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Education The Courts

Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional In California 519

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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  • You make it... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:04PM (#47208363)
    Sound like it is a bad thing...
  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:07PM (#47208375)

    Tenure exists to ensure that professors can pursue unpopular lines of inquiry without being troubled by university politics. It makes no sense in primary or secondary education.

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

    by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:12PM (#47208401)
    this is the best news to happen to k-12 education in a long time.

    some background facts. primary school tenure was first designed as part of the progressive movement in the early 1900s. At the time a teaching position was a super sweet patronage position that a politician awarded his friends. teachers didn't actually do anything, and were replaced when the next pol came in. Nobody was learning!

    one of the successes of the progressive movement was to make a professional class of primary school teachers who were insulated from political fortunes and were professionally schooled in the art of teaching. This was accomplished through employment contracts that made it really hard to fire teachers.

    but the reasons that necessitated tenure are long gone, and all teachers are protected under the standard laws for hiring and firing, which cover us all. They also have a strong union that will ensure protections. So there's no need for special laws that give teachers more advantages than everybody else at the expense of their students.
  • Re:Good (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:24PM (#47208459)

    Until you consider EXACTLY how unpopular hard teachers are with students, and parents, because they make the students learn, not just pass them blindly.

    Especially when it's the football team.

    But hell, I'll believe politicians care about tenure when they start voting themselves out.

  • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:32PM (#47208491)

    Goodbye Lousy Teacher's!

    Goodbye Older, Higher-Paid Teachers!

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

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:42PM (#47208535)
    Some of the details of California's rules really seemed ripe for this ruling, but I don't think that it's ultimately necessary to throw out the entire concept. Case in point, two years? That is too short. The word "tenure" itself was based on an expectation that it would take ten years to get there.

    On the other hand, teachers can only work with the students that they are assigned. The only way to fairly assess teacher performance is to compare not only the performance of the students during the year that they're assigned to that teacher, but to compare all other years both before and after.

    The simplest way to do this is to remove assessment from the teacher's responsibilities. Let teachers teach, let section, unit, quarter, and semester tests be a function of the school district or the state, and use curriculum services to ensure that what the teachers are asked to teach actually matches what the district or state expects them to do. This frees up teacher time from rote grading of exams, and lets them spend more time on their lesson plans and on extra assistance if students need it.

    The other advantage is that now one can track both the student's achievement across multiple teachers, and the teachers' achievement across multiple students over multiple years, and how those students have done as they've progressed through the grades. This allows the school district as the employer to identify teachers that are struggling or are bad-fits for the grades that they're teaching, or to identify teachers whose majority of students do poorly for the long term. It also lets the system identify teachers that receive severely underperforming students, to honestly assess how they do with students that come in to a school year without the fundamentals needed to succeed on the level that they're normally expected to.

    It can also show exemplary teachers that take students that are highly underperforming and bringing them up to levels to succeed.
  • Re:You make it... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:54PM (#47208601)
    The administrator doing that would be sued into oblivion and never work in education again. Seriously, people love to make up absurd circumstances for why we need strict government control over certain things, yet those things would never happen due to the consequences.
  • Re:You make it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @10:59PM (#47208629)

    What consequences? You took out due process. Now that you have removed due process, any elected school board member can just fire all those teachers.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:00PM (#47208639)

    In every job I've ever held (IT and later engineering), I've seen employees abused by management. The employees ranged from bad to mediocre to great.

    Unpaid OT (as non-exempt), unpaid on-call time 24/7/365, vacation blackouts with a use-it-or-lose-it policy, reprimands for not completing insane workloads and salary / promotion denial are some of the ways in which I have personally witnessed management abusing employees. Some of these things not only happened to myself, but the majority of my coworkers at 4 separate mid to large organizations.

    You will not normally win a lawsuit against your employer with the current labor laws. They will get away with abuse after abuse until something changes.

    These corporations thrive through abusing the working class. Stop defending this behavior.

  • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:03PM (#47208647)

    Universities have decreased in tenure and didn't give it out easily to begin with; that is what I've been told, I don't have data to back that up but in my experience, only 1 person in the dept had tenure. It took the poor guy just 4 years from retirement to finally get it; the rest are probably not going to get it and they are not much younger.

    Meanwhile teachers in k-12 only have to survive without making waves for 2 years and they are set. Now, people might hear that they can't be fired; but that is NOT the case. It depends on the system how bad that is.

    The standardized testing system is a joke and you won't make it much better than the joke it is. Unlike most subjects, education is a FUZZY topic and trying to quantify it is is impossible to do. But we are making idiotic metrics so that we can "fix" the system along those metrics...

    The reality is, from what I heard from a big player in the GOP is the plan is to RUIN public education and destroy the union as well. People like education too much so they must be made to hate it, then they will be receptive to formerly unpopular ideas like privatization of schooling and letting the poor fend for themselves -- a neocon dreamland. The expensive debt producing No Child Left Behind was designed to harm the system; it had no motives other than that. I got it from the horse's mouth.

    Their plans have worked extremely well. we hate the unions, we hate teachers, we love accountability but hate that people wanting to keep their jobs are teaching to the tests we measure them on. Education is turning into wrote learning; which is great if your future is at Walmart or in a 1st world sweat shop. The elite can pay for better schools (because they are better humans; duh! they have more money ) so their kids can learn to rule. History repeats... One has to expect it to trend towards the norm of human history (which never was democracy or upward mobility.)

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:09PM (#47208671)

    The others will be evaluated highly time and again. Hence the majority of teachers (which are incompetent, have no doubt) tried to secure their positions by lobbying for these laws. The same is, incidentally, going on with professors.

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:11PM (#47208687)

    My old professors who had retired from research were the best I had. The younger ones were all too focused on their research ("other job") to be an effective instructor. The older ones still taught because they loved to teach and it really showed in their classes.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:19PM (#47208731)

    I think you woefully underestimate the office politics in primary school administration. There are far too many administrators who want to micromanage their teachers and/or suck up to parents. And the "unpopular" part is telling parents that it's their fault - or their kid's fault - that he or she got a bad grade, especially when that parent can march into the office and complain to the principal thereafter.

    It's not exactly the same as at college, but the pressures are there. The process to get rid of bad teachers needs to be objective, and merely eliminating tenure to restore "fire at will" will be nothing of the sort.

  • by chihowa ( 366380 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:24PM (#47208759)

    So they get to collect their paycheck and do next to nothing.

    That must vary by field.

    In the sciences, if a professor doesn't bring in funding for research, doesn't have any administrative roles, and doesn't teach, they don't get a paycheck. Their lab space will eventually be taken away and they will be left with only an office (which may be downgraded, Office Space style, to let active faculty have the nicer offices). It's a pretty pathetic way to go out and very few people seem to do it.

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

    by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:25PM (#47208769)

    That's very very unlikely to happen. The school board and parents would come down hard on any administrator who was that dumb.

    Should we give IT workers tenure too? What if the boss threatened to fire everyone who doesn't want to program in VB6? See I too can come up with completely ridiculous examples to prove non-existent points.

  • Re:Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:29PM (#47208789)

    What, you mean like refusing to teach teach intelligent design ?

    How about a teacher who ARE good but is not anti-gay or not anti-abortion within the bible belt ?

    How about teachers who ARE good but are unpopular because they have high homework requirements, or they have a non nonsense in class attitude.

  • Bad Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twistedcubic ( 577194 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:33PM (#47208807)
    Your example shows that if a knowledgable person takes a single student under their wing, the student might thrive. Now, imagine yourself in front of a classroom full of 30 students, most of whom are totally uninterested in your field. Do you have the same amount of time to commit to that one student who is really interested? You can't compare yourself to "bad" teachers, for you might be a bad teacher yourself under the same circumstances. Anyone can be a great teacher to one bright, really interested student.
  • Re:You make it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:48PM (#47208863) Journal

    The abuses go both ways.

    No, the abuse is always top down. The more power, the more abuse. And why should we have to go to court for every damn thing? That's half the problem anyway, write crappy rules and let the courts "fix" it. Damn lawyers have more clout than anybody... well, after accountants..

  • Re:You make it... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:48PM (#47208865) Homepage

    You missed bits and pieces like. Whose fault is the student teacher ratio, the students, the teachers or the administration. Interactive learning experiences that help engage students in learning and put lessons skills into practice, how often are they provided, student's fault, teacher's fault or administration's fault. How about teachers skills, science teachers teaching science, maths teachers teaching math, computer teachers teaching computers, so inappropriate teacher assignment, student's fault, teacher's fault or administration's fault. Quality of teaching environment, student's fault, teacher's fault or administration's fault. Hmm, you know what, politicians purposeful running public schools into the ground by reducing funding, screwing around with student teacher ratios, cutting back on learning experiences and providing a poor quality learning environment and then blaming it all on teachers are real douche bags.

    What is the impact of chopping and changing teachers mid-school. Tenure must be earned and can readily be denied by the simple act of letting the teacher go prior to earning tenure and tenure also binds the teacher to the school to take another position means giving up tenure.

    So some politically motivated judge makes a pretty crap ruling based upon ideology and not law. As no teacher is bound to the students, they are bound to the school and only after having substantiated their worth over an extended period and basically can only be fired for failing to perform their duties properly and not because of random short term cut backs, politics, beliefs or any other biased reason. This to create a stable and properly structured learning environment for the students, sound teacher retention practices are really required. Of course for knee jerk right wing idiots with little knowledge or understanding of anything outside of their own personal greed, how well schools run, meh who gives a crap, as long as you can blame the failure on someone else whilst cashing in.

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

    by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2014 @11:49PM (#47208867)
    I love hearing the terms "protected by US employment law". It sounds akin to "protected from flame thrower by first dousing one self with canister of petrol".
  • by Camael ( 1048726 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:05AM (#47208943)

    Seems to me that strict government control over government funded education (i.e. public schools) is legitimate. I await your argument as to why it's not.

    Bear in mind, I'm advocating loose government control instead of strict and not complete lack of control.

    1. Strict controls increase the administrative costs of having to comply with the rules and regulations. For every requirement dreamed of by bureaucrats, someone has to see to it that the requirement is met. This will unnecessarily inflate the budgets of schools, some of which are already operating on a shoestring.

    2. Strict controls distract the teachers from doing what they should be doing- educating students. I'd rather the teachers concentrate on how to improve their students' understanding of their lessons rather than be fixated on whether or not they have fulfilled their quota of hours spent teaching, etc.

    3. Strict controls in the form of standardized curricula, teaching methods and tests stifle creativity and innovation. If we accept that all humans are unique and different, why do we apply a one-size-fits-all approach to educating students? And if we search our memories of our most highly regarded teachers, it is often the case that said teacher went above and beyond the standard teaching methods to teach the students.

    4. Strict controls disempower the teachers from exercising their discretion and choosing the most effective means to educate their students. There is obviously a big difference between how you would teach a class of students from a privileged background as compared to say students from a ghetto neighbourhood who may be distrustful of authority.

    These are some points just off the top of my head. I will grant you that there are many horror stories of lazy teachers, corrupt school administrators etc in the education system, but the better approach would be to remove these people rather than introduce more rules and regulations to try and control their behaviour.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:17AM (#47209009)

    Everyone wants only the best and most talented teachers in the schools. Overlooking the labelling of teachers as "terrible" and "lazy public service employees". The best teachers, with bargain rate starting salaries. The best teachers, who will be denied pensions or retirement if they don't perform for 30 or more years in an oppressive bureaucracy. The best teachers who could otherwise be working in private industry, writing quality textbooks, expanding scientific knowledge, exploring the depths of culture, instead of babysitting the cretinous offspring of John and Jane Sixpack.

    You don't get to have the best teachers. You get to have teachers who WANT TO TEACH. And we should support those teachers, we should be throwing money into the school system. That Silicon Valley libertarian goat fucker can go fuck a goat.

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

    by twistedcubic ( 577194 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:18AM (#47209011)
    Of course, now the best teachers will flock to the poorest schools since they no longer have job security. It's about time! I refuse to work for any Wall Street firm which gives year-end bonuses. How can you attract the best and brightest by making the job more attractive? That's insane.
  • Re:You make it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dentin ( 2175 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:19AM (#47209021) Homepage

    While I can at some level understand refusing dropouts, refusing GED graduates is stupid. The GED is basically the outer 'catch' block of the primary school system, and without it, there's no legitimate way to get a diploma if you have unusual circumstances. The fact that some kids use it to 'escape' primary school should tell you that there's either a problem with primary schooling, or that the GED process isn't sufficiently strong - but in both cases, the solution to the problem is NOT to make the GED worthless.

  • mixed bag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rutulian ( 171771 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:20AM (#47209033)

    Tenure is a mixed bag. Yes, it can protect bad teachers, but it also...
          1) Protects experienced senior teachers. You might not think this is important, but guess what? Older, experienced teachers are generally more expensive and have more political influence. Hip new administrator comes in, wants to to change things up, slim down the budget. Get rid of the older teachers first beacuse the younger are cheaper and easier to control.
          2) Protects good teachers. You know the ones that actually teach and care about education, and don't just give A's to everyone for showing up and sitting at their desk. Actual teaching and enforcing academic standards tends to upset certain kinds of parents. Administrators don't like vocal and upset parents.
          3) Protects teachers that push against the administration. Not teaching to the test, enriching the curriculum, doing what might be considered risky things by some ( lab experiments, field trips, etc). Administration often doesn't want this, because it creates headaches for them, but teachers want it because it enhances the education of their students.
          4) In areas with strong influence by outside political groups, protects teachers that teach controversial subjects. Science vs. creationism is one example, but certainly not the only one. History, economics, literature, art...all of these can have controversial topics. Of course, we don't really teach these anymore, but that is a different topic.

    Whether or not tenure exists and how it is granted is really missing the point. If you want to improve the quality of teachers, we need to be looking at the evaluation systems that are in place, whether they exist, and why they may or may not be working. Most teachers simply are never evaluated ever, or they are evaluated in completely useless ways. Address that, and then maybe we can deal more easily with underperforming teachers, adjusting the tenure rules as necessary but keeping its major benefits.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:26AM (#47209057)
    Why not simply let the parents (customers/taxpayers) decide, instead of locking them into a bad teacher who's only qualification is having been employed for a certain period? Tenure is more suited to higher education, where topics are more subjective than the fundamentals taught in compulsory school.

    I'd guess your're Brit (? - "neighbourhood "), but this article is in relation to the US.

    It may on rare occasion occur, but I don't think a teacher who changes their teaching style to suit an individual student is in much danger of being dismissed because they lack tenure.

    In the US, tenure is more related to union/protectionism than to academic freedom.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:53AM (#47209227)

    Re. Why should older teachers be (more than a little) higher paid?

    Because they are more experienced, duh!

    Would you hire an experienced surgeon to operate on you or one just out of school? Would you hire an experienced lawyer to represent you or one who just passed their bar exam?

    So why the question with experienced teachers? I suggest you take a look at your influences, sources of information and your idealogical persuasions for an answer.

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

    by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @01:37AM (#47209425)

    Teacher tenure, at least when I had family members who were teachers, was not the same as university tenure where you can't be fired. There was always a chance to be fired if you screwed up. Early stages of tenure meant you didn't have to renegotiate your contract every year or wait until just before the school year starts to find out if you still have your job (at which point it's too late to find a teaching job at another school or district).

  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @02:06AM (#47209571)

    Seems to me that strict government control over government funded education (i.e. public schools) is legitimate. I await your argument as to why it's not.

    Bear in mind, I'm advocating loose government control instead of strict and not complete lack of control.

    When you say "loose government control", some people hear, "anarchy". Just like when you say, "lower taxes", they hear, "elimination of all taxation". No intermediate states are contemplated, or even considered possible.

  • Re:mixed bag (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @03:36AM (#47209877)
    On one hand, tenure has their downsides. Many of teachers abuse the position, either having their business on the side, and instead of addressing students, you have to go through their assistants, or are asses to the students, and generally create an environment that stands between a feudal lordship and a corporate/political ass-licking ladder. I only remember fondly a couple of teachers who really cared, and one of them was one of our really most difficult subject, calculus. The others were rotten apples, and the new arrivals were quickly infected. On that aspect, tenure does not work. On the other hand, we can see quickly where this one is heading. Teachers outside the tenure, and specially outside uni, are kicked around and little more than cannon fodder, and I sincerely doubt this is not just a final blow to undervaluate the price of man/hour of the whole teaching profession.
  • Re:You make it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @05:47AM (#47210441)

    Teachers should be aggressively recruited the same way Google

    Oh god please no.

    I want to be taught by someone who can teach, not someone who can solve stupid undergrad engineering puzzles.

    My best school teachers were a geography grad who'd spent his previous working life as a Yorkshire miner (and geography was the least interesting subject he taught), one socially retarded biology PhD who lived with his mother but couldn't have had a better combination of discipline and enthusiasm, and one conservative ex-Cambridge tutor who stank of BO and pounded his fist on the desk at regular intervals with a passion that sometimes built up to throwing a chair across the room, but fuck me did he know and love his stuff and gave you infinite one-to-one time as needed. These are the sort of people who won't ace any stupid technical interview made by young upstarts for young upstarts, but start the game with a lot of knowledge and experience and spend decades perfecting the art of teaching.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton