Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

Arthur Goldstein gives a close reading of Eliza Shapiro’s article about “why New York City is no longer the national leader of reform” in education.

When he read it, he felt heartened by the thought that “reform” was on the ropes, withering on the vine, falling apart, use whatever metaphor you want. Going, going, gone.

And yet he knows how demoralized the teachers in his building are.

He shows the error of Shapiro’s framing of the teacher tenure issue. “Reform” apparently means the utter elimination of any job rights for teachers. “Reformers” want to be able to fire any teacher at any time, without cause, just because they want to. Reformers agree that teachers should have no rights at all, and they wonder why there is a growing teacher shortage.

He writes:

Reforminess is something Trump is strong on, because he doesn’t believe in protecting the rights of working people. With him, it’s all about profit, hence Betsy DeVos, who’s pretty much decimated public education in Michigan. They can wrap themselves in the flag all they want, and claim to care about the children. Those of us who wake up every morning to serve those children know better.

And then there is Andrew Cuomo, who first ran on a platform of going after unions, who appeared at Moskowitz rallies and frothed at the mouth over the possibility of firing as many teachers as possible. Cuomo could not possibly anticipate that parents would become informed and fight back against the nonsense that is Common Core. He could not anticipate that parents would boycott his tests in droves.

What reformies failed to count on was the opportunism of Andrew Cuomo. As a man with no moral center whatsoever, he is driven by rampant ambition. This year, he watched Donald Trump win the presidency against neoliberal Hillary Clinton. Cuomo decided to position himself as Bernie Sanders Lite and pushed a program to give free college tuition to New Yorkers (albeit with a whole lot of restrictions).

Cuomo is now best buds with UFT, judging from what I hear at Delegate Assemblies. While I don’t personally trust the man as far as I can throw him, I’m happy if that works to help working teachers and other working people. So what is education “reform,” exactly?

As far as I can tell, it’s piling on, How miserable can we make working teachers? How can we arbitrarily and capriciously fire them? How can we give them as few options as possible, and as little voice as possible?

It’s ironic. The MORE [MORE is a progressive caucus within the UFT] motto is, “Our teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions.” I agree with that. Take it a step further, and our teaching conditions are our students’ future working conditions. When we fight for improvement of our working conditions, we are fighting for the future of our students as well.

Two of my former students teach in my school. They are the first of their families to be college educated, and the first of their families to get middle class jobs. I will fight for them, and for my other students to have even more opportunity. Betsy DeVos and the reformies, on the other hand, can fight to maximize profits for fraudulent cyber-charter owners and all the other opportunist sleazebags they represent so well.

Steven J. Klees of the University of Maryland wrote this post. He is former president of the Comparative and International Education Society.

He writes:

This spring, the Florida legislature passed and this summer Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 7069, a school reform promoted by organizations linked to the Koch Brothers and Betsy DeVos. Florida has been a poster child for conservative ideological education reform for some time. Going beyond even the federal No Child Left Behind – or as the critics call it, No Child Left Un-tested — reform of the elder Bush era, it became one of the most frequent testers of students in the nation. Basically, from February to May, students in Florida prepare for and take an endless array of tests. Florida instituted evaluation of teachers tied to student test scores years ago, motivating teachers to spend the whole year teaching to the test. On top of this testing regime, Florida has enacted many right-wing reforms: eliminating K-12 teacher tenure; grading schools A to F; and changing curricula to emphasize only what is tested, for example, eliminating recess.

Well, after a decade of this, parents began to revolt. Last year, a statewide survey highlighted two priorities for needed school reform: stop all this testing or at least cut way back – and restore recess for our children. PTAs mobilized behind these changes. The Florida State legislature began to respond by formulating the “Recess Bill” – intended to cut testing and restore recess. However, the ending point of this effort was very different than the starting point. Basically, the Recess Bill was hijacked by business – two businesses in particular – the testing industry and the charter school promotors. Testing in Florida is a half billion dollar a year business, and Pearson and other testing companies lobbied hard against cutting testing. Moreover, the budget for public education is $14bn a year, and charter advocates saw the bill as a way to capture a lot more of that money.

The result, passed in the last two hours of the the legislative session, with scarcely any discussion, was House Bill 7069. This terrifying school reform is being called “the death of public education” by its critics. The bill gives a sop to the protesting parents – it restores 20 minutes of daily recess in K-5. But it only eliminates two of the many tests that students are forced to take. It also allows school districts to opt out of evaluating teachers by their students’ test scores. However, this was just the superficial bow that tied up a major reform package that basically turns public education over to private companies to start charter schools.

There were several dimensions to this reform package. Any school in the state that received low or failing grades in the state rating system (Ds and Fs) would be closed and likely re-opened by a private corporate charter school company, the so-called “Schools of Hope.” These and other charter start-ups would be freed from most regulation and oversight by school districts. They would no longer have to test their students to see if they were doing as well as regular public schools. There would be no curriculum guidelines for charters, no need to hire certified teachers. Charter schools would even be exempt from the new recess requirement. For the first time, school districts had to share their money for capital expenditures with the charter schools.

Perhaps most astonishing is that many of the Florida Legislators who designed, promoted, and voted for this bill have strong ties to the charter school industry. Many of them or their families have become wealthy from running charter schools and, with the enactment of HB 7069, stand to make much more money. Yet there was no talk of conflicts of interest or violation of ethics laws. Contrary to Florida’s Sunshine laws, the final version of HB 7069 was put together by the Republican leadership in secret, in the last 3 days of the legislative session, turning a 7-page bill into a 278-page bill by tacking on the content of 55 other school reform bills that had been considered in the past. Analysts are still not sure what this now very complex reform will yield in practice.

There was a strong effort to get Governor Rick Scott to veto the bill as parents, teachers, school administrators, and the general public sent thousands of messages demanding a veto. But, in the final days, the charter school industry responded by giving charter school parents and students incentives, like discounts or extra credit, for sending in messages of support. The resultant legislation will be turning over a substantial segment of public education to unaccountable private sector, often for-profit, corporate managers. And this is what Betsy DeVos wants for the nation.

A judge in New Jersey threw out a lawsuit intended to remove teachers’ seniority rights. This is the third loss for the corporate reformer groups that have tried to use the courts to strip away teachers’ job security. The “reformers” blame teachers and unions for low test scores while ignoring overwhelming evidence that poverty is the proximate cause of low scores.

The first was the Vergara lawsuit in California, where a group called “Students Matter,” founded by a Silicon Valley billionaire, claimed that teacher tenure (due process of law) denied poor children equal opportunity. The plaintiffs won in the lowest court. They lost on appeal. And they lost again when they appealed to the states’ highest court.

A group found by former TV personality Campbell Brown called the Partnership for Educational Justice filed copycat suits in other states. One was tossed by a lower court.

Earlier this month, a judge in New Jersey dismissed a legal challenge to teacher seniority rules.

Rachel Cohen of The American Prospect reports on the corporate reformers’ latest defeat in court:

“Another legal effort to weaken teacher job protections through the courts has been dismissed, this time in the Garden State. On Wednesday afternoon, a New Jersey Superior Court judge tossed the latest case, ruling that the plaintiffs—six parents from Newark Public Schools—failed to prove that seniority-based layoffs harmed their students.

“Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ), a national education reform group that aims to challenge teacher job protections across the country, funded the New Jersey lawsuit. Originally filed in November, the case marked the third time PEJ has gone after tenure provisions. Their first case filed in New York in 2014, is currently before the state Supreme Court. In October, a Minnesota district judge dismissed PEJ’s second suit, filed there in 2016. That case has since been appealed.”

Campbell Brown’s news site, The 74, reported the outcome of the case.

“A New Jersey judge swiftly dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that challenged state rules requiring school districts to base teacher layoffs on seniority regardless of performance in the classroom.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson told a Trenton courtroom that the plaintiffs had failed to establish how seniority-based layoff rules known as “last in, first out” were harming their children.

“I don’t see any link other than speculation and conjecture between the LIFO statute and the denial of a thorough and efficient education to these 12 children,” Jacobson said.

“The lawsuit, HG v. Harrington, was filed in November on behalf of a dozen Newark students, claiming that “last in, first out” mandates governing teacher layoffs violate their right to a “thorough and efficient” and “equal” education system under the state Constitution.

“The complaint was sponsored by The Partnership for Educational Justice, a national education reform nonprofit founded by 74 co-founder Campbell Brown. Named defendants include the New Jersey State Board of Education and Newark Public School District.

“The American Federation of Teachers and the New Jersey Education Association, considered “intervening” defendants in the case, filed the motion to dismiss.”

In this post, Chester (Checker) Finn Jr. questions the need for teacher tenure. Getting rid of tenure, he says, will save money, as it has in higher education, where money is lavished on administrators’ salaries and facilities, but not faculty (except for the Big Names).

He thinks that teacher tenure is a relatively recent invention, copying tenure in higher education. Actually, this is not true. Teachers began fighting for some form of job protection in the early twentieth century, to avoid losing their jobs to the sister, cousin, or daughter of a politician or school board member. In my reading on the history of tenure, I never saw evidence that teachers wanted to copy higher education, which was then a rich man’s institution. They wanted a modicum of job security to protect them from political interference with their work.

Finn also makes the mistake of confusing teacher tenure with “lifetime employment.” That is a common error. Teacher tenure is NOT lifetime employment. It is a guarantee of due process. If a teacher is accused of an inappropriate action or failure to perform his or her duties, they are entitled to a hearing before an impartial arbitrator. Why is that so onerous? Finn likes the current business model, where a deputy of the boss arrives without notice and says clear out your personal possessions, locks your computer, and escorts you to the door.

He thinks it is a good idea that tenure in higher education is waning but never wonders how “contingent faculty” manage to scrape by on a per-course payment that might add up to only $20,000 a year–or less.

“Tenure arrived in K–12 education as a trickle-down from higher ed. Will the demise of tenure follow a similar sequence? Let us earnestly pray for it—for tenure’s negatives today outweigh its positives—but let us not count on it.

“Almost every time I’ve had an off-the-record conversation in recent years with a university provost, they’ve confided that their institutions are phasing tenure out. Sometimes it’s dramatic, especially when prompted by lawmakers, such as the changes underway at the University of Wisconsin in the aftermath of Governor Scott Walker’s 2015 legislative success, and the bills pending in Missouri and Iowa.

“Often, though, the impulse to contain tenure on their campus arises within the institution’s own leadership and takes the form of hiring far fewer tenured or tenure-track faculty and filling vacancies with what the American Association of University Professors terms “contingent” faculty, i.e., non-tenured instructors, clinical professors, adjunct professors, part-timers, or—especially in medical schools—severing tenure from pay such that professors may nominally win tenure but that status carries no right to a salary unless they raise the money themselves from grants, patients, etc.

“This is happening across much of U.S. postsecondary education, and the data show it. Whereas in the mid-1970’s tenured and tenure-track faculty comprised 56 percent of the instructional staff in American higher ed (excluding graduate students that teach undergrads), by 2011 that figure had shrunk to 29 percent. In other words, seven out of ten college instructions were “contingent” employees—and almost three quarters of those were part-timers…

“In the K–12 world, however, tenure remains the norm for public school teachers in the district sector, vouchsafed in most places by state law and big-time politics, as well as local contracts, even in so-called “right to work” states. It may be achieved after as few as three years of classroom experience and be based on nothing more than “satisfactory” evaluations from a novice teacher’s supervisor during that period. Unfortunately, we have ample evidence that such evaluations are nearly always at least “satisfactory,” if not “outstanding.” Although many states and districts made worthy changes to their evaluation practices in response to long-ago-spent Race to the Top dollars, the pushback against those changes has been intense, the methodology usually had flaws (especially when linking student learning to teacher performances), and lots of places have been backing down. One consequence is that it’s still virtually impossible to fire bad tenured teachers.”

Clearly, Checker thought it was a swell idea to fire teachers based on the test scores of their students, even though this approach was criticized by the American Statistical Association and has not succeeded everywhere.

He does not acknowledge the high rate of attrition among teachers, especially new teachers; about 40% leave without being fired. Most leave because the job is harder than they thought, or the working conditions were intolerable.

What Checker doesn’t show is the alleged benefits of eliminating job security. Where is the district or state that has better schools because it eliminated tenure? Why does he think that districts and states will raise salaries if they eliminate tenure? The same political forces (unions) that protect due process also protect teachers’ compensation.

At a time of a growing national teacher shortage, does it make sense to eliminate job security for teachers, the promise that they will not be fired capriciously?

The challenge today is how to recruit, support, and retain teachers. Checker offers no suggestions to answer these needs. He probably would be satisfied with a steady inflow of Teach for America or other temps.

What most parents want is stability. They want experienced teachers who make a career of teaching, not part-timers and temps. Checker has been stuck for decades on how to get rid of teachers. It is time to think anew about making teaching a desirable career, not a lifetime of near-poverty and sacrifice.

What Finn doesn’t

Mercedes Schneider reviews a new report from the Education Research Alliance in New Orleans. The bottom line: When Louisiana eliminated tenure, teacher turnover increased.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Removing job security encourages attrition. Other research has shown that instability and teacher churn are not good for teaching and learning.

Schneider writes:

“In 2012, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 1, commonly known as the “teacher tenure law.” Moreover, the Louisiana State Department of Education (LDOE) has translated Act 1 into an evaluation system whereby 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is connected to “student learning”– the bottom line of which is student test score outcomes.

Act 1 began in 2012 as House Bill 974. The reason it is called Act 1 is that the 2012 Louisiana legislature rammed it though as the first act, with calculated speed, amid an atmosphere dripping with then-Governor Bobby Jindal’s business-and-industry-backed intention to bring “accountability” in the evaluating of the state’s teachers.

Once 2012 hit, Louisiana teachers began considering how and when to leave the profession. And each year beginning with 2012, Louisiana’s teacher workforce has experienced a noticeable exit of many experienced, seasoned teachers who otherwise would not have likely chosen to leave the profession so soon.

Thus, it comes as no surprise to me that a February 22, 2017, study by the Education Research Alliance (ERA) for New Orleans has found that based on teacher data from 2005 to 2012, Louisiana teachers did indeed begin leaving at a more notable rate, with those retirement-eligible comprising the greatest number of exiters.

Having 25+ years of employment, this group also happened to be the most experienced.

Moreover, it should come as no surprise that schools graded “F” lost the highest number of teachers in the post-Act-1 exit.”

The most experienced teachers left. The leavers disproportionately taught in high-needs schools. Can the state replace? The state seems to have succeeded in creating. A teacher shortage in hard-to-staff schools.



In one of the closest elections in the country, Governor Pat McCrory conceded at last to State Attorney General Roy Cooper in the race for governor.


McCrory came to office as the formerly moderate mayor of Charlotte. Once in office, he joined the far-right wing Tea Party majority in the General Assembly to pass legislation for charters and vouchers, to eliminate the respected North Carolina Teaching Fellows program (which required a five-year education commitment and produced career teachers) and replaced it with a $6 million grant to Teach for America, and enacted law after law to reduce the status of the teaching profession.


To understand the damage that McCrory and his cronies did to the state read this summary of five years of political wrecking imposed on the state.

The corporate reform movement must be popping the champagne corks with the selection of Betsy DeVos as Trump’s Secretary of Education. Finally, a secretary who advocates for the elimination of public schools without embarrassment and who will fight unions and teacher tenure.


As it happens, Betsy DeVos and her husband are funders of Campbell Brown’s website The 74 (along with Walton, Broad, and Bloomberg). And Campbell Brown sits on the board of Betsy DeVos’s  American Federation for Children.


Campbell Brown has launched lawsuits to get teacher tenure declared unconstitutional (her suit in Minnesota was thrown out by the judge). She has fought the unions as protectors of “sexual predators.” DeVos doesn’t like public schools. Neither does Campbell Brown. They both like charters and vouchers.


What a small world!

Teacher Mark Weber, who blogs brilliantly as Jersey Jazzman, was invited to deliver the keynote address the New Jersey Education Association. He thought he might speak about charters or testing or teacher evaluation, but decided instead to talk about how the election of Donald Trump would affect teacher unions and the teaching profession and how teachers must help students who feel targeted by Trump’s divisive rhetoric.

He said that the battle to destroy unions would intensify:

“This union here, the New Jersey Education Association, will be one of the prime targets in the new anti-teachers union era. This union has stood strong for teachers and proudly used its political and other capital to advocate for the best interests of its members, which also – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – happens to be the best interests of this state’s students and their families.

“I am constantly amazed and appalled when people try to make the argument that somehow teacher work conditions and student learning conditions aren’t the same thing. Middle-class wages with decent benefits are necessary if we are to draw talented young people into the profession.

“Job protections, including tenure, are necessary to protect the interests of taxpayers and students, who count on teachers to serve as their advocates within the school system. Safe, clean, well-resourced schools make teaching an attractive profession, but they also lead to better learning outcomes for children.

“Teachers unions are the advocates for these necessary pre-conditions for student learning. Teachers unions are the political force that compels politicians to put necessary funds into public schools. Teachers unions are the groups who make the conditions of teaching better, ensuring that this nation will have a stable supply of educators for years to come.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that right now, public education hangs in the balance. Teacher workplace rights are in serious jeopardy. The ability of NJEA to protect the future of New Jersey’s outstanding public education system – by any measure, one of the finest in the world, in spite of this state’s recent abdication of its role to fully fund its schools – is under dire threat.

“There is only one course to take: we must organize. We must stand strong, we must stand together, and we must refuse to give into desperation. Our families, our colleagues, and our students have always counted on us when they needed us the most – we must not now, nor ever, stop fighting for them or yes, that’s right, for ourselves.”

Turning to the greatest threat from the campaign, Weber spoke about teachers’ duty to protect their students:

“No one should think for one second that our children have not been deeply, deeply affected by this outpouring of hatred. It is worst of all for any child who has been transformed into an “other” by the rhetoric that had infected this campaign.

“I fear for any child who shows up to school after the election wearing a hijab. I fear for any child who wears a hoodie and walks to school through a neighborhood that doesn’t include people who look like him. I fear for any child who is not conforming with our society’s preconceptions about gender. I fear for any child who was not born within our borders, yet who loves the promise of America as much as any of her native sons and daughters.

“The only thing that can ever hope to protect these children is the love of the adults in their lives who know better. If you know better, you can no longer sit on the sidelines. If you know better, but you stay silent, your silence will become violence.

“I pray that I am wrong about Donald Trump. I pray he will grow into his position. I pray he will find some measure of conscience, some level of decency, within himself and rise to the enormous task ahead of him.

“But even if he does, his campaign has emboldened dark forces within our democracy. We saw them in those ugly, violent rallies. We saw them when the so-called “alt-right” said and wrote unspeakably horrible words, spewed across our media and the Internet.

“Those forces will have absolutely no qualms about taking out all their anger and all their hatred on our children. We, my fellow teachers, are an integral part of those children’s defense.

“We can no longer tolerate racially biased classroom and disciplinary practices within our schools: the stakes have just become too high. We can no longer tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic language that, yes, sometimes, sadly, comes from our less-enlightened colleagues: the stakes are now too high. We cannot stand by and allow one kind of schooling to be foisted on one kind of student while another enjoys all the benefits of a truly meaningful education: the stakes are now too high.

“And we can not, we will not, we will refuse to allow politicians to use the alleged “failures” of our urban students to deprive them of adequate funding; to deprive them of a broad, rich curriculum; to deprive them of experienced teachers who look like their students; to deprive them of beautiful, healthy, well-resourced school facilities; and to deprive them of lives outside of school that are free of economic injustice and racial hatred.

“The stakes are too damn high….

“Our civil liberties have been under assault since 9-11; now, they are in even greater peril. And on Tuesday our world may well have become far more dangerous. If there is another leader of a democratic country who has said that he is fine with the use of nuclear weapons, I don’t know who he is.

“I pray I am wrong, but when I rationally consider the future, everything tells me that our students may well soon be living in a world that is less prosperous, less healthy, less free, and less safe.

“They will need us more than ever. They will be hungry and scared and stressed. They will be confused, because, even as we preach to them the importance of self-sacrifice and modesty, this country rewards too many who have lived lives of gluttony and arrogance.

“We must be there for them. We must never stop fighting for them. We must never stop believing in them.”

Earlier today, I posted Mercedes Schneider’s report about Campbell Brown’s failed lawsuit in Minnesota, where she was trying to get another Vergara-style decision to abolish teacher tenure.

I noted that the judge who tossed the lawsuit said that Brown and her “Partnership for Educational Justice” failed to show a connection between low test scores.

But the state’s own filing against the lawsuit added another important point, which I overlooked. Charter schools are disproportionately represented among the state’s lowest scoring schools, and their teachers do not have tenure. That argument blew a huge hole in the claim of Brown and her PEJ that tenure “causes” low test scores.

Here is the quote that Mercedes drew from the state’s document:

“Plaintiffs Lack Standing. The State Defendants demonstrated in their initial memorandum that Plaintiffs lacked standing because their First Amended Complaint failed to identify a concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent “injury-in-fact,” fairly traceable to the teacher tenure laws. … Plaintiffs reiteration of their generalized grievances set forth in the First Amended Complaint do not alter this conclusion.

“Nor will this case remedy Plaintiffs’ alleged harms. … As Plaintiffs acknowledge, eliminating teacher tenure will not ensure Plaintiffs’ children never again receive a teacher they consider “ineffective.” … Furthermore, Plaintiffs also fail to address the causal deficiencies in their claims, including the fact that (1) it is speculative whether elimination of the teacher tenure laws would result in greater teacher “effectiveness” or higher district-wide test scores; and (2) that Minnesota Charter schools, which do not have tenure, are disproportionally represented among Minnesota’s lowest performing schools.”

Mercedes Schneider writes about the recent events in Minnesota, where Campbell Brown and her reform organization (Partnership for Educational Justice) filed a Vergara-style lawsuit against teacher tenure, claiming that tenure has some relation to low test scores and therefore violates the civil rights of students of color who get low test scores.

This same claim cost millions of dollars to litigate in California after a lower court judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Vergara case, but was then overturned in two appeals by higher courts. The billionaires behind corporate reform desperately wanted to have tenure declared a violation of civil rights, and they spent freely to promote that idea. The unions representing teachers wasted dues defending teachers’ right to due process.

But the outcome in Minnesota was different because the judge hearing the case couldn’t find a connection between tenure and test scores!

On October 26, 2016, the Minnesota teacher tenure lawsuit prodded by Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ) hit a roadblock when Ramsey County (MN) Judge Margaret Marrinan tossed out the PEJ-supported (instigated?) Forslund vs. Minnesota suit on the grounds that the suit “failed to establish a link between low academic achievement and the due process provided by the tenure laws,” as the Star Tribune reports.

There is something to be said for common sense.

Rumor hath it that Brown will file suit in other states. Here is hoping that she runs into more judges who are wise and know that she is peddling anti-teacher nonsense.