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California Turns Down District's Bid to Lengthen Pre-Tenure Period

California's state board of education has squashed a request by the San Jose district and its teachers' union to lengthen some teachers' probationary period from two to three years, reports John Fensterwald at EdSource.

In putting together a new evaluation system, the parties had decided to institute a peer-review system for novice teachers. Peer review works by assigning each probationary teacher a mentor and documenting their improvement; at the end of the two-year period, a joint labor-management panel would decide whether each teacher had progressed enough to receive tenure, which confers due-process protections.

In a few cases, the San Jose officials said, the panel should be permitted to extend the probationary period for a third year and give a teacher on the borderline a bit more time to meet standards.

But the state' s board of education, under heavy lobbying from the California Teachers Association—the parent of the San Jose union affiliate—decided not to permit the plan. Board members said it was too broad an exception to state rules, and that such a change would require legislative approval instead, Fensterwald reports. 

One of the really interesting things here is the CTA's undercutting of its own local affiliate's wishes. A letter it sent to the state explains why: Giving the district this option would set a "precedent that denies fundamental aspects of due process," the union claims, because the peer-review panel's decision couldn't be appealed. It also says the plan violated CTA internal policy.

Lurking in the background on all this, as EdSource notes, is a looming ruling in the Vergara v. California lawsuit. That suit takes aim at the state's tenure law, stating that the two-year period is too short to make meaningful determinations of quality. The CTA joined the defense in this lawsuit and has provided a lot of legal muscle for it; apparently, it doesn't want a rogue local upending the two-year timeline on its own.

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