Seems students are being tested every time they take a seat in the classroom – annual Academic Performance tests, federal “yearly progress” tests, “Smarter Balanced” tests, SAT, ACT and advanced placement exams.
Those don’t count the constant assessing teachers do to make certain their students are keeping up. After grading all these tests, teachers are required to pass the students to the next grade. Or not.
Why is it that teachers are expected to make such judgments in nine months, but some education reformers feel administrators need 27 months to make similar decisions about teachers?
Touted as a way to give poor performing teachers more time to improve, Assembly Bill 1220 will extend the probationary period for all teachers from two school years to three. It has passed the Assembly (60-5) and goes before the Senate today.
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While we don’t doubt the sincerity of many who favor it, we think there’s a very different agenda tucked into this bill. AB1220 will delay granting the so-called tenure that some believe protects bad teachers. But there’s a subtext. A teacher who can be dismissed for almost any reason is a nervous teacher, and less likely to take part in union activities.
Rules to become “permanent” (not tenured) were created to protect teachers from administrators who could fire them for their fashion sense, for asking for a raise or because the superintendent’s nephew wanted the job.
Having “tenure” doesn’t mean bad teachers can’t be fired. Any teacher can be fired for poor performance, dishonesty, drug abuse or even being a communist. All “tenure” provides is the right to know why and to contest it.
“This is another example of trying to scapegoat teachers,” said Assemblyman Adam Gray, one of the five who voted against AB1220. He’s right.
To get a teaching credential requires four-and-a-half years of college then “student teaching” under the supervision of a “master” teacher for another half year. Once they’re on their own in the classroom it gets tougher. Good school administrators put them under even more intense scrutiny with regular classroom visits; they’re required to submit lesson plans, attend grade-level staff meetings and, of course, participate in parent-teacher conferences.
The scrutiny doesn’t end after “permanent” status is achieved, but observations are less frequent.
All this scrutiny isn’t meant to make teachers nervous, but to make certain they’re doing their jobs and doing them well. Seeing a failing teacher, a good administrator will take immediate steps to help them.
In private industry, good managers know soon enough when employees aren’t producing. Most try to bring an employee’s poor performance up to standards. But if they can’t, the employee is gone in six months – not 36. That’s why voters rejected Proposition 74, which would have extended teacher probation to 60 months, in 2005.
The Assembly’s analysis pointed out that enrollment in teacher credentialing programs has dropped 70 percent since 2006. Telling prospective teachers they won’t be secure in their job for three years isn’t enticing.
Bad teachers should not be teaching. But bad administrators – unwilling to adequately monitor teachers and demand improvement – shouldn’t be in charge. A good assistant principal will know all she or he needs to know about a teacher in 18 months. A bad principal won’t know any more in 27 months than he or she did in 18.
Gray calls AB1220 a “disconnect” with the real problems in public education. If you’re worried about performance, suggests Gray, pay teachers better. And don’t tell them it will take three years to get real job security.