Sunday, May 03, 2009


I can't resist commenting on today's LA Times article: "Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and tortuous task".

Perhaps it is in poor taste to publish such an article deeply critical of the traditional job security in K-12 education when over 27,000 California teachers were pink-slipped this year, to say nothing of the counselors, administrators, bus drivers, and office workers who also lost their jobs. Or, at a moment when so many good teachers are out of work, this might be exactly the time to reconsider the way such decisions are made. Why fire the second-year art teacher who implemented the school's first ceramics class and stays after school countless hours to help organize the junior class prom when there's an algebra I teacher who snaps at students with sarcastic humor, refuses to spend time out of class tutoring those who ask for help, and hasn't varied his lesson plans since 1989? This is hypothetical of course.

I read this article and winced. Multiple times. We do need a revision to the system of education but not one that comes from people seeking to destroy public education. We do need to rethink the process of arbitrating complaints and protecting a teacher's job security, but not when a student has to go weeks or even months without an appropriately-credentialed teacher in the classroom.

Tenure is a comfortable practice. It stems from good intentions of protecting academic freedom and rewarding those with valuable experience. It also needs to be changed.

To give an example, a nameless teacher called in sick to his/her job the second week of school. This practice continued until the district became involved, the union became involved, doctors notes were involved, parents were involved, and students waited not-so-patiently with their twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth substitute. Needless to say, school security and the assistant principal also became very involved in the classroom. The teacher never returned. A credentialed long-term sub was finally legally able to be hired over spring break. The teacher has not been fired, and it is unlikely that the district will press for termination due to the time, expense, and rigid criteria for firing teachers. No matter what the situation of the teacher, that is gross negligence. As angry as the students and the parents were, the person's colleagues were equally incensed. They were the ones dealing with the overflowing discipline problems, the wave of transferring students, and even creating the daily lesson plans, reading the homework, and submitting all the paperwork for students' grades.

I take pride in my profession, and I believe that a job that requires such skill, energy, ingenuity and experience can be measured in more than years.


Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I agree with you, reminds me of a plot line in the West Wing, seaosn 6.

4:27 AM  

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