Why Cortines' Plan To Fire 'Weak' Teachers Isn't What You Think

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What makes a teacher weak? The starting premise of Superintendent Cortines is that LAUSD must "weed out ineffective new teachers before they become permanent." Keep in mind these 'weak' teachers are college graduates who have at least 4 years of college, supplemented by more than a year of credentialing programs that should have identified the supposed teaching deficits that they now suffer from. But as we all are aware by now, teachers are the real problem in education, not administrators. In fact, let's just fire all teachers and hire only administrators, since they're the only ones doing their jobs right. Whew. Problem solved.

While Superintendent Cortines has no trouble admitting the district deserves to be criticized for continually promoting incompetent teachers, he seems to ignore the ineffectual administration that let this alleged travesty take place. Cortines also urged for greater monitoring of the 339 administrators who have not yet become permanent, and the 175 tenured teachers and employees who received negative evaluations last year. Cortines reserves indignation for teachers, however, when he states "... the days of coddling ineffective teachers, or allowing them to be moved to another school, are over." No more excuses? Well, maybe not for failing teachers, but with the top-down LAUSD administrative "culture" remaining solidly in place, failed administrators rarely -- if ever -- take the heat. As per tradition, the blame is instead being laid squarely on teachers.

If Cortines had the pragmatism that 50 years in public education should have given him, he might at least see if there was a more rational explanation for endemic student failure in LAUSD. If he did this, he would find that:

  • Teachers with the least amount of tenure are given the most problematic classes with little or no administrative support. Ex: Venice High school hires a new teacher every year to teach several English and Social Studies classes filled with the students that nobody else wants. Parents don't help either.
  • Administrative failure to support clearly enumerated discipline standards outlined in the California Education Code, the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement, and LAUSD's own policy, allow a few students to hold the class and teacher hostage.

Of course, these factors will be ignored, when the district only uses teacher's success in raising student test scores as a factor of whether or not they should be fired. Having watched LAUSD's orwellian obfuscation of educational reality since the 1950s, one can easily suss out what is the superintendent's true agenda. With more layoffs on the horizon, Cortines and Co. are just preparing their latest attack on seniority and tenure. For close to $80,000 plus benefits that it cost the District to pay a seasoned teacher, LAUSD can hire two novice teachers.

It should not be lost on us that it takes a former LAUSD head of research and planning like Julie Slayton, who is presently teaching at USC, to have the guts to call Cortines' response on this issue "... a knee-jerk reaction to outside pressure than a thoughtful approach to a complex problem... Cortines' action makes evaluations punitive, rather than a process to help teachers improve."

Letting administrators actively recommend tenure will only assure the continuation of an unchanged and failed LAUSD administrative policy. A policy that will only continue to punish  and unjustly brand the young and idealistic new teachers as failures. While there is no question that many teachers are ineffectual, one must wonder how a rationally administrated LAUSD might revive even the worst of these, since a functional school system would give incompetents no place to hide.

Read the LA Times article: Here

Flickr:EmilyRose

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12 2009

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