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Teachers Deserve Voice in Job Rules

Contrary to what education reformers maintain, all teachers are not opposed to changes in the rules affecting the security of their jobs ("Teachers Unions Flunked Their Midterms," The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 7).  Consider what the teaching policy fellows of Teach Plus recommended in the wake of the Vergara v. State of California decision ("After the Vergara case, listen to the teachers," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 13).

They make three major recommendations: extend to four years the time needed to gain tenure, consider both seniority and performance in determining layoffs, and require professional support for new and struggling teachers before dismissal.  What is most newsworthy is that the recommendations come from teachers - rather than from politicians and business leaders.

Teachers are usually portrayed as a monolith set on maintaining the status quo.  But in reality they can be extremely critical about their colleagues who are ineffective. They may not make their feelings public because of professionalism, but they do so among themselves.  Let's not forget that colleagues who are not doing their jobs make the jobs of others more difficult.  

Peer Assistance and Review programs are an example.  Senior teachers mentor both struggling novices and veterans.  If mentoring doesn't result in improved performance, a panel made up of an equal number of teachers and administrators can vote to fire the teacher.

I believe that change is necessary in determining which teachers remain in the classroom.  But at the same time, I think it's vital that the pendulum not swing too far the other way.  How to achieve that balance should be determined by classroom teachers. In higher education, the views of professors are accorded great weight in developing policy.  I fail to see why this model cannot be applied in K-12.

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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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