Gov. Brown appeals Vergara ruling

California Gov. Jerry Brown has filed an appeal of the Vergara ruling that struck down traditional job protections for teachers.

The state’s two largest teacher unions also will appeal.

The decision, by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, threw out the state’s tenure process for elementary teachers, reports the Los Angeles Times. “It also stripped instructors of rules that made dismissing them more difficult and expensive than firing other state employees. And he eliminated regulations that made seniority the primary factor in deciding which teachers to lay off.”

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, a Democrat and teachers union ally, issued a statement backing the appeal.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.”

Torlakson faces a strong challenger, education reformer Marshall Tuck, in the November election.

Judge confirms Vergara ruling

The judge in Vergara vs. California has finalized his June ruling that state laws on teacher employment — including seniority-based layoffs and tenure — deny disadvantaged students access to a quality public education.

In his final ruling, filed yesterday, Judge Rolf Treu, said, “plaintiffs have met their burden of proof on all issues presented.”

The state and its two largest teachers unions have 60 days to appeal. The unions will file, but the state of California may not.

California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't taken a stand yet on the Vergara ruling overthrowing teacher protection laws.

California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t taken a stand yet on the Vergara ruling overthrowing teacher protection laws.

California Democrats have avoided comment while awaiting Treu’s final decision, writes Chris Reed on Fox & Hounds.

Gov. Jerry Brown is cruising to re-election against a little-known opponent. He could go for a place in history by admitting that “teachers unions are bad for minorities,” writes Reed.

State Superintendent Tom Torklakson — a named defendant in the suit — is facing a tough fight against reformer Marshall Tuck, who’s been endorsed by all the major newspapers in the state.  Tuck has called on Torlakson not to appeal the ruling.

Torlakson will stick with his “greatest patron during his political rise — the California Teachers Association,” predicts Reed.

Public: 21% of teachers deserve D or F

Americans think half of teachers in their local schools deserve a grade of A or B, while more than a fifth are doing D or F work, reports Education Next‘s 2014 poll. ednext_XV_1_poll_fig03-small

Teachers say 69 percent of their colleagues deserve an A or B, while 8 percent perform at the D level and 5 percent merit an F.

Half of the non-teachers opposed teacher tenure, while one third favored it. “Even 65 percent of respondents who favor tenure say it should be based on student performance,” reports Ed Next.

Teachers endorse tenure by a two-to-one margin and only a third of teachers support basing tenure on student test performance.

Fifty-seven percent of the public supports “basing part of the salaries of teachers on how much their students learn.” Only 21 percent of teachers back merit pay.

More than one-fourth of all families with school-age children have educated a child in a setting other than a traditional public school.

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Teachers are as likely to use private, charter or homeschooling.

Public support for Common Core State Standards has eroded in the last year, the survey found.

People like Common Core’s goals, but the “brand” has been damaged, writes Mike Petrilli.

While 39 of voters say the economy is the number one issue that will influence their vote in November, education is the second most important issue, cited by 16 percent of voters according to the new Reason-Rupe poll.

Twenty-five percent of Democrats, but only 12 percent of Republicans, say education will have the most influence on their vote in the midterm elections. African Americans (36 percent) and Hispanics (25 percent) are more likely than whites (14 percent) to rank education as their top issue.

Once a lunch lady, García will run NEA

Lily Eskelsen García will become president of the National Education Association. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Her first job after high school was “salad girl” in a school cafeteria. She worked her way through college playing the guitar in coffeehouses and became Utah’s teacher of the year. On Sept. 1, Lily Eskelsen García, 59, will take over as head of the National Education Association, reports the Washington Post.

The NEA is the nation’s largest labor union, representing one in 100 Americans. But it’s been losing membership and political support.

She is already fighting back with blunt talk, urging teachers nationwide to revolt against “stupid” education reforms and telling politicians to leave teaching to the professionals.

Her first priority: Putting the brakes on standardized testing, an issue she says she believes will resonate not only with her members but also with parents — important potential allies for the political clashes she sees ahead. García says that the country is in the grip of testing mania, the quest for high scores killing joy, narrowing curriculums and perverting the learning process.

“I’ll be damned if I will sit quietly and play nice and say diplomatic things about something that has corrupted the profession I love,” García said.

The union has clashed with the Obama administration on testing and teacher evaluations, notes the Post. In July, the NEA demanded Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s resignation.

Duncan and Rep. George Miller, a liberal Democrat, “shocked teachers in June when they applauded a Los Angeles judge’s ruling that California’s teacher tenure laws were unconstitutional,” reports the Post.

The movement to weaken teachers’ job protections has gone national.

García, an elementary teacher, got into union politics after being chosen “teacher of the year.” At a union conference, she played her guitar and sang an original composition: “I’m-a-Teacher-and-I-Got-To-Work-In-Utah Blues.”

The daughter of a Panamanian immigrant, Garcia was the first in her family to go to college.

Her husband of 38 years committed suicide three years ago after struggling with depression for years.

“Both her sons have struggled with drug addiction,” reports the Post. The younger son, has spent time in prison for theft and burglary. García, who adopted Jared when he was 4, rescuing him from an early childhood of abuse, said, “I thought: ‘I’m a great teacher. I’ve got all this love.’ But that’s not how it works.”

Just-OK teachers — not bad ones — are the problem

Teacher tenure took a hit on The View last week.  “Bad teachers don’t do anybody any good,” said co-host Whoopi Goldberg. “So the union needs to recognize that parents aren’t going to stand for it anymore.”

“I love teachers, I respect them fully, but who is respecting the students?” said co-host Jenny McCarthy.

Goldberg released a video in response to criticism from teachers. “I am all about teachers,” she says. “My mom was a teacher. I like great teachers. I don’t like bad teachers. I don’t think bad teachers should be given the gift of teaching forever badly.”

Defenders of traditional job security rights for teachers should be very worried about a shift in the popular culture.

The problem isn’t “bad” teachers, writes Maureen Downey in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They usually don’t get tenure. It’s not teachers who show up drunk and pantless (and unphotogenic) in class. There aren’t many of those. The problem is the “just-OK” teachers. There are lots of those.

Can the sober, properly dressed, not terrible but not very effective teachers become “fantastic” teachers? Or maybe just competent?

‘Good apples’ need tenure

Teacher tenure is for good apples too, writes Arthur Goldstein in the New York Daily News.

A career-switching friend lost his teaching job after asking why his special-ed students weren’t getting the help they’d been promised, writes Goldstein. He didn’t have tenure.

Without tenure, I’d probably be in Harry’s place. I teach English as a second language, usually to beginners, at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

One year, I had two students who spoke English but couldn’t read or write. One had been kicking around city schools for years.

He had a strategy for pushy teachers like me. He listened intently and participated orally as much as possible. But when I sat him down and wrote words like “mother” and “house,” he could not decode them at all. I contacted his mother, who knew of his problem. I sought help in the building.

Around this time, I read an article in the paper about ESL. I called the writer to comment. The story of my illiterate students came up, and he asked me if he could write about it. I wasn’t sure. He asked me whether I had tenure. I told him I did; he said it shouldn’t be a problem.

After the writer asked the city Education Department about my two students, I was immediately summoned into the principal’s office. He heartily condemned my ingratitude.

He was “scrutinized constantly,” but couldn’t be fired, writes Goldstein, a union chapter leader.

Teaching “entails advocating for our students, your kids, whether or not the administration is comfortable with it,” he writes. Without tenure, teachers who stand up for their students will take a huge risk.

Only the bad apples need tenure, responds RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation.  “It’s admirable that Goldstein looks out for the kids in his care,” but “he is already covered under New York State’s civil service law, which provides rather reasonable protections against unfair dismissals.”

NEA tells Duncan to resign

Arne Duncan should resign, said National Education Association delegates at the teachers’ union’s annual convention.

A tipping point for some members was Duncan’s statement last month in support of a California judge’s ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state’s public school teachers. In harsh wording, the judge said such laws harm particularly low-income students by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.

Even before that, teachers’ unions have clashed with the administration over other issues ranging from its support of charter schools to its push to use student test scores as part of evaluating teachers.

“I always try to stay out of local union politics,” responded Duncan. “I think most teachers do too.”

Weaker teachers leave under new tenure policy

Ineffective teachers were more likely to leave voluntarily after New York City principals got tougher on awarding tenure, according to a working paper by Stanford researchers. After a new policy was adopted in 2009-10, few teachers were denied tenure but many more had their probationary period extended instead of receiving tenure.

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“Extended” teachers who were less effective — by principals’ judgments and value-added measures — were the most likely to leave, reports Ed Week‘s Stephen Sawchuck. They were replaced by stronger teachers, on average.

The district started supplying more data on teachers to principals, asking them to weigh performance observations, reviews of teachers’ lesson plans, and in limited instances “value-added” data based on test scores. And it began requiring principals to justify their decisions about whether to grant or deny tenure—particularly if it didn’t match up with the data. Principals could also extend the tenure decision for another year if they weren’t ready to make a final call.

The new policy improved the overall quality of the teaching force, the study concluded.

Teachers in schools with high concentrations of black and low-performing students were more likely to be “extended,” the study found. “We have a chicken-and-the-egg problem here,” said United Federation of Teachers spokesman Dick Riley. “Were people less likely to have probation extended because their kids are more successful, or is it the other way around?”

If I just had tenure . . .

The teacher tenure song:

After Vergara, will tenure survive?

While he supports the Vergara verdict, Rick Hess doubts the courts can order higher quality of schools.

California’s employment laws have made it ridiculously tough on school systems to do anything about lousy teachers. There are 275,000 teachers in California. Even if just one to three percent of teachers are lousy, as defense expert David Berliner estimated, one would expect 3,000 to 8,000 teachers to be dismissed each year for unsatisfactory performance. Instead, the average is just 2.2. Meanwhile, Los Angeles superintendent John Deasy testified that it costs his school system between $250,000 and $450,000 to remove just one tenured teacher for poor performance.

The unions have  “used the courts to protect generous benefits, challenge layoffs, attack school choice, and force states to spend more on K-12,” writes Hess. Now they’ve discovered the virtues of judicial restraint.

However, “courts have a long history of failing to weigh costs and benefits and imposing requirements that prove bureaucratic and unworkable,” writes Hess.

 Indeed, if courts can order legislatures to abolish tenure, what else might they require? If plaintiffs pick the right judge and present the right experts, can they get judges to require that pre-K teachers need to have an education school teaching credential? Can judges order schools to adopt the Common Core, if they think that will help ensure that all students are held to an equal standard? Can judges order legislators to double teacher pay, if that’s what they think it’ll take to ensure that all students have a chance to learn?

If the decision holds up on appeal, California legislators will write new education laws they hope will satisfy the judge. They’re likely to lessen, but not eliminate, barriers to dismissing ineffective teachers, predicts Eric Hanushek.

Students Matter, which brought the lawsuit, hopes to challenge tenure laws in other states, such as New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon, reports Time.

“This is gay marriage,” said Terry Mazany, who served as interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools from 2010-2011. “Without a doubt, this could happen in other states.”

Union leaders had to know that California’s tenure and LIFO (last in first out) laws were “indefensible,” writes John Merrow. Young teachers — and more of the teaching force is young —  pay the price when layoffs are strictly by seniority, he adds.