In 2010, when San Diego Unified was in the throes of a budget crisis and staring down a round of layoffs, school board trustee Richard Barrera told U-T San Diego, “Pink-slipping disproportionately affects poorer schools – absolutely.”
Now, that argument is the basis of Vergara v. California, a case that could blow up deeply rooted protections for California teachers. Barrera, who is now the leader of the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council, which includes the teachers union, changed his tune when he testified in the case.
Teachers see the policies that force the youngest teachers to bear the brunt of layoffs as the fairest possible, he argued. Replacing it with a system that requires administrators to make value judgments would erode trust as teachers vied for their spots, he said.
Along with attorneys from the state and the California Teachers Association, Barrera pointed to San Diego Unified as proof that a district can succeed because of the current policies – not in spite of it.
The case is the product of Students Matter, a group founded by Silicon Valley business mogul David F. Welch, a group of California students and a heavyweight cast of attorneys. They initiated the suit and claim the teacher protections violate students’ constitutional rights to equal access to quality education.
California law makes it nearly impossible to dismiss a bad teacher once he or she has received tenure, they argue, and last-hired-first-fired layoff policies disproportionately impact schools in high-poverty areas because they’re more likely to have less experienced teachers. Layoffs at these schools, then, create more turnover and worsen the experience for students.
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Teachers have become bad eggs because their union uses the money they take from members to fight against children. When we stop the assault on our children and get back to educating children and ending ridiculous work rules that teachers use to take all they can from children....then and only then will children be able to get a fair education. SDUSD is a broken employment center and the tenure and seniority rules only hurt children. Nothing else matters but children!!
It is time for tenure to be terminated and also to not let teachers choose where they work. Taxpayers should be telling teachers where we need you, not the other way around. The systems has shown it is broken, now it is time in this negotiations to do both of these and let the children be the receivers of the the education they deserve, not the best schools to teach in for teachers who have lost the reason they took this job.....Children is all that matter!!
Not sure what your profession is, but to leave evaluation up to "the taxpayer" - does that mean the general taxpayer or specific educator taxpayers. It would be somewhat difficult and troublesome to consider non-educated/untrained individuals deciding any job fate. And somehow many actually believe that being a parent automatically qualifies as a professional educator. Sorry!!
Seniority and Tenure (partial repost)
Re: Teacher Evaluations - what is in place via State Assembly Stull Bill is quite adequate. It's the follow through by administrators that fails. Specifically, if an administrator finds a teacher as "needs improvement" or "not satisfactory", that administrator is required by contract to develop a plan (with a stringent timeline) to bring the teacher up to satisfactory - and this can take up to 2 years, and few administrators actually know how or what to do. (see SDEA contract Performance Evaluations). Also, by contract, an administrator can opt for a Special Evaluation at any time - but the plan, timeline, and work involved is similar and heavy.
Administrator evaluations also occur and with their own set of standards, schedules, and timelines. As well, they do not receive tenure and are up for rehire each year, however non-rehire rarely happens. However, teachers are never involved in an administrators performance evaluation. The system may have some correctable flaws, but without follow through and accountability any evaluations process will fail.
And please, for all the teacher and union critics, the % of dysfunctional teachers is no greater than any other job, profession, or for any parent/ family structure.
As for student/parent evaluation input. Next time you're out for diner with the family and get a "How'd we do" card from your server, hand it to your 10 year old to fill out. And for parents - your child is not the same child in class as she/he is at home...Sorry!
@voiceofsandiego asking this guy about union members is like asking a tree if it wants to be cut down!! Just a poorly chosen person!
@voiceofsandiego This is not about anyone but children. Barrera should have resigned when he became the new union goon on the block.
One source of teacher evaluations could be 4th grade teachers evaluating the 3rd grade teachers. The teachers in the next grade up get to experience the students from the lower grade, and can identify the better and worse teachers. Graduating seniors in high school could also evaluate their 10th, 11th, and 12th grade teachers. By that time, the graduating seniors have a good sense of the good teachers and poor teachers. Parent classroom volunteers can also provide teacher evaluations. In fact, Facebook groups organized around their specific schools have detailed recollections of the very best and very worst teachers.
@Donald Kimball Indeed, the next-level teacher can be very helpful when determining if the previous teacher properly prepared his/her students.
I'm not a big fan of using social media for evaluating anyone. People get into a very nasty mob mentality and people are far more likely to post negative things than positive. And do so in a public place- things get adversarial quickly and the employee has no defense.
The goal is to get an objective evaluation. How could you keep personal feelings, good or bad, out of this? People would be inclined to give good evaluations to those who support their agendas, and punish those who disagree with them. They'd be likely to give good evaluations to ineffective teachers who are their friends, and bad evaluations to good teachers who don't fit in to their social hierarchy. Humans are very social creatures. Politics needs to be left out of something this important.
Why not treat teachers like the members of our armed forces. Five (or some number) years at school, then rotate them to a different school, chosen by lottery.
@Bob Eisele May I answer this?
Rotating employees every five years does not address the issue of quality and performance. It simply means that the employee is performing a great or poor job (usually somewhere in the middle) elsewhere in the system. Some other child(ren) has the benefit or the burden.
I'd like to see employees retained, promoted or dismissed on the quality of their work. These are professionals, these are individuals, and they deserve the respect and dignity of being treated as such.
I'd like to see situations where talented principals create work environments to which employees are attracted- they WANT to work for that person. I'd like to see principals held accountable for the performance of their team, and empowered to create the team that best serves students. Then reward them (management and employees) for their effort and talents.
I don't propose this as THE answer, only AN answer. We'd all like to see what you suggest. But the school system is a huge bureaucracy.
My suggestion spreads the experienced teachers across the district. It gives the new teachers a chance at an upper class school. And maybe for some of those less talented teachers, a little nudge over their tipping point.
“Politics is the art of the possible, the
attainable — the art of the next best”
―Otto von Bismark
"Or the perfect is the enemy of the good."
@Paul M Bowers "retained, promoted or dismissed on the quality of their work."
How do you measure quality?
@francescaOh, please. You're simply fishing for someone to say "test scores" so you can pound the straw man into submission. So let's save some time and turn the question around, where it belongs--since you claim test scores don't work, how do YOU measure quality?
@Bob Eisele @Paul M Bowers Understood, and if my reply sounded acrimonious or argumentative, I failed to accurately convey my message.
Paul Bowers, I like your idea of promoting teachers based on the quality of their work, but I bet you wouldn't like my idea about what position they should be promoted to.
I'd like to see the most effective teachers stay in the classroom--but have responsibility for several classrooms.
Each of those classrooms would also have a regular teacher who might be a young person on the way up, or an older person with many positive skills who doesn't quite fit the master teacher category.
There would be separate salary scales for master and regular teachers. The former would be paid like doctors and lawyers, while the latter would have their salaries capped at a somewhat lower level than the current system provides. The money saved on three or four regular teacher salaries would pay for the master teacher.
Also, the master teachers would provide professional development, saving schools the obscene amounts of money currently paid to vendors peddling the latest fad.
I think a lot of political and personal misery could be avoided by reducing the responsibilities of ineffective teachers and giving them a master teacher rather than dismissing them. Some ineffective teachers are very sweet and kind to kids. And others are very connected to the teachers union. Either way, trying to get rid of them would likely be disastrous.
"but I bet you wouldn't like my idea about what position they should be promoted to. "
Hey, now don't be so hasty there, missy! : )
I have no objection to such a plan for those employees who've proven to be assets to a school, and deserve the additional skill development and mentoring. I think it's a very good idea, and demonstrates contemporary management techniques.
The Vergara lawsuit claims that seniority based layoffs negatively discriminate against children of color. A valid critical commentary or report would show how this claim holds water in ANY school district in San Diego County over the past several years when schools have been hit by budget cuts of 25% or more.
The fact of the matter is that there have been none. All the union-haters should consider this in their world view and perhaps question the motives of the plaintiffs in this case.
Supporting change does not make one a "union hater" any more than supporting the status quo makes one a "student hater".
Escalating the rhetoric rarely helps promote conflict resolution- or was that not what you had in mind?
Unions exist where management is perceived to have failed, and unfortunately will often go too far in their singular dedication to its members.
LIFO, in any organization, has benefits only for low-performing employees. High performers will always be in demand, regardless of the duration of their service.
Those less-experienced arrive with fresh energy, trained in contemporary methods and concepts. More experienced employees are able to bring maturity and hard-earned wisdom.
Employees should be retained on performance- keep only the best. Why would anyone set up a system to do otherwise?
"Using them to feed public union greed", huh? Please be a bit more specific in your retoric.
Teaching assignments (school, grade level, subject assignments) are regulated in each school district collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the local teacher union in that district, not regulated by state law, which this lawsuit addresses.
The vast majority of these negotiated agreements places seniority as a subordinate criterion to many other factors such as subject matter credential, and most notably the opinion of the school principal. In other words, seniority, in most cases is NOT the determining factor with regard to a teacher's assignment.
It is true that some teaching assignments are more difficult than others. It may also be that vacancies occur more regularly at schools with such assignments, but for a variety of reasons. Some of the "best" teachers work at these schools; sometimes they don't. Are you suggesting that the "best" teachers be limited in their options as to where they would choose to work?
@Maura Larkins If you taught in the Chula Vista School District, then you are probably more realistic about the idea of using test scores to evaluate teachers. When children have not mastered English, their test scores don't really reflect what they have learned or know.
Maura, Do you have an objective way to measure whether teachers are doing an effective job?
No, Tim, Mr. Jones is not suggesting that tenured teachers be limited as
to where they work. He is simply suggesting that tenured teachers tend
to use their seniority to get out of--and stay out of--schools in low
income areas. In fact, I must say that I did notice during my years in
Chula Vista Elementary School District that teachers with high seniority
tended to snap up the job openings at schools in high-income areas.
I think that the success of children should not be subordinated to any goal at all that the teachers union might have.
It doesn't matter what the reason is that CTA has refused to allow any real progress in evaluating teachers--whatever it is, it's not a good enough reason. The fact is that the current system of principal evaluations is a joke, and it's part of the reason so many kids are failing to get decent educations.
I had a principal who came in fresh to the school, not knowing that I
had been given all the lowest-achieving students in my grade level
because I was also given the English-learners and it seemed to make
sense. I was perfectly happy with the situation.
The new principal must have looked at the students' tests before sending them in to be scored, because he wrote on my evaluation that I had low student test scores!
In fact, when the scores came back, they showed that my students had made one, two, three or even four years progress when they were with me.
That principal was highly regarded because he was highly political. But, strangely, he eventually retired from the district in the middle of the school year. He got another job, so obviously he wasn't interesting in actually retiring. It sometimes takes a while to figure out how bad some principals are. This would be less of a problem if principals weren't in charge of evaluations.
I once heard former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett pointing out to CTA affiliate presidents that if they didn't improve education, they would become irrelevant. CTA would be wise to come up with an evaluation plan pronto. What's your plan for teacher evaluations, Tim?
Are you calling Richard Barrera a "union-hater" for saying, "“Pink-slipping disproportionately affects poorer schools – absolutely”?
I don't think the charge would fit, since he is the CEO of the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council.
Also, the ACLU sued the Los Angeles Unified School District based on the devastating impact of teacher layoffs on poorer schools. Are you calling the Los Angeles ACLU "union-haters"?
Maybe you should stop with the name-calling and try to come up with a solution to the problem.
Thanks for asking, Francesca! I think observations are the single most important source of effective evaluations, and they should be done frequently by people from outside the school district (to avoid school politics).
Dennis Schamp and Scripps Dad and I had a somewhat detailed discussion recently on what should be observed; you can see our discussion at the bottom of this April 28 VOSD story:
The two main things we discussed as needing to be observed are:
1) What is the teacher doing?
2) What are the students doing?
Non-professionals could be used to make superficial observations. It would be up to professionals to evaluate the data and follow up with their own observations.
Scripps Dad says he's been involved in a good teacher evaluation program.
Also, student test scores would only be helpful after a number of years of gathering data about a teacher's performance, and even then, research shows that these scores are reliable indicators only for the top 10% and bottom 10% of teachers. The other 80% of teachers tend to get extremely variable results.
I do not think evaluations should be used to determine employment.
Instead, I think they should be used to identify the most highly effective teachers and to help average and below-average teachers.
I believe that the most highly effective teachers should then be given responsibility as master teachers to direct the less effective teachers and to give supplemental lessons to students, and to give training to their fellow teachers. This would be cheaper and more effective than bringing in ridiculously expensive outside vendors to do training.
I would expect master teachers to be paid like doctors and lawyers.
I agree with almost everything you say. The pay equivalency for teachers vice doctors and lawyers is a bit of a stretch for me.
Both lawyers and doctors have the equivalent of PhD's and not Masters degrees so there is a difference in education and training. I have a MS and would not equate my abilities to a PhD in the same field or my MS to a Juris Doctor or Medical Doctor.
And, regardless of degrees, the proof is in the deliverable so even a PhD in Education (which my dad actually was) vice a newbie with a Masters should not have compensation based solely on their degrees but on their ability to teach, reach their students, manage their classrooms, and be effective in all the things we have discussed as part of a teacher evaluation.
Finally - as good stewards of our children and quality and effective teachers, they should be highly compensated (within the District General Fund budget) so children's programs are not disproportionally sacrificed.
@Maura Larkins I agree with most of what you suggest. Even though observations can be subjective, I think frequent evaluations by a variety of professionals could be very helpful to teachers.
I had a vice-principal who emphasized that when she observed she was there to help improve student learning. She made very useful suggestions and there was never a sense that she was out to see if we were good or bad.
But when I see the countrywide effort, by those who want to turn public schools into private businesses for profit, I start to question the sincerity of those who talk about evaluations, teacher tenure, the "Great Leaders Act" in Indiana, Right to Work states where the union protection has been stripped away...the absurd Vergara case, orchestrated by one, multimillionaire from Silicon Valley, David Welsh, who has spent over two million dollars, dragged half a dozen innocent children into court to testify against their teachers, very much like the original witch trials in Salem...When I see so many think tanks, crafting laws..read about ALEC..and their laws written to destroy education...trigger groups and phony parent groups like Up4Ed..I know the effort, made by sincere parents who want the best for their children has been hijacked for profit.
All of the above have two goals. Destroy the teachers' union, the biggest contributor to Democrats, and make profit for the greedy by privatizing education.
My goal is to lure some people away from careers as doctors and lawyers. I want some of those highly able people in the classroom. Paying them well is the way to do it.Musicians and actors and ball players and computer/Internet prodigies are rewarded with huge amounts of money for doing a job that is highly valued--even if, like Bill Gates, they lack college degrees. Why not value the most gifted teachers for what they can do?
To afford higher salaries for master teachers, I would cap the salaries of younger teachers and journeyman teachers at a somewhat lower level than the current system provides. The money saved on three or four regular teacher salaries would pay for the master teacher.
Also, the master teachers would provide professional development, saving schools the obscene amounts of money currently paid to vendors peddling the latest fad.
You might be interested in this story from the Wall Street Journal about the highest-paid teacher in Korea: The $4 Million Teacher
The head of the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council sitting on the other side of the bargaining table from the teachers Union.
It is no wonder the school district finances and actions are so dysfunctional and end up being all about the adults.
Well, I'm shocked.
Shocked, I tell you.
That the man who's the leader of the San Diego Labor Council (www.unionyes.com!) would place the priorities of labor over those of students comes as such a suprise.
And here's a nugget: "“If we replace the seniority system – one which most people tend to see as fair – with one that teachers see as unfair or arbitrary, we’re going to dramatically hurt trust between teachers and their principals,” he said."
I have to give him credit- he didn't actually say the system is fair. He didn't say the system was good. He didn't say the system served children. He didn't say the system allowed for best management practices, he didn't say the system discourages high-performing employees by rewarding low-performing employees with guaranteed jobs. He didn't say any of that.
He said that most people tend to see it as fair.
But it's not.
James, Bill, Allen and Jim, it was so wonderful seeing you at at the Padre game last evening for teacher appreciation night.
Only a fool would believe that poverty and home structure is not vital to a child's education.
Find a good student and you will find a good family.
@DennisBrilliant truism, Dennis. Anybody can teach good students from good families. While I realize your point is to distance union teachers from abysmal classroom results, what you've managed to do is devalue the impact of good teachers. Which is a wonderfully perverse way to defend the seniority system.
@Dennis Bologna! You are speaking in absolutes, which is a red flag. Are you suggesting that every good student must come from a good home? If so, that is preposterous and laughable. Plenty of good students have divorced parents, and/or abusive situations yet they are still good students. Maybe they could be even better with a good family, but that doesn't mean that they are not good students. An outstanding teacher is a leader who can motivate students to see the value in being educated. A teacher that is full of excuses is probably not the most outstanding teacher.
Goodness knows we wouldn't want administrators to make value judgements about their workforce. That might hurt their feelings, which is why all Americans companies use the seniority system. Except, well, 99% of them. But those companies are the exceptions.
"But Barrera said that because San Diego Unified has had a good relationship with its teachers union, it’s been able to avoid mass layoffs in the first place."
Of course there is a "good relationship" -- the school district is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the union! Sometime there may be some tension when there is a lack of communication as to how high to jump, but a few barked orders appears to clear things up easily.
There is really a dearth of representation of the taxpayer.
Thirty years ago, the San Diego school district placed teachers according to experience, making sure that there was a balance at each school of new teachers, those with over ten years of teaching and those with more than twenty-five at each school. Good in many ways, including providing tenured teachers to help the new ones.
If this were put in place again, it would solve Barrera's concern , having schools like Fey, with their entire staff pinked slipped and no familiar face for children to return to in the fall.
This would also allow the school board to vote to issue the pink slips needed and balance the budget, like we did thirty years ago. It would take care of Barnett's concern about ending up with excess teachers.
Good teacher, bad teacher, get rid of tenure, value added...a lot of political babble.
True, new teachers cost less and that's my guess about what's motivating the Vergara vs. CA lawsuit.
Since a new contract is about to be negotiated, balancing staff experience makes sense and puts the children first.
Everyone in the Western World gets evaluated by their managers, except teachers.
Why? Because teacher DNA is different, and better, because the teachers work with children.
Everyone in the Western World gets evaluated by their managers, except teachers. Why? Because teacher DNA is different, and better, because the teachers work with children. That's why! Got i?