Reason #2 Why CTA Should Reimagine Permanent Status Now
The appeal to the Vergara case will be heard very soon. I don't claim to be psychic so I am making a well educated guess here when I say I think the appellate court will remand the decision for further study. This leads me to reason #2 why the California Teachers Association (CTA) should reimagine tenure now:
The most vulnerable students need the best teachers.
When the judge ruled in favor of the plantiffs in the Vergara case, I was shocked. I thought the union was going to win. To me Judge Treu sent a clear message, the education code dealing with permanent status needs to be fixed.
Vergara, like it or not, pointed out a critical issue here in the state of California (and most likely across the country), how do we get our best teachers in front of our neediest students. For this reason alone the appellate court will most likely remand the decision for further study. Every teacher affiliated organization, but also teachers themselves who are alive and breathing in California, will have the opportunity to help shape policy around this fundamental idea. Teachers should be the ones to lead this call to action and take ownership of their profession.
Getting the best teachers in front of the neediest students sounds simple. We know that our neediest students in this state usually reside in the heart of our cities, live below the poverty line, are usually children of immigrants to this country and their first language is not English, and are usually students of color. Now the hard part is what we mean, when we say the "best teachers."
The current state education code on teacher evaluations only allows for only two ratings, "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory". So practically all teachers in the state are rated satisfactory then granted permanent status after two years on the job. (It really boils down to 14 months on the job because the ed. code states teachers must be notified by March 15th if they no longer have a teaching position.) Does satisfactory mean you're the best teacher?
How do we answer that question? A new evaluation system along with the implementation of a tenure system (where tenure is revisited throughout a teacher's career) could answer that question. (You can find more ideas of what teachers think a new evaluation system could look like here and what teachers think tenure could look like here.) Once this is done, then we could truly begin to tackle the challenging issue of how do we get our best teachers in front of our neediest students.
Now is the time to act. The Vergara decision, in my opinion, is not going to go away until we answer the issues that it raises. I believe that if we get many teachers involved in developing solutions to issues raised in Vergara we will have a win for teachers and a win for students. The best way to get many teachers involved is through our teacher unions and especially California Teachers Assocation (CTA). Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand and hope it will all work out. We, the teachers in the state of California, need to stand up and work together. Contact your local chapters, and your CTA representatives, and ask them how you can help create solutions - teacher-led solutions - to address the issues raised in Vergara.