LAUSD Taskforce On Teacher Policy Reform

The most alarming aspect of virtually all discussion of public education reform that goes on between all school stakeholders whose ideas and solutions are covered by the mainstream media is the incredibly superficial and sanitized discussion that continues to misrepresent -- by omission -- the problems we face in reforming public education. These failures necessarily make subsequent proposals incomplete with superficial solutions that clearly have no chance of success, because they do not address many of the real problems we face in public education. There is a depressing irony to the fact that all those who are involved in this discussion are supposed to be practitioners and products of good public education. Regrettably, they seem to lack the facility of expression either verbally or in their written ideas to clearly define the specific problems or solutions we face. The rigorous English or Social Studies class that were required of me to graduate high school in my generation of LAUSD, made mastery of these basic skills mandatory. The fact that 60% of students now arriving at LACC are not ready for college is not just indicative of LAUSD's failure with the present generation of students, but also a clear indication that many of the educators who are now attempting to fix the system do so with something less than the English language skills they need to succeed in this task.

On Tuesday, April 27, 2010, the report of a 50 person task force of "local teachers, administrators, parents, academics and union leaders" that was set up last year will submit its report to the LAUSD Board. So let's go through Reporter Connie Llanos' article from the Contra Cost Times -- she also writes for the Daily News -- and point out the glaring omissions that no one seems willing to address:

1. The taskforce "was set up last year after board members failed to pass sweeping changes to their teacher hiring and firing policies." -- The political power that UTLA and other teacher unions throughout the state and the country have to determine the make up of school boards like LAUSD's, through contributions and work on behalf of LAUSD Board candidates campaigns friendly to their position, clearly compromises the potential actions and fiduciary duty that these part time compensated LAUSD Board members once elected in derogation of the duty they owe to the school district and the students enrolled in it. Once elected there primary duty to the District and students is also compromised by fealty to the big money interests of those doing business with like Scholastics Publishing, large construction companies, and other service providers of questionable necessity. .

2. "There are a lot of things we've needed to do better for a very long time to be able to guarantee every student in this district an amazing and effective teacher," said LAUSD school board member Yolie Flores. "We owe it to our kids to begin to tackle these sacred cow issues." -- How does a single subject credentialed teacher address the English and math deficits of the majority of LAUSD students who are years behind grade level? Most LAUSD secondary teachers are single-subject credentialed with no relevant training in these areas to address existing student deficits. Teacher tenure and seniority are not the "sacred cows" referred to, rather social promotion and coerced grade inflation are, because, if unaddressed, they make the job of secondary teachers objectively impossible.

3. "Strengthening teacher evaluations by using, among other things, student test data to evaluate performance." -- If students arrive in your middle or high school class years behind grade level, how is it fair to make a teacher's job evaluation- financial and job security- contingent on factors from students' prior lack of education that they have no control over?

4.  "Making the teacher evaluation process much stricter." -- Teacher evaluation is and has always been a scam. If you go with the flow without questioning and are therefore liked by administration, you either get excellent evaluations or no evaluations at all. If however, you find LAUSD policies to be dishonest with no chance of success and you complain about it, the "teacher evaluation process" will be used to harass you with the tacit support of your principal's superiors at LAUSD in this process. In no way is the "teacher evaluation process" presently used to identify and either help or remove the poor teachers nor is a non-specific demand for making such a process more strict without clearly describing how this will be done and by who that is objective to both teachers and administrators.

5.  "Changes to state law or major negotiations with employee unions" -- Why would you "change state law or open major negotiations with employee unions" when LAUSD administration is clearly not proceeding under the existing rules. One idea comes to mind that again is not mentioned by those calling for changes is to have a standing board composed of LAUSD administrators and employees with a 3rd and hopefully more objective component of this committee that could end the protracted and expensive nature of processes between LAUSD and UTLA that presently only serve those on both sides who manipulate this process and draw it out for years with nothing being decided in the end.

6. "Establishing a pilot program that would pay teachers more money if they work in harder-to-staff schools." -- Before paying teachers more money to teach in "harder-to-staff schools," don't you think a preliminary concern might be why these schools are so hard to staff? If students have been socially promoted into grades far beyond their ability to be engaged academically, again, single-subject credentialed teachers have no relevant training to address the students needs, and administration does nothing to assure acceptable student behavior and parent support of this basic prerequisite of education and requirement of law. Then of course some schools will be hard to staff if they continue to function as a war zone instead of a school.

7. "Extending the time that a teacher is considered 'probationary' or "non-permanent" from two years to up to four years." -- This idea avoids the following realities: There are not an unlimited supply of good and qualified teachers. By further lowering the compensation rate of starting teachers, fewer potentially good and qualified teachers will go into the profession and even fewer will stay -- presently 50% get out of the classroom within 5 years. LAUSD has always been perfectly satisfied to replace 50% of its teacher force within 5 years, because they think they save money by getting rid of higher paid teachers, when the reality is for any business that the cost of constantly replacing your work force and lack of continuity are far more expensive, since it totally compromises the continuity of excellent teacher LAUSD continues to advocate out of the other side of its mouth. Why is there never any consequences for failed public school administrators? I guess there doesn't have to be as long as teachers can be the whipping boy.

California Civil Çode 821.6:

"A public employee is not liable for injury caused by his instituting or prosecuting any judicial or administrative proceeding within the scope of his employment, even if he acts maliciously and without probable cause."

8. "Advocating for changes in state law related to teacher layoffs and dismissals, including allowing the school board to have the final say in dismissing teachers." -- If LAUSD past action with regard to recent displacements "layoffs and dismissals" is a harbinger of things to come, LAUSD seeks "final say in dismissing teachers" so that they can get rid of: More expensive teachers and those that question present misguided LAUSD policies that are antithetical to successful public education. Rather than change these policies, just give LAUSD the power to scapegoat the teachers for a system they have never had any control over.

9. It is not just LAUSD that seems incapable of bringing any specifics to the discussion of real reform regarding teachers. "Many items in this report are flawed and based upon premises that are not backed up by solid data,' said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, representing some 38,000 teachers and counselors." -- If those of us at perdaily and elsewhere within LAUSD are aware of the "solid data" that makes the LAUSD Taskforce's conclusions and proposals superficial to say the least, why does A.J. Duffy the President of UTLA or any of his immediate predecessors e.g. John Perez and Day Higuchi, never mention any of the "solid data" that would require a more in depth discussion among all concerned. The regrettable conclusion is that there is not much difference between LAUSD and UTLA administrators neither of whom are ever going back into a classroom.

10. "Currently, both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes are pushing legislative proposals that seek to streamline the process for firing teachers and also want to eliminate the state laws that require school districts to base all of their layoffs solely on seniority.Duffy said local and state efforts to curb teacher protections will be opposed by UTLA and other unions." -- Solutions that are based on the totally unsubstantiated and false premise that bad teaching is responsible for what ails LAUSD will only further demoralize the vast majority of dedicated teachers, while doing nothing to fix public education. Ironically, the job of actually fixing public education is not that hard and would get easier as the years go by if the continuing of failed LAUSD policies were finally addressed.

My partners in perdaily and I are becoming more and more annoyed by making the same suggestions to the ersatz reforms that continue to dominate the discussion of public education reform and get covered by the media. One should never underestimate the power of those that benefit under the present failed public education system that contrary to what they espouse publicly find it perfectly acceptable to keep replicating the existing social order that finds them on top.

In a society where people are losing their jobs and their homes while not accepting their responsibility for failed public education, teachers with seniority, tenure, and medical benefits make the perfect target if you don't think too much.


The plan will fail because no real teacher input was solicited. Preconceived conclusions were naturally, reached.

LAUSD fails because it is not a values driven organization. From the top down the fish rots. A superintendent caught with his hands in the cookie jar for $150k from Scholastic cannot even pretend to talk ethics without hypocrisy. (who knows what he is up to not reported nor why the press doesn't care)

Administrators promoted by cronyism and the proven ability to continue the game have little standing nor respect among teachers they claim to lead. Hypocrisy rots the institute from the top down. If you want to make values based schools, promote the administrators based on first attaining some demonstrable competence as a teacher. Pass the National Board as a prerequisite for administration for example. If an administrator disciplines a teacher for poor quality teaching, the employee at least knows the administrator knows what they are talking about .. and probably earned the job.

Here, socially skilled and connected people do whatever they can to get out of the class. Many are poor quality teachers. If we required management to teach one period a day it would also demonstrate ability and leadership. We would weed out the wanna be's from the do'ers.

Not what the machine is interested in, is it?

There may be Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Italians, Poles, African American, young, old, Blond hair, Brown hair, no hair at all. They might me nice, mean, educated, ignorant. Some might have families, be single or even gay. Others might have an agenda or only seek the truth. But regardless of this cosmopolitan group of people who are deciding the future educational reforms for a dark ages school district, not a single person on the LAUSD appointed board of TFTP was a teacher in trouble or what we graciously refer to as a Re-Assigned teacher. How novel to exclude the very party that all this political saber rattling is about in the first place. This committee of LAUSD subordinates was created to answer to Jason Song's Manifesto of teachers. That proverbial bottom line of lost funding by the state was enough for Cortines to stand in front of an audience at Fairfax High stating "Lets just Fire them all!" in reference to the teachers in Re-assignment. This committee of fifty who met on a regular basis (Oh Yeah?) to charter (bad pun) the present and future of LAUSD, to stear teacher performance in such a way that teaching to the test becomes the norm and teaching to the student is shelved for the next generation. The Teacher Reassignment Task Force was not included one iota to this committee. But how would they know they even existed considering that they are not recognized as anything other than a bunch of misfits and troublemakers trying to compete with those in the "Know." UTLA, won't even recognize them as a task force, a group, concerned citizens...anything! Joshua walked away from the group since it wasn't politically favorable to his position as a UTLA crony. So why would a committee of LAUSD even consider, recognize, listen to, or even view any of the members of the TRTF as viable members of their committee when UTLA only gives them a room to meet to be nice and show their solidarity to a bunch of union paying members whose names they readily forget and whose teaching abilities once sought after are ignored, and are considered a plague on the poor, innocent, stand-up comics of UTLA. Whew!

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