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Education The Courts

Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional In California 519

Posted by Soulskill
from the maybe-we-could-start-paying-teachers-well-instead dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Tenure laws one of the most controversial aspects of education reform, and now the tide seems to be turning against them. A California judge has handed down a ruling that such laws are unconstitutional, depriving students of an education by sometimes securing positions held by bad teachers. The judge said, "Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience." The plaintiff's case was that "California's current laws make it impossible to get rid of the system's numerous low-performing and incompetent teachers; that seniority rules requiring the newest teachers to be laid off first were harmful; and that granting tenure to teachers after only two years on the job was farcical, offering far too little time for a fair assessment of their skills." This is a precedent-setting case, and there will likely be many similar cases around the country as tenure is challenged with this new ammunition."
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Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional In California

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  • About time... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:16PM (#47208421)

    I worked in schools as an IT guy for several years. I cannot tell you how many bad teachers were there simply because they had tenure. Far, far too many. Teachers should be judged by their ability to teach, impart knowledge, by their merits as educators. Full stop. Test results should count against teachers. As should ability to control the class at large. So many teachers fail in the basics of being an adult. Sadly, college does not prepare teachers to handle conflict, personality traits, student discipline, etc. Most teachers throw their hands up and either declare the children delinquents or send those same children to the office over and over again rather than try and get to the root of the issue.

    I was blessed to have been given the chance to be a mentor for a student that wanted to go into IT via high school graduation and onto college. He was my intern for a school year. All he wanted was to learn in an environment that worked for him, not the stoicism of the classroom. I let him run with tasks to see him work and he shined. I spoke to the couselors about him and his grades for the year in other classes improved markedly because of a little care from someone. Schools suck largely because there is no accountability of the teachers. They "teach" students to pass the state standards exams. There is NO critical thinking taught, no thinking for yourself. Most kids in their senior year don't even know what a dangling participle is, let alone a gerund, or basics like using semicolons. My own intern thought Africa was a single country. He said others think the same. He couldn't find Israel on the giant wall map with the laser pointer.

    Teachers need to be taken to task as well as school administrators. Education is not what it once was, sadly.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:17PM (#47208429)

    The thing is, what I see it do, working at a university, is protect old professors from having to do any work. We have professors who teach one class, or even none at all, do not have a research lab, and are barely around on campus. Yet they are not fired, because revoking tenure is a near impossible process. So they get to collect their paycheck and do next to nothing.

    It doesn't seem to help with regards to unpopular research because you have to do a bunch of research to begin with to get tenure. Who decides if you get it? Your peers, of course. So if you show up and do unpopular research, well then you aren't going to get tenure. It is a very real popularity contest.

    The only way it would help is if someone came in, didn't say what they really wanted to research, did popular research for 6-8 years, got tenure, finished up that research to satisfy the grants they had gotten, then started on their unpopular research. That requires an awful lot of planning and subterfuge. Hence you basically never see it.

    It really seems mostly to function to protect a good old boys club and make sure that if professors want to be completely useless during their twilight years, but not retire so they can still collect more money and get to play big shot on the university's dime, they can do so with no real fear of retaliation.

  • by DarkFencer (260473) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:23PM (#47208455)

    There are important reasons for tenure in K-12 education, especially in this era. K-12 schools (and in turn teachers) in many areas receive incredible pressure from parents. It used to be if a child got poor grades the teacher wasn't the one blamed. Now there are many parents who have spoiled brats who they believe can do no wrong.

    That being said, tenure's protections should exist but should make teacher's positions far less invincible than they are in many areas now. There should be a process of discipline and removal for poor teachers. It should be as objective as possible so as to avoid undue parental pressure.

    Otherwise it creates a perverse incentive for teachers to inflate grades of their students.

  • Re:You make it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:27PM (#47208467)

    Uhhh most states have 'fire at will' laws that mean you can get rid of a person for any reason or no reason whatsoever.

    The long history of public employment abuse definitely shows some sort protection is needed.

  • Re:You make it... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:42PM (#47208837)
    Not all states allow unions to have much power at all. Favoritism and influence can play a huge part in getting School Board employees wrongfully fired. I will not say that I have never seen a lousy teacher but they are rare. I have seen numerous students that never should have been allowed in a classroom. Teachers have not been allowed to fail many students that need to be failed. In my area it seems that the teachers must beg and cajole students not to drop out of school as our beaches and the like are far too tempting and the curse of the GED diplomas causes kids to quite school early. I would suggest that no driver's license be allowed for school drop outs before the age of 35. That one law would stop half of our drop outs from happening. I would also like to se employers refusing to accept drop outs or GED graduates.
  • Re:You make it... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @01:21AM (#47209339)

    Tenure is not due process.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:45AM (#47209903) Journal

    but public pensions aren't self-funded, they have shifted liabilities to future taxpayers.

    [Citation Needed]

    Usually the story of underfunded pensions goes one of two ways:
    1. pension contributions being diverted to other purposes
    2. overly optimistic assumptions about future returns for the pension's investment fund

    if your idea of "the way things used to be" is that a select few lived from the pockets of many, then don't be surprised if that way is now gone.

    "Select few"?
    Again, you're to slanting your language to make pensions some kind of personal offense.
    The reality is that "many" had pension plans and the reason that today, only "a select few" have them,
    is partly a result of their unions fighting to retain what was once considered a basic part of the American dream.

    My idea of "the way things used to be" is a corporate culture where businesses balance the best interests of their share holders with that of their employees.

    Costco's Dilemma: Be Kind To Its Workers, or Wall Street? [googleusercontent.com]
    March 26, 2004

    "From the perspective of investors, Costco's benefits are overly generous," says Bill Dreher, retailing analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. "Public companies need to care for shareholders first. Costco runs its business like it is a private company."

    Costco appears to pay a penalty for its largesse to workers. The company's shares trade at about 20 times projected per-share earnings for 2004, compared with about 24 for Wal-Mart. Mr. Dreher says the unusually high wages and benefits contribute to investor concerns that profit margins at Costco aren't as high as they should be.

    10 years later and you can still read similar complaints about Costco.
    As a whole, America used to be more like Costco than like Wal Mart [cnn.com] (2013)

  • by nbauman (624611) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:53AM (#47209943) Homepage Journal

    Extract "school grades" from standardized tests with local added questions. Measure teachers by the delta in each student between end of last year and end of current year. That way they're only measured on how much the student learns. Put in a demographic correction and there you go. Doesn't add any more tests, really does measure the teacher's teaching instead of the student's performance at grade level.

    People have tried that. It doesn't work.

    According to Diane Ravitch (and pretty much everybody else who has studied the data) the one factor that most strongly predicts standardized test scores (and their delta) is family income. That wipes out every other factor. Once you've done the demographic correction, the effect of the teacher is too small to be measured.

    There's no statistically valid test that measures the teacher's teaching ability.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com]
    Actually, Louis C.K. was right about Common Core — Ravitch
    By Valerie Strauss
    May 3, 2014

    the American Statistical Association issued a report a few weeks ago warning that “value-added-measurement” (that is, judging teachers by the scores of their students) is fraught with error, inaccurate, and unstable. The ratings may change if a different test is used, for example. The ASA report said:

    Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions

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