

“You can’t take away our autonomy in the classroom.

“You can’t take away our input into academic decisions.

“You can’t take away our job protections and collective bargaining rights.

“You can’t do that.

“But the state and federal government has repeatedly replied in the affirmative – oh, yes, we can.

“For at least two decades, federal and state education policy has been a sometimes slow and incremental chipping away at teachers’ power and authority – or at others a blitzkrieg wiping away decades of long-standing best practices.

“The latest and greatest of these has been in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Earlier this week, the state-led School Reform Commission simply refused to continue bargaining with teachers over a new labor agreement. Instead, members unilaterally cancelled Philadelphia teachers contract and dictated their own terms – take them or get out.

“The move was made at a meeting called with minimal notice to hide the action from the public. Moreover, the legality of the decision is deeply in doubt. The courts will have to decide if the SRC even has the legal authority to bypass negotiations and impose terms.

“One doesn’t have to live or work in the City of Brotherly Love to feel the sting of the state SRC. For many educators across the nation this may be the last straw.

“For a long time now, we have watched in stunned silence as all the problems of society are heaped at our feet…..”

“Teachers dedicate their lives to fight the ignorance and poverty of the next generation and are found guilty of the very problem they came to help alleviate. It’s like blaming a doctor when a patient gets sick, blaming a lawyer because his client committed a crime or blaming a firefighter because an arsonist threw a match.

“The Philadelphia decision makes clear the paranoid conspiracy theories about school privatization are neither paranoid nor mere theories. We see them enacted in our local newspapers and media in the full light of day.

Step 1: Poor schools lose state and federal funding.

Step 2: Schools can’t cope with the loss, further reduce services, quality of education suffers.

Step 3: Blame teachers, privatize, cancel union contracts, reduce quality of education further.

“Ask yourself this: why does this only happen at poor schools?…”

“Poverty has been the driving factor behind the Philadelphia Schools tragedy for decades. Approximately 70% of district students are at or near the poverty line.

“To meet this need, the state has bravely chipped away at its share of public school funding. In 1975, Pennsylvania provided 55% of school funding statewide; in 2014 it provides only 36%. Nationally, Pennsylvania is 45th out of 50 for lowest state funding for public education.”

“Since the schools were in distress (read: poor), the state decided it could do the following: put the district under the control of a School Reform Commission; hire a CEO; enable the CEO to hire non-certified staff, reassign or fire staff; allow the commission to hire for-profit firms to manage some schools; convert others to charters; and move around district resources.

“And now after 13 years of state management with little to no improvement, the problem is once again the teachers. It’s not mismanagement by the SRC. It’s not the chronic underfunding. It’s not crippling, generational poverty. It’s these greedy people who volunteer to work with the children most in need.

“We could try increasing services for those students. We could give management of the district back to the people who care most: the citizens of Philadelphia. We could increase the districts portion of the budget so students could get more arts and humanities, tutoring, wraparound services, etc. That might actually improve the educational quality those children receive.

“Nah! It’s the teachers! Let’s rip up their labor contract!

“Take my word for it. Educators have had it.”

Don’t be a scapegoat any longer, Singer says.

Here is his clarion call, his war cry: Refuse to give the tests they use to label you and call you a failure.

“It follows then that educators should refuse to administer standardized tests across the country – especially at poor schools.

“What do we have to lose? The state already is using these deeply flawed scores to label our districts a failure, take us over and then do with us as they please.

“Refuse to give them the tools to make that determination. Refuse to give the tests. How else will they decide if a school is succeeding or failing? They can’t come out and blame the lack of funding. That would place the blame where it belongs – on the same politicians, bureaucrats and billionaire philanthropists who pushed for these factory school reforms in the first place.

“This would have happened much sooner if not for fear teachers would lose their jobs. The Philadelphia decision shows that this may be inevitable. The state is committed to giving us the option of working under sweatshop conditions or finding employment elsewhere. By unanimously dissolving the union contract for teachers working in the 8th largest district in the country, they have removed the last obstacle to massive resistance.

“Teachers want to opt out. They’ve been chomping at the bit to do this for years. We know how destructive this is to our students. But we’ve tried to compromise – I’ll do a little test prep here and try to balance it with a real lesson the next day. Testing is an unfortunate part of life and I’m helping my students by teaching them to jump through these useless hoops.

“But now we no longer need to engage in these half measures. In fact, continuing as before would go against our interests.

“Any Title 1 district – any school that serves a largely impoverished population – would be best served now if teachers refused to give the powers that be the tools needed to demoralize kids, degrade teachers and dissolve their work contracts. And as the poorer districts go, more affluent schools should follow suit to reclaim the ability to do what’s best for their students. The standardized testing machine would ground to a halt offering an opportunity for real school reform. The only option left would be real, substantial work to relieve the poverty holding back our nation’s school children.

“In short, teachers need to engage in a mass refusal to administer standardized tests.

“But you can’t do that,” say the politicians, bureaucrats and billionaire philanthropists.

“Oh, yes, we can.”

Jonathan Pelto reports that Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut announced he will stay the course on his corporate education reform policies, despite the huge scandal associated with the Jumoke charter school. Jumoke was one of the governor’s star charters until it was revealed that its CEO had a criminal past and a fake doctorate. Malloy supports tying teacher evaluation to test scores, despite the fact that this method has worked nowhere. And as Pelto reminds us, he proposed eliminating (not reforming but eliminating) teachers’ due process rights. He also advocated a no-union policy in the state’s poorest schools. He seems to have bought hook, line, and sinker the reformer claim that unions and tenure depress student test scores, even though the highest performing schools in the state have unions and tenure.

Why would a Democratic governor advocate for the failed policies of corporate reform? One guess. Connecticut has a large concentration of hedge fund managers, whose ideology and campaign contributions are aligned. In their highly speculative business, no one has unions or tenure. When stocks or investments go bad, they dump them. They think that schools should live by their principles. They should read Jamie Vollmer’s famous blueberry story. You can’t throw away the bad blueberries. Unless you run a charter school. Then you can exclude bad blueberries and kick out other bad blueberries.

Carl Cohn is one of the most respected and wisest figures in American education today. He was a successful superintendent in Long Beach and San Diego. He currently is a member of the California State Board of Education.

He writes here about the flawed logic of the Vergara decision, in which the judge ruled that teacher tenure and seniority were unconstitutional in California.

Cohn says the decision contradicts the reality of schools today, as well as what he observed as a superintendent.

He writes:

“What’s wrong with the ruling is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools.

“Serving as superintendent in both Long Beach and San Diego for 12-plus years, I didn’t see the “teacher jails” or “rubber rooms” – the places where teachers are assigned and do nothing while any of a range of charges against them are adjudicated – that have become a part of the popular-media-driven narrative about urban schools and districts.

“I saw remarkably heroic classroom teachers who delivered high-quality instruction on a daily basis. Sure, there were times when a teacher wasn’t performing up to par and needed help. And yes, there were times when a teacher needed to find a new career. But the notion that the only choice facing an urban district is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars removing such teachers says more about poor leadership and poor human capital management in that district than it does about the existing state statutes under consideration in this court case.

“In my experience at Long Beach, the biggest help in counseling a teacher toward finding a new career was the head of the local teachers union, who understood that keeping a sub-par teacher in the profession was bad for both the district and the union. Most of the heavy lifting on getting that resignation was done by the union, not the district.

“In recent years, it has become fashionable to suggest that the battle in urban districts is all about adult interests versus the interests of schoolchildren. The truth is that an effective leader of an urban school system goes to work every day trying to figure out how best to motivate, inspire and develop the adults who work with kids. Those superintendents who feel that they can transform kids’ lives by fiat from the superintendent’s suite are kidding themselves and fooling the public. Enlisting, engaging and collaborating with classroom teachers are the only ways to genuinely move the needle on student achievement.”

He adds:

“Some change may well need to be considered in the length of time teachers must serve before gaining tenure. Most observers are waiting for some grand bargain to be crafted at the state level. But I think this would be best done from the “bottom up” in urban districts like San Jose and others, where district and union leaders are coming to the same conclusion that some beginning teachers are better served by lengthening the probationary period. State leaders and CTA need to get out of the way and let this happen.

“The work of improving urban schools is a long, hard slog. It requires stability of leadership and governance, along with taking the time to develop mutual trust between administrators and unions on building the capacity of the vast majority of the teacher workforce. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

“California is a great state that should never consider turning back the clock either on the civil rights of urban students, who have the right to a high-quality public school education, or on the employment rights of the dedicated teachers who I saw serving them so well in both Long Beach and San Diego.”

Peter Greene has a very engaging post about the insanity of Marshall Tuck’s run for State Superintendent of California.

 

Greene can’t believe that Tuck believes what he is saying and promising. If he delivers, he will destroy public education in California, get rid of experienced teachers, somehow find inexperienced replacements for them, and then what? Then Californians will know that the whole reformster agenda is a fraud. Maybe, just maybe, Greene thinks, it would be a good thing to have this expose happen.

 

What qualifies Tuck to run the state education department? Well, he was an investment banker. The rich and powerful like him. He has friends in Hollywood. He thinks no teacher should have tenure. He failed as leader of Green Dot. He failed running the mayor’s takeover schools. That means he is an expert on reform.

 

Greene writes:

 

Tuck is popular with the Let’s Kick Teachers’ Asses crowd, which is why this election matters. Current Superintendent Tom Torlakson pissed off a lot of powerful people by deciding to challenge the Vergara ruling, and if elected Tuck will put an end to that toot suite.

 

I confess to being a little fascinated by the Tuck candidacy, because what is the end game here? I mean, unless he’s an idiot, he has to know that the same smoke and mirrors that create the illusion of success for charter schools cannot be scaled to the state level, and his bold claims that he can raise California’s educational standings will fail hugely. “Throw out difficult students who make school look less successful” only works if there are other schools to send them to. Maybe he has figured out how to scale charter success with, say, a plan to push all low-performing California students into Nevada. But I’m doubtful. He has to know that he cannot deliver any of the results he is promising.

 

So if he’s not an idiot, what’s the plan here? Just get in there and strip as much money as possible out of the system and walk away? Destroy the teaching profession and public education and just hope nobody notices or cares? The usual reformster profile is to find yourself a job where you aren’t accountable to much of anybody and where the reporting of results is entirely under your control. But Tuck wants to be responsible to the state voters for an entire state system whose results will be pretty hard to hide.

 

If this guy is elected, shame on the voters of California. Their children will get what they don’t deserve.

 

 

Jonathan Pelto is stunned. Despite Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher policies, the Connecticut Education Association endorsed him.

“NEWS FLASH: The only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest district has received the endorsement of the Connecticut Education Association’s Board of Directors.

“According to multiple sources, the CEA’s Board of Directors reversed the decision the CEA’s Political Action Committee, who had recommended that the state’s largest public employee union make no endorsement in the gubernatorial campaign.

“Considering Malloy’s recent and repeated pledge to “stay the course” on his education reform initiatives, one can only assume that Malloy’s political operatives must have made some “significant promises” since, on the key issues listed below, Malloy has refused to PUBLICLY change his anti-teacher, anti-public education stance.

“Why the American Federation of Teachers and Connecticut Education Association would endorse Malloy without demanding that he publicly retreat from his corporate education reform industry stance is breathtaking.

“For more than two and a half years, Wait, What? has been a platform for laying out and discussing Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration’s unprecedented attack on public education in Connecticut. Throughout that time Malloy has not made any real or meaningful changes to his policies. Instead, he has continued to undermining teachers and the teaching profession. His disdain for the most important profession in the world and the value of comprehensive public education has been absolute.

“The CEA’s endorsement means that the leadership of all of the major public employee unions in Connecticut have thrown their support behind the candidate who has pledged that he will not propose or accept any tax increase during this second term, despite the fact that Connecticut is facing a $4.8 billion budget shortfall over the next three years.While Connecticut’s millionaires continue to celebrate the fact that they have been spared the need to “sacrifice” by being required to pay their fair share in taxes, Malloy’s policies will ensure massive increases in local property taxes for the middle class and widespread cuts in local education budgets.”

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