Views on the Vegara Decision on Teacher Rights

Vergara as a blank-slate opportunity
A system that benefits educators based solely on time put in and not performance leaves little room or incentive for teachers to grow, writes Jonas Chartock in The Hechinger Report. Educators and others across the country should seize the chance offered by the Vergara ruling to recreate policies that support teachers in professional growth. A key piece should focus on ways that teachers can and should lead peers to better student outcomes. For too long, Chartock says, teaching has been conducted behind closed classroom doors, where some excel but where most work with untapped potential. To realize the schools called for by Vergara, great teachers must be given incentive to stay, so their talents can be replicated across many more classrooms. High-poverty schools aren't only losing great teachers to "last in/first out" policies. They're losing them to frustration and more attractive opportunities. Right now, the only professional milestone for most teachers, particularly those who want to stay in the classroom, is tenure. Teachers should have opportunities to embark on careers where they are recognized for and able to leverage their impact. Their success in these roles, ensured by strategic investment in their skill-development, will shift focus from whether or not we're able to fire ineffective teachers to whether we're doing everything we can to keep our best. More

What Vergara ignores
Judge Treu's opinion in Vergara v. California ignores the important balance between dismissing ineffective teachers and attracting and retaining effective teachers, writes Jesse Rothstein in The New York Times. Eliminating tenure won't address the real barriers to effective teaching in impoverished schools, and may worsen them, he says. The challenge is increasing the number of high-quality applicants. Job security recruits good people into teaching. Rothstein's own research points to "three salient facts": First, firing bad teachers makes it harder to recruit new good ones, since new teachers don't know which type they'll be. This risk must be offset with higher salaries -- but that in turn increases class size, harming student achievement. Second, early tenure actually improves student achievement, partly because stable faculties are better for students, but also because an attentive district knows which teachers are good and bad after two years. Finally, the freedom to fire experienced teachers is valuable only when dismissal rates are high, 40 percent or more. Such rates come with costs: possibly firing good teachers, and a detrimental impact on a school's culture. While "clearing the stables" of bad teachers seems attractive, Rothstein feels it's nearly impossible in practice. No system can eliminate all "grossly ineffective" teachers, and efforts to do so are more harmful than good. More

Vergara is right and wrong
Is Judge Rolf Treu's premise correct? asks Dana Goldstein in The Atlantic. Will axing tenure and seniority lead directly to better test scores and higher lifetime earnings for poor kids? Goldstein agrees that California's teacher-tenure system makes no sense: Research shows most first-year teachers are mediocre, but many make huge jumps in effectiveness by the end of their second year. California evaluates for tenure in March of year two, before full student-teacher data are available. Once a teacher earns tenure, it costs thousands of dollars to permanently remove him. And with budget cuts or school closings, California law mandates least experienced teachers be laid off first. But Judge Treu is mistaken that simply eliminating these laws will systemically raise student achievement. For high-poverty schools, hiring is as big a challenge as firing, and Vergara does nothing to help schools attract or retain the best teachers. Too few excellent teachers will work long-term in racially isolated and impoverished neighborhoods, for reasons ranging from racism and classism to higher principal turnover that makes for chaotic workplaces. And poor schools are more likely to focus on standardized test prep, which teachers dislike. Educational equality is about making schools that serve poor children attractive to the smartest, most ambitious people. This is more difficult, it turns out, than overturning tenure laws. More

Source:  Public Education News Blast

Published by LEAP

Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP) is an education support organization that works as a collaborative partner in high-poverty communities.

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