Bar Set Low For Lifetime Teaching Jobs... Thoughts And Highlights From Yesterday's LA Times Article


The majority of my present continuation high school students, like the majority of students at regular LAUSD high schools, read far below grade level. When I started teaching as a substitute 22 years ago at Cineplex Audubon Middle School, Robocop was a big favorite, although its educational value has never been clear to me. I worked every day as a substitute, because LAUSD couldn't get enough substitutes to work there- the students were off the wall. The regular secondary single-subject teachers at Audubon were so burned out by trying to teach subjects that were years beyond the ability of their students -- without the remedial training that they would have needed --they took as many "sick days" as possible, often beyond the 10 days a year the District allowed them.

Because I never played this game and came to LAUSD with a background of having taught English in France for 7 years to non-native speakers, I was able to engage my students by not assuming that they were native speakers of English, even though they were born here. My French ESL background gave me a relevant educational skill set and by putting out a far greater amount of energy than the vast majority of potentially excellent teachers are reasonably willing to do. Maybe this is why there is a 50% turn-over of teachers within 5 years of starting to teach at LAUSD.

But LAUSD administration refuses to take cognizance of this reality and since administrators do not have the tenure that teachers have, they must coerce teachers under them to continue "teaching" subject matter that is objectively impossible for their students to understand. These same administrators will also give consequences to teachers, not students, if the teacher dares to fail students who do no work.

At Samuel Gompers Middle School teacher "Daniel Leake hadn't called on enough students, and he'd answered most of his questions himself."
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Moving students on year after year is not the decision of the teacher, but rather the long established policy of LAUSD, that seems more concerned with political correctness than it does with actually setting a rational policy that would finally allow initially intelligent students to reach their potential, unless archaic LAUSD policy and racist accommodations get in the way. It is still astounding to me that the majority of students have never been dissuaded from their belief that a high school diploma is what you get for copying enough work in a sufficient number of courses. I had a student last week who copied answers directly out of the book and argued with me that he should still get credit. Where did he get this idea? I asked him why he didn't just use the photocopying machine and just put his name on it? He laughed.

To blame teachers for this sad state of affairs is like trying to blame a doctor for not being success in treating a terminally ill patient. While the patient might not have been terminal at some earlier point in time, it would be irrational to hold doctors responsible once the patient has become terminal. Irreparable harm can be done to students who are not engaged and educated at the appropriate time. To now hold teachers responsible for what has become terminal ignorance, when they did not make the decisions that created this impossible situation in the first place, is scapegoating of the worst kind.

Second-grade teacher Kimberly Patterson says, "My principal never set foot in my classroom while I was teaching."

As for why administrators do not do their job of evaluating teachers, the answer is rather straight forward: they are just following LAUSD party line. If you are forcing teachers to keep students who are misbehaving and refuse to do school work, which they cannot do nor will they allow other students do theirs, administrators will then have to spent 90% of their time dealing with those students who are constantly tearing up the classroom. The main concern with administrators is Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which is exclusively measured by warm butts in seats. This model, not any measure of learning, is what the State of California uses to pay school districts... but of course, that's not the problem?

"Choosing the right teachers will be essential to stabilizing a campus plagued by low test scores and staff turmoil, including seven principals in the six years before she arrived in 2008, Miller said."

For the most part, administrators are failed teachers, who have escaped from the classroom chaos. They simply don't have the business or management skills necessary to run a school, so instead they are given god-like powers to intimidate any teacher or assistant principal who dares to stand against their malfeasance. There is a far greater consistency of mediocrity among LAUSD administrators than there is among teachers and yet their willful incompetence rarely gets challenged. Did you hear about the principal who was doing stulls while wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet after hitting somebody while driving under the influence? LAUSD always closes ranks in favor of the administrator, no matter how incompetent they are. UTLA President A.J.Duffy calls this "The march of the lemons," where dangerous administrators often wind up getting promoted to LAUSD headquarters to get them away from students and teachers.

"Nearly all probationary teachers receive a passing grade on evaluations. Fewer than 2% are denied tenure."

I am a fully tenured teacher who has always received excellent performance "stulls." LAUSD administrators are supposed to give these annually for all non-tenured teachers and biannually for tenured teachers like myself. I was stulled last year, but because I continue to actually teach and criticize failed/fraudulent LAUSD culture, I am being stulled again this year and have a constant stream of administrators in my room to evaluate/intimidate me with the promise of my dismissal from LAUSD in 2010. I am sure that this process will achieve the cadre of motivated and excellent teachers that we need in Los Angeles.

Read the LA Times article: Here

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