States rethink teacher pay, job security

Teachers’ unions are fighting on many fronts to preserve tenure and seniority rights and stave off plans to link pay to students’ performance. Florida Gov. Charlie Christ’s veto of SB 6 appears to be one battle in a nationwide war on the status quo.

In Colorado, the state teachers’ union is threatening to torpedo the state’s second-round Race to the Top application unless legislators abandon an attempt to make it easier to fire poor teachers by giving more control the state board of education.  The bill is not anti-teacher, the Denver Post editorializes.

It calls for the kinds of reforms that would help develop good teachers into great teachers, and eventually ensure a quality teacher in every classroom.

. . . The reform mandates that at least half of a teacher’s evaluation depend on academic growth of that teacher’s students.

A California bill backed by the governor would “enable districts to lay off teachers based on a district’s subject needs and teacher effectiveness, instead of by seniority,” notes Educated Guess.

. . . a civil rights lawsuit filed by the ACLU and other public-interest attorneys against the state and Los Angeles Unified, challenging seniority-based layoffs, may improve chances of at least the seniority piece becoming law. That would be a major step forward.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this year on behalf of students at three low-performing middle schools, noted the constant churn of new teachers at these schools, where seniority rules make it next to impossible for principals to hire and keep teachers they want.

SB 955 would give principals more latitude in reassigning and transferring teachers. Passage of the bill would make it imperative that districts come up with more comprehensive and transparent teacher evaluations.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is pushing “a list of everything the unions oppose,” writes Education Week, including “charter schools, teacher evaluations tied to student test scores and public schools’ ability to sidestep teacher salary schedules and tenure rules.”

Two bills are drawing much of the ire from the unions: one measure would make public schools function more like charter schools by letting them get waivers from state law and education policies and another would rate teachers in part on student test scores and make it easier to dismiss them if they fail repeated reviews.

Jindal would allow waivers of  teacher salary schedules, teacher certification and student-teacher ratios.

Low-performing schools would have to improve students’ standardized test scores when having the waiver, or face takeover by the state. Higher-performing schools that don’t improve while having a waiver wouldn’t be able to get it renewed.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who’s trying to cut teachers’ pay to balance the budget,  accused teachers of using scare tactics and “using the students like drug mules” to survey their parents on whether they plan to vote in today’s election and why.

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  1. the problem with all of this teacher accountability is that the students have little stock in their own success. teachers’ pay is based on the performance of someone else.

    think about it like this: on a production line, the manager is paid based on the amount produced by his line, which is run by 100 other people. those people are paid the same amount regardless of how much they produce. what incentive do those people have to perform well? none!

    and so it goes in schools — students know they aren’t going to be held back a grade if they fail. maybe by 11th grade they are taking school more seriously, but in 3-8th grade, students are not taking their education as a whole seriously. (okay, in my district they are not.)

    they take the test seriously — they hate it, but they try hard. for that week. and the rest of the year they play b/c if they fail they can just go to summer school and move on. and their parents will most likely blame the failure on the teacher’s teaching skills or something rather than the student’s lack of effort. the students really do not have an incentive to do well on standardized testing. so, teacher’s are screwed.

  2. The reform mandates that at least half of a teacher’s evaluation depend on academic growth of that teacher’s students.

    academic growth based on work samples? performance of a variety of tasks? conferences at which the students explain what they’ve done and how their work meets the state standards?

    or hours crouched over a pencil and a bubble sheet?

    Yeah, that’s what I thought.

  3. Bill Leonard says:

    At least half of a teacher’s evaluation ought to depend on the academic growth of that teacher’s students? Seems to me the people of Colorado, if not those in its legislature, ought to know better.

    What happens to the teacher’s evaluation if a significant percentage of the class, at any given moment, are illegals, the children of illegals, and/or migrant workers? That is exactly the sort of class makeup a friend, retired for about five years now from an elementary district in east San Jose, CA, had to deal with. In practice, the kid typically spoke little to no English, and was in the second, maybe third school that year — not counting significant gaps in between. The kid showed up in Marcdh or April, and might or might not be there at the end of the school year in June. What progress is this kid likely to have made?

    Before the people of Colorado or any state start enacting bullshit like this, maybe someone in the federal government ought to take a serious look at immigration issues, including but not limited to, protecting our borders and deporting those who are part of the northern-surging human tsunami. But don’t hold your breath either that anyone in the fed will take a look, or that the tsunami will abate.


  4. Arizona teachers are all now freelance workers, under a finite contract. The day after the school year ends, no contract = file for unemployment. EVERYTHING work related can be written off taxes. Teachers were only allowed $250 for teacher deductions, now that you’re freelance, all expenditures can be written off. Do you use a room in your house for work? Write-off part of your mortgage. If all teachers make the adjustments to their taxes, they will save a lot of money and the legislature will have a coronary from the loss of revenue.


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