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Teachers Guilty By Association

The McCarthy era of the 1950's destroyed the careers of those who had associated in one way or another with Communist party members. I thought of this shameful period when I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about some 1,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District who are unable to find positions in the district because they previously taught at low-performing schools that are undergoing restructuring ("Teachers from low-performing schools face stigma on job search," Jul. 8).

Although they have enough seniority under the union contract to guarantee them employment, they have become pariahs in the eyes of hiring principals because they are presumed to be in their situation as a result of ineffectiveness in the classroom. I don't doubt that a small number of them fall into this category, but I think most of them are being punished for factors beyond their control. For example, some of them found themselves displaced because of declining enrollment at their former schools. Others were victims of the decision by the Board of Education to turn over several campuses to independently operated charter schools, which are permitted to do their own hiring.

As the new superintendent of the LAUSD, John Deasy has taken a middle stance on the issue. According to the Times, he sent an internal memo to principals to start hiring teachers who are entitled to positions. But at the same time, he has warned against moving ineffective teachers from school to school in what used to be known as the dance of the lemons. However, it's sometimes a fine line between the two groups.

Whether restructuring schools by getting rid of all teachers and bringing in new ones will produce the desired outcomes is questionable. Research on the subject has shown mixed results so far. For teachers who are innocent victims of the shakeup, however, the humiliation is almost as painful as the anxiety.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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