Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

Arthur Goldstein, a high school teacher of English as a Second Language in New York City, explains in this article that good teachers need tenure too.

Goldstein gives examples of teachers who were denied tenure because they stood up for the rights of their students.

When he made demands on behalf of his students, only tenure protected him from being fired.

He writes:

“Shortly thereafter, I requested books for my students. For some reason, they were unavailable. My colleagues could get books, but I couldn’t. By then I had less than one class set, so students had to share them.

“Months later, I learned the United Federation of Teachers contract said the school had to provide supplies. I threatened to file a grievance, something I had never done up to that point. A week after my threat, my kids got two brand-new class sets of books.

“Tenure doesn’t only protect the so-called bad apples, or teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence. It protects all teachers. This is a tough job, and despite what you read in the papers, it also entails advocating for our students, your kids, whether or not the administration is comfortable with it.

“I meet passionate and effective teachers everywhere I go. How many will stand up for your kids when schools don’t provide the services they need? How many will demand deserving kids pass classes even if they fail a standardized test? How many will tell state Education Commissioner John King that failing 70% of New York City’s students is not only counterintuitive, but also counterproductive?

“It’s hard to say. Abolish tenure and that number will drop very close to zero.”

In this short post, David Greene and Glen Dalgleish explain what tenure is, in plain English.

At the heart of the Vergara decision lies a logical fallacy: eliminate due process and seniority from teachers, and schools with low-performing students will magically have a great teacher in every classroom. To say this makes no sense is an understatement.

In this post, Bruce Baker demonstrates that it makes no sense empirically either.

As he concludes: “In the land of VergarNYa… a world where logical fallacy rules the day and where empirical evidence simply doesn’t matter…”

A wonderful find by loyal reader KrazyTA, who has read the Vergara transcripts. The esteemed economist Raj Chetty of Harvard, a cheerleader for VAM, says he prefers large data sets (no humans) to anecdotes, then tells a theoretical anecdote about a coach who lays off rookie Michael Jordan. The fact that this never happened is of no consequence to the professor from Harvard.

KrazyTA writes:

A good intro to my last posting on the Vergara Decision.

What role do reason, consistency, logic, and facts play in the self-styled “education reform” movement?

From a posting on this blog of 3-23-2014, “Common Core for Commoners—Not My School!”—

“This is an unintentionally hilarious story about Common Core in Tennessee. Dr. Candace McQueen has been dean of Lipscomb College’s school of education and also the state’s’s chief cheerleader for Common Core. However, she was named headmistress of private Lipscomb Academy, and guess what? She will not have the school adopt the Common Core! Go figure.”



When you’re a supernova of the “new civil rights movement of our time” like Michelle Rhee you don’t have to get your numbers right—or even read the source you cite for your assertion!—when you make a claim.

“So the report Rhee herself cites contradicts her main point: standardized testing does, in fact, gobble up lots of classroom time. Her statement above, according to the source she herself cites, is just dead wrong.”


If you’re Bill Gates you can assert to Lyndsey Layton re the potential $tudent $ucce$$ synergy between Common Core, Pearson and Microsoft that:

“Yeah, we had the old Pearson stuff. I, it, it, there’s no connection, there’s no connection to Common Core and any Microsoft thing.”

But then there’s the joint statement by Pearson and Microsoft of 2/20/2014—


But surely during the Vergara trial Dr. Raj Chetty was able to demonstrate the hard-nosed, data-based logic, consistency, reasons and facts behind VAMania and high-stakes standardized testing and the like, right?

Please refer to the following link for the references re Dr. Chetty’s testimony:


*Note that I will refer to the latest more refined version of the rough draft, which goes from pp. 508-595.*

Pp. 553-554, Dr. Raj Chetty:

“In my opinion there are two different approaches to analysis. You can look for anecdotes or you can look at large data sets. I prefer to look at large data sets because I think there is a psychological bias that any human being has to focus on outliers.”

Sounds reassuring until you realize that this is his way of “reasoning” away myriad accounts that VAM estimates fluctuate wildly or that Campbell’s Law is a real concern, not just a “conjecture.”

But here’s where the rubber meets the road.

When discussing LIFO (i.e., seniority) policies, he goes all in to make sure we of little understanding grasp why the least effective senior teachers should be laid off before the more effective novice teachers:

P. 576: “…[L]et me give an analogy which hopefully will resonate and be familiar with many people here.

Let’s say you are a manager of a basketball team and you have a new player, Michael Jordan in his rookie year who looks very promising, but in his rookie year he is not doing so well relative to the other players on the team. So you could take a short term perspective and say, well, this guy doesn’t seem to be doing so well this year, so I’m going to let him go and stick with the other players so that we do well in the next season, or could you take a longer term perspective and say Michael Jordan seems to have a lot of potential, he is going to be great in two years, he’s going to be one of the superstars, I’m going to keep him because I really care about my team in the longer run.

The LIFO policy is effectively saying let’s let Michael Jordan go, I wouldn’t want to have Michael Jordan on my team.”

There are so many things wrong with this brief example of “high-disorder” thinking that I hardly know where to start. But just some brief comments, and I won’t even bring up the whole mismangled approach to teamwork, cooperation and collaboration he brings up. *Michael Jordan could give Dr. Chetty some good advice: “There is no ‘i’ in team but there is in win.”*

So we lesser beings must zealously avoid the “psychological bias” we have in focusing on “outliers” and ground ourselves instead in “large data sets”? Is it too much to remind a numbers/stats person that the NBA has, maximum, less than 500 players [and not all can dress for any one game? And that these are exceptionally fine athletes, world class no less—literally, if you saw one of them playing in your local gym or playground, they would blow everyone else away. The bench warmers are outliers! They are ALL outliers!

And Michael Jordan is an outlier among outliers! Picking him as an example of what approach to use in assessing the effectiveness of millions of teachers via numerical rankings is betraying a hopelessly confused surrender to the “psychological bias” to focus on “outliers”!


And as for those millions of teachers: VAM already has moved the “highly effective” and “highly ineffective” and the “most effective” and “most ineffective” all over the rankings from year to year—how long could Dr. Chetty’s “Michael Jordans” survive such VAMboolzement before being kicked out of the classroom? [With all apologies to Dr. Audrey Amrein-Beardsley.]

I stop here. End of my Vergara Decision series.

Let’s pay heed to Joe Flood, author of THE FIRES:

“Initially, we use data as a way to think hard about difficult things, but then we over rely on data as a way to avoid thinking hard about difficult problems. We surrender our better judgment and leave it to the algorithm.”

[Jim Horn and Denise Wilburn, THE MISMEASURE OF EDUCATION, 2013, p. ]


P.S. Even a very dead, very old and very Greek guy knew better:

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” [Plato]

Peter Greene here reviews and refutes Campbell Brown’s article in the New York Daily News about why she is bringing a Vergara lawsuit in New York. Campbell Brown was once a CNN anchor; her husband advised Romney and is on the board of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst New York. She is a fierce critic of teacher unions, tenure, and seniority. The lawsuit gives her an opportunity to act on her passionate hatred for veteran teachers while claiming to defend the “rights” of students, as the California sponsors of Vergara did.

Brown has thus far found six families to act as plaintiffs. She says that one of the students wrote an essay complaining about the quality of education she was receiving and was harassed by multiple teachers and had to change schools. Brown assumes that by getting rid of tenure, seniority, and due process, there would magically be a great teacher in every classroom.

Greene writes:

“It’s a good story because it underlines exactly what is problematic about this sort of narrative as a model of teacher evaluation. This could in fact be the story of a student who made a reasonable request, wrote an essay about it, and was unfairly hounded by multiple teachers. While I’d like to say that I can’t imagine that ever happening, it’s certainly not impossible (though the harassing phone calls from plural teachers is hard to imagine).

“But this could also be the story of a student who decide she knew better than a trained professional how the teacher should do his job, got called on it, and had the whole thing blow up when the school tried to deal with her insubordination and disrespect.

“Either version of the story could be the truth. If we put in student hands the nuclear option of ending a teacher’s career, we are certainly, as Brown says she wants to, changing the balance of power. But I’m not sure how we get to excellence in teaching by way of a student smiling and saying, “Mrs. DeGumbuddy, my lawyer and I think you really want to reconsider my grade on this essay.”

He writes:

“Tenure– NY makes teachers wait three years and eighteen observations for tenure. This is the most obvious difference between the New York case and Vergara (California was awarding tenure after less time). This is a hard argument to make– if an administrator can’t tell whether or not she’s got a keeper after three years and eighteen observations, that administrator needs to go get a job selling real estate or groceries, because, damn!

“On the plus side, I look forward to Brown’s accompanying argument that all New York schools should be barred from ever again hiring Teach for America two-year contract temps. If it takes more than three years to determine if a teacher is any good, then clearly TFA is a waste of everybody’s time. Do let me know when Brown brings that up.

“Dismissals– Too long, too hard. I’m not in New York, so I don’t know the real numbers here. This was the weakest part of the state’s case in Vergara– while you can’t rush through these proceedings, there’s no excuse for dragging them out for months and years. It’s not good for either party.”

And he concludes:

“In the meantime, teachers here in the East can now look forward to a PR blitz tearing down teachers in support of a lawsuit designed to dismantle teaching as a profession. We can only hope the ultimate result will be better than the California version of this traveling circus.”

Mother Jones published this article in 2013 when Campbell Brown started her campaign against “sexual predators” in the New York City public schools (there are none, apparently, in charter schools, thank goodness!).


Campbell Brown is now leading the lawsuit attacking tenure, seniority, and due process for teachers in New York state. Her organization has found half a dozen student plaintiffs who claim that their teachers were “bad” teachers, which denied them a quality education.


The big difference between then and now in Campbell Brown’s group is that in 2013 her public relations firm was connected to Republicans.


Her current PR spokesman is Robert Gibbs, who was President Obama’s White House press secretary.


What Ms. Brown seems not to know is that there are sometimes false accusations made by students. I recall that when I lived in D.C. in the early 1990s, a junior high school teacher was accused of sexual misconduct by several girls in his class. The evidence seemed overwhelming given the number of complaints. The teacher was pilloried in the press. But when the police interviewed each girl individually, they did not corroborate the other stories, and in a matter of days, they all admitted they had trumped up the charges to punish a teacher who had given them too much work and had too high standards. That was an elementary lesson: an accusation is not a conviction. Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.


One curious aspect to this copycat case is that no one has been able to establish the basic claim that every child would have a “great” teacher if no teacher had due process rights or any job protections whatever. What seems more likely is that teachers will flee to affluent districts, if they can, to avoid the low value-added scores that are attached to teaching the most challenging students. Inner-city schools attended by the poorest children will find it more difficult to maintain a stable staff. Some victory that would be.


If people like Campbell Brown really cared about poor kids, they would fight for small class sizes, arts teachers, school nurses, libraries, and improved conditions for teaching and learning. They don’t.



Bruce Baker reviews the Vergara claim that teacher laws in Néw York deny students a quality education and shows that it is fallacious.

He writes:

“VergarGuments are an absurd smokescreen, failing to pass muster at even the most basic level of logical evaluation of causation – that A (state laws in question) can somehow logically (no less statistically) be associated with selective deprivation of children’s constitutional rights.

“Are children in New York State being deprived of their right to a sound basic education.



“Most certainly.

“Are VergarGuments the most logical path toward righting those wrongs? Uh… no.”

Green Party Defends Teacher Tenure Against Legal Challenge

The Green Party candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor today spoke out strongly against a lawsuit to be filed by a former CNN anchor seeking to overturn tenure in New York State.

“The attack on teacher tenure is about scapegoating teachers for the conditions of our schools,” remarked Brian Jones, a former NYC school teacher running for Lieutenant Governor. “Why aren’t they filing suit against Cuomo for shortchanging local schools for funding by $9 billion? Or over the fact that New YorkState has the most segregated schools in the country, worse than it was 50 years ago?”

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, points out that teacher tenure was enacted nationwide more than a century ago to protect academic freedom and to stop the firing of teachers based on political and partisan changes in local school boards and principals.

“Tenure establishes and preserves a highly qualified teacher workforce in our schools. Teacher turnover is a huge problem — especially in high-needs schools. Removing tenure does nothing to stop the revolving door. Tenure and seniority help to create a stable (i.e., not revolving) community of adults in schools, which is what children and families want,” noted Howie Hawkins.

“Tenure prevents high teacher turnover and protects New Yorkers against the politics of personal bias, favoritism, and cronyism in our schools. Tenure means due process for disciplinary action. Teachers don’t hire themselves and they don’t control the disciplinary process,” added Hawkins.

New York has a 3- to 4-year probationary periods for new teachers and a new evaluation system, which established an expedited process allowing schools to hold teachers accountable based on teacher evaluation results.

The Green Party pointed out that the Democratic Party and Governor Cuomo have been leading the fight in New York against teachers. Nationally, in 2010 President Barack Obama praised the firing of 93 teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island. When 7,000 teachers were fired in the wake of a devastating flood in Louisiana, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.”

“Like we recently saw with the tenure lawsuit in California, the New York plaintiffs are elite private schoolers bankrolled by millionaires, who want to argue that workers are the problem,” Jones added.

“The education policies coming from the leadership of both major parties in the recent state budget – from underfunding public schools and promoting charter schools to modifying but not ending the high-stakes testing regime – are pro-privatization and anti-public schools. They are promoting a dual school system, separate and unequal. We need to address the root causes of low-performing students and schools in poverty, segregation, and underfunding schools in low-income communities,” said Hawkins.

The lawsuit is being filed by the Partnership for Educational Justice led by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown. Her husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of the New York affiliate of StudentsFirst, an education lobbying group founded by Michelle Rhee, the controversial former Washington, DC, chancellor who is a leader of the charter school movement.

Cuomo has been a strong proponent of privatization of education, including charter schools. Cuomo has received significant funding from hedge funds that find charter schools incentives to be highly profitable investments.

Howie and the Green Party support progressive taxation, fully-funded schools, renewable energy, single-payer health care, $15 minimum wage and a New York that works for the 99%.

EduShyster explains the back story on the new team that has been assembled to eliminate teacher tenure wherever it still survives.

The lead player in this docudrama is Campbell Brown, a one-time CNN anchor who now works full-time to oust sexual predators from our classrooms. EduShyster says she will be rewarded with more airtime and media FaceTime.

Then there is the ex-Obama communications team, free from their D.C. duties to make war on teachers.

EduShyster reminds us that this will be a PR war, so get ready for the anecdotes about how “bad teachers” ruined someone ‘s life. This, of course, is the civil rights issue of our time, far more important than funding inequity, poverty, or budget cuts.

Best of all, Edushyster prepares us for mass confusion when the PR war begins:

“Is it pronounced *tenYEAR* or *tenYUR*? Why do teachers want to establish a caliphate in upstate New York anyway? Who broke the status quo? And when we fix it, will it still be the status quo? How many anecdotes does it take to make data? What exactly is the Levant? And is there any problem that *grit* can’t solve?”

An earlier post about the Vergara case contrasted the testimony of a plaintiff (a student) who said Ms. McLaughlin was a “bad” teacher with a video in which several students spoke highly of the same teacher, who was named by the Rotary as Pasadena Teacher of the Year.

Christine McLaughlin, the teacher who was the subject of the post, left the following comment:

“I was so surprised to hear of this post regarding the case and my involvement. I want to point out two important facts that might add additional insight into this case.

1. The case was a lawsuit against the State and lawmakers, not individual teachers. The teachers listed in the student’s testimony were pawns in this process. I was sadly one of those pawns.

2. Miss Monterroza stated that every teacher she had in PUSD from 5th through 9th grade were “bad” teachers. Except one! The one that recruited her to join this lawsuit. He had his agenda because he was RIFed and he did not like the system. I was moved into his position ( I was RIFed that year too).”


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