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Teacher Effectiveness Debate in L.A. Heats Up

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Questions about teacher tenure and the removal of ineffective teachers in Los Angeles are heating up, following this weekend's Los Angeles Times story.

The story found that removing ineffective teachers in California is lengthy and extraordinarily costly (upwards of six figures in some cases), and that much of the time, a panel reversed decisions to let go of teachers anyway. Most teachers were fired only for egregious conduct, the story found.

Now, school board officials are renewing efforts to get state legislators to review the laws that govern teacher removal. They face some opposition from Sacramento, where lawmakers say such proposals are politically motivated.

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I welcome the Times article because firing ineffective teachers has to be a top priority.

The Times wrote:

"it is not uncommon for districts to sabotage themselves with technical missteps. ...

Classroom ineffectiveness is hard to prove, administrators and principals said."

So why try to tackle the issue of using “value added” using test scores which would make it more difficult to prove incompetence? As much as I want my union to negotiate new rules to make it much easier to fire ineffective teachers, I'm equally committed to fighting test score-driven terminations regardless of the legal costs. And if systems struggle to win easy cases, they won't stand a chance trying to prove that value-added models are competent for terminations.

Two types of solutions jump out. Negotiate in good faith a simpler, more efficient system.

The second approach would be to focus on the behavior of teachers, like their failure to maintain order.

The problem there, of course, is that administrators don’t do their jobs in assessing disciplinary consequences.

Regardless, the deplorable performance of teachers is tied the systems’ willingness to allow deplorable behavior is crippling efforts to improve education.

And keep in mind the great post on the Ed Week School Research blog. Only 1/5th of 8th grade White students have a teacher leave during that year, but 1/2 of 8th grade Black students have a teacher leave. Chronic disorder that characterizes neighborhood middle schools is one of the bigest reasons for teacher turnover.

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