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Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional In California

Soulskill posted about 1 month ago | from the maybe-we-could-start-paying-teachers-well-instead dept.

Education 519

An anonymous reader writes "Tenure laws one of the most controversial aspects of education reform, and now the tide seems to be turning against them. A California judge has handed down a ruling that such laws are unconstitutional, depriving students of an education by sometimes securing positions held by bad teachers. The judge said, "Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience." The plaintiff's case was that "California's current laws make it impossible to get rid of the system's numerous low-performing and incompetent teachers; that seniority rules requiring the newest teachers to be laid off first were harmful; and that granting tenure to teachers after only two years on the job was farcical, offering far too little time for a fair assessment of their skills." This is a precedent-setting case, and there will likely be many similar cases around the country as tenure is challenged with this new ammunition."

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You make it... (1, Insightful)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 1 month ago | (#47208363)

Sound like it is a bad thing...

Re:You make it... (5, Insightful)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 1 month ago | (#47208401)

this is the best news to happen to k-12 education in a long time.

some background facts. primary school tenure was first designed as part of the progressive movement in the early 1900s. At the time a teaching position was a super sweet patronage position that a politician awarded his friends. teachers didn't actually do anything, and were replaced when the next pol came in. Nobody was learning!

one of the successes of the progressive movement was to make a professional class of primary school teachers who were insulated from political fortunes and were professionally schooled in the art of teaching. This was accomplished through employment contracts that made it really hard to fire teachers.

but the reasons that necessitated tenure are long gone, and all teachers are protected under the standard laws for hiring and firing, which cover us all. They also have a strong union that will ensure protections. So there's no need for special laws that give teachers more advantages than everybody else at the expense of their students.

Re:You make it... (5, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 1 month ago | (#47208467)

Uhhh most states have 'fire at will' laws that mean you can get rid of a person for any reason or no reason whatsoever.

The long history of public employment abuse definitely shows some sort protection is needed.

Re:You make it... (3)

nickittynickname (2753061) | about 1 month ago | (#47208529)

1) The abuses go both ways. That's why the need for tenure is in question in the first place. At every place I ever worked, even though it's at will employment, management made sure to have a good case together before letting anyone go out of fear of any litigation. Through the court system there is some level of protection if rights are being violated.

2) You second statement can be said for anything. "The long history of [insert whatever you want here] abuse definitely shows some sort of protection is needed."

Re:You make it... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208575)

So you would have no problem with a school district firing every teacher that refused to teach creationism since tenure could be abused.

Re:You make it... (1, Insightful)

Totenglocke (1291680) | about 1 month ago | (#47208601)

The administrator doing that would be sued into oblivion and never work in education again. Seriously, people love to make up absurd circumstances for why we need strict government control over certain things, yet those things would never happen due to the consequences.

Re:You make it... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208629)

What consequences? You took out due process. Now that you have removed due process, any elected school board member can just fire all those teachers.

Re:You make it... (5, Insightful)

Cryacin (657549) | about 1 month ago | (#47208867)

I love hearing the terms "protected by US employment law". It sounds akin to "protected from flame thrower by first dousing one self with canister of petrol".

Re:You make it... (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 1 month ago | (#47208699)

Sued for what exactly?

Re:You make it... (1)

msauve (701917) | about 1 month ago | (#47208737)

"people love to make up absurd circumstances for why we need strict government control over certain things"

Seems to me that strict government control over government funded education (i.e. public schools) is legitimate. I await your argument as to why it's not.

Re:You make it... (3, Insightful)

pete6677 (681676) | about 1 month ago | (#47208769)

That's very very unlikely to happen. The school board and parents would come down hard on any administrator who was that dumb.

Should we give IT workers tenure too? What if the boss threatened to fire everyone who doesn't want to program in VB6? See I too can come up with completely ridiculous examples to prove non-existent points.

Re:You make it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208833)

You've removed due process. Who said that it was an administration that did the firing? It could be a school board member doing it.

If IT people had tenure maybe then we wouldn't have competent people being fired in place of cheaper labor. Then me might not see things like Target having all their customers credit cards stollen.

Re:You make it... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208639)

In every job I've ever held (IT and later engineering), I've seen employees abused by management. The employees ranged from bad to mediocre to great.

Unpaid OT (as non-exempt), unpaid on-call time 24/7/365, vacation blackouts with a use-it-or-lose-it policy, reprimands for not completing insane workloads and salary / promotion denial are some of the ways in which I have personally witnessed management abusing employees. Some of these things not only happened to myself, but the majority of my coworkers at 4 separate mid to large organizations.

You will not normally win a lawsuit against your employer with the current labor laws. They will get away with abuse after abuse until something changes.

These corporations thrive through abusing the working class. Stop defending this behavior.

Re:You make it... (2)

pete6677 (681676) | about 1 month ago | (#47208781)

Tenure would do nothing to stop this, and would in fact make it worse. Without tenure, you're free to go work somewhere else if you find the current environment too oppressive. Anyone working in IT knows the importance of being able to switch jobs. You can't plan on working in one place forever. If there were tenure, you would be unable to switch jobs without starting on the bottom at the new place. Good luck escaping a bad work environment under that system! Imagine the horrible political environment that would result from management trying to force out a tenured employee that they couldn't fire, so the only way is to make the environment so miserable the person quits.

Re:You make it... (1)

nickittynickname (2753061) | about 1 month ago | (#47208889)

Great points. Also, look at every other post where teacher's complain about pay. They always talk about being overworked and working in illegal conditions - no lunch, no breaks, working over 60+ hours a week. Has tenure helped them, apparently not.

Re:You make it... (0)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 1 month ago | (#47208859)

And you have the right to leave at any time as well

Re:You make it... (4, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 1 month ago | (#47208863)

The abuses go both ways.

No, the abuse is always top down. The more power, the more abuse. And why should we have to go to court for every damn thing? That's half the problem anyway, write crappy rules and let the courts "fix" it. Damn lawyers have more clout than anybody... well, after accountants..

Re:You make it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208547)

Because the 'fire at will' in the private sector is so horrendous that we should change it?

Muahahahhaahahahahahahahaha.

Hypocrites.

Re:You make it... (1)

Euler (31942) | about 1 month ago | (#47208779)

Employers (school boards) are not specifically all a bunch of fat cat a-holes walking around looking for people to fire. They will absolutely retain people who do their jobs well. What is the specific conflict of interest inherent to the teaching industry that requires tenure as compared to other industries?

Re:You make it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208891)

Because everyone makes decisions based on fact and merit and not their own personal politics/feelings/perspective, right?

Treat the disease, not the symptom (2)

Camael (1048726) | about 1 month ago | (#47208803)

Uhhh most states have 'fire at will' laws that mean you can get rid of a person for any reason or no reason whatsoever.

The long history of public employment abuse definitely shows some sort protection is needed.

So instead of having excessively permissive state legislation permitting abusive "fire at will" scenarios, coupled with excessively restrictive tenure laws carving out a special exception for educators, doesn't it make more sense to just deal with the source and amend the problematic state legislation on employment itself?

This is like quibbling over how much painkillers cancer patients should legally be prescribed instead of treating the cancer itself.

Re:You make it... (3, Interesting)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 1 month ago | (#47208837)

Not all states allow unions to have much power at all. Favoritism and influence can play a huge part in getting School Board employees wrongfully fired. I will not say that I have never seen a lousy teacher but they are rare. I have seen numerous students that never should have been allowed in a classroom. Teachers have not been allowed to fail many students that need to be failed. In my area it seems that the teachers must beg and cajole students not to drop out of school as our beaches and the like are far too tempting and the curse of the GED diplomas causes kids to quite school early. I would suggest that no driver's license be allowed for school drop outs before the age of 35. That one law would stop half of our drop outs from happening. I would also like to se employers refusing to accept drop outs or GED graduates.

Re:You make it... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208405)

Oh, it's a bad thing, depending on which way you look at it. For union busters this means you can finally sacrifice the weak and infirm on the altar of efficiency. For education activists this means teachers will be more concerned with their job security than ever before, creating a chilling effect in alternative curricula and teaching styles that would reach kids the system would otherwise fail.

In other words, the education system is about to get a whole lot more one-size-fits-all in California.

Re:You make it... (1)

mc6809e (214243) | about 1 month ago | (#47208435)

Oh, it's a bad thing, depending on which way you look at it. For union busters this means you can finally sacrifice the weak and infirm on the altar of efficiency.

Wait. Are you talking about the children or the teachers?

Re:You make it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208607)

Are you talking about the children or the teachers?

Yes.

Re:You make it... (3, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 1 month ago | (#47208535)

Some of the details of California's rules really seemed ripe for this ruling, but I don't think that it's ultimately necessary to throw out the entire concept. Case in point, two years? That is too short. The word "tenure" itself was based on an expectation that it would take ten years to get there.

On the other hand, teachers can only work with the students that they are assigned. The only way to fairly assess teacher performance is to compare not only the performance of the students during the year that they're assigned to that teacher, but to compare all other years both before and after.

The simplest way to do this is to remove assessment from the teacher's responsibilities. Let teachers teach, let section, unit, quarter, and semester tests be a function of the school district or the state, and use curriculum services to ensure that what the teachers are asked to teach actually matches what the district or state expects them to do. This frees up teacher time from rote grading of exams, and lets them spend more time on their lesson plans and on extra assistance if students need it.

The other advantage is that now one can track both the student's achievement across multiple teachers, and the teachers' achievement across multiple students over multiple years, and how those students have done as they've progressed through the grades. This allows the school district as the employer to identify teachers that are struggling or are bad-fits for the grades that they're teaching, or to identify teachers whose majority of students do poorly for the long term. It also lets the system identify teachers that receive severely underperforming students, to honestly assess how they do with students that come in to a school year without the fundamentals needed to succeed on the level that they're normally expected to.

It can also show exemplary teachers that take students that are highly underperforming and bringing them up to levels to succeed.

Re:You make it... (4, Informative)

physicsphairy (720718) | about 1 month ago | (#47208797)

The word "tenure" itself was based on an expectation that it would take ten years to get there.

It actually stems from the Latin word tenere meaning to hold, as in tenant, tenacity, etc. It's not etymologically related to the number ten.

Re:You make it... (1, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | about 1 month ago | (#47208865)

You missed bits and pieces like. Whose fault is the student teacher ratio, the students, the teachers or the administration. Interactive learning experiences that help engage students in learning and put lessons skills into practice, how often are they provided, student's fault, teacher's fault or administration's fault. How about teachers skills, science teachers teaching science, maths teachers teaching math, computer teachers teaching computers, so inappropriate teacher assignment, student's fault, teacher's fault or administration's fault. Quality of teaching environment, student's fault, teacher's fault or administration's fault. Hmm, you know what, politicians purposeful running public schools into the ground by reducing funding, screwing around with student teacher ratios, cutting back on learning experiences and providing a poor quality learning environment and then blaming it all on teachers are real douche bags.

What is the impact of chopping and changing teachers mid-school. Tenure must be earned and can readily be denied by the simple act of letting the teacher go prior to earning tenure and tenure also binds the teacher to the school to take another position means giving up tenure.

So some politically motivated judge makes a pretty crap ruling based upon ideology and not law. As no teacher is bound to the students, they are bound to the school and only after having substantiated their worth over an extended period and basically can only be fired for failing to perform their duties properly and not because of random short term cut backs, politics, beliefs or any other biased reason. This to create a stable and properly structured learning environment for the students, sound teacher retention practices are really required. Of course for knee jerk right wing idiots with little knowledge or understanding of anything outside of their own personal greed, how well schools run, meh who gives a crap, as long as you can blame the failure on someone else whilst cashing in.

Re:You make it... (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about 1 month ago | (#47208593)

And that is just one of the many many motives because education should not be managed by the government. It can be paid by the government, but putting the government to manage it opens the doors for all kinds of abuse in addition to government's natural inefficiency. Either you have overprotect employees that can do or not do anything and are all but unfireable or you have employees fired because of political and bureaucratic motives regardless of their competence.

Re:You make it... (1)

Jack9 (11421) | about 1 month ago | (#47208771)

> In other words, the education system is about to get a whole lot more one-size-fits-all in California.

That was the whole point of the suit.

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208371)

Goodbye Lousy Teacher's!

Re:Finally! (5, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | about 1 month ago | (#47208491)

Goodbye Lousy Teacher's!

Goodbye Older, Higher-Paid Teachers!

Re:Finally! (2)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 1 month ago | (#47208557)

Goodbye Older, Higher-Paid Teachers!

You forget that teachers still have a strong union with strong union contracts that will make firing a teacher without a damn good reason difficult.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208597)

That due process sure does suck. Wouldn't it be great if we could just fire a teacher for completely imaginary reasons.

Re:Finally! (2)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about 1 month ago | (#47208585)

"Lousy" and "older and higher paid" are not mutually exclusive terms. However, I concede that the GP's message was somewhat diluted by the unfortunate inclusion of an errant apostrophe; grammar and composition are certainly relevant to this conversation.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208887)

goodbye older, higher-paid shitbag teachers. There's still a union.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208623)

They should start with the English teacher that taught you how to use apostophes.

Re:Finally! (1)

Gramie2 (411713) | about 1 month ago | (#47208821)

And the one who taught you to spell "apostrophes"!

Good (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208375)

Tenure exists to ensure that professors can pursue unpopular lines of inquiry without being troubled by university politics. It makes no sense in primary or secondary education.

Re:Good (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208415)

I mostly agree, but OTOH, some subjects do deal with touchy topics in highschool. History is a good example, it wasn't until I got to college and took a history class when I learned just how much of what I was taught was outright wrong. But, it was popular to paint slavery and WWII in a specific light even though the reality was very different. Nobody bothered to talk about the free blacks that lived in the South prior to the civil war. And the history teachers never bothered to mention the Germans and Italians that were in American concentration camps alongside the Japanese.

You're right that tenure doesn't make any real sense in the primary or secondary systems, but that's not to say that it's a good idea to completely chuck it.

Re:Good (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 1 month ago | (#47208469)

But you have to weight the good that a good teacher can do with more breathing room with the bad. For every single teacher who might chuck the curriculum because it is politically correct garbage, 100 would use it to teach creationism.

At the end of the day these are high school teachers, they are not really qualified to make judgement calls on what the truth is.

Re:Good (1)

Euler (31942) | about 1 month ago | (#47208819)

Exactly. A university professor may have some argument for tenure when doing controversial research. But even then, maybe that professor should shop around for a university that is more sympathetic. But in primary and high schools, the curriculum is usually predefined. The school should absolutely have the tools to retain and reward the most effective teachers.

Kind of Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208417)

Except that the vast majority of universities in our country are more like secondary education institutions in that they exist to bring the masses up to speed rather than to foster research by the truly talented. Tenuring professors at a community college, for example, does not even remotely exist to allow these professors to pursue unpopular lines of inquiry.

The majority of the education system is like the head of the dog trying to catch the tail (the Ivy League and the rest)

Re:Kind of Good (1)

Imrik (148191) | about 1 month ago | (#47208847)

It does, however, allow the teachers to ignore the political games that crop up in most any organization.

I'm actually not sure it makes much sense at all (3, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 1 month ago | (#47208429)

The thing is, what I see it do, working at a university, is protect old professors from having to do any work. We have professors who teach one class, or even none at all, do not have a research lab, and are barely around on campus. Yet they are not fired, because revoking tenure is a near impossible process. So they get to collect their paycheck and do next to nothing.

It doesn't seem to help with regards to unpopular research because you have to do a bunch of research to begin with to get tenure. Who decides if you get it? Your peers, of course. So if you show up and do unpopular research, well then you aren't going to get tenure. It is a very real popularity contest.

The only way it would help is if someone came in, didn't say what they really wanted to research, did popular research for 6-8 years, got tenure, finished up that research to satisfy the grants they had gotten, then started on their unpopular research. That requires an awful lot of planning and subterfuge. Hence you basically never see it.

It really seems mostly to function to protect a good old boys club and make sure that if professors want to be completely useless during their twilight years, but not retire so they can still collect more money and get to play big shot on the university's dime, they can do so with no real fear of retaliation.

Re: I'm actually not sure it makes much sense at a (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208569)

This is about k-12 not university. Rules are different.

Re:I'm actually not sure it makes much sense at al (4, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | about 1 month ago | (#47208687)

My old professors who had retired from research were the best I had. The younger ones were all too focused on their research ("other job") to be an effective instructor. The older ones still taught because they loved to teach and it really showed in their classes.

Re:I'm actually not sure it makes much sense at al (3, Insightful)

chihowa (366380) | about 1 month ago | (#47208759)

So they get to collect their paycheck and do next to nothing.

That must vary by field.

In the sciences, if a professor doesn't bring in funding for research, doesn't have any administrative roles, and doesn't teach, they don't get a paycheck. Their lab space will eventually be taken away and they will be left with only an office (which may be downgraded, Office Space style, to let active faculty have the nicer offices). It's a pretty pathetic way to go out and very few people seem to do it.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208459)

Until you consider EXACTLY how unpopular hard teachers are with students, and parents, because they make the students learn, not just pass them blindly.

Especially when it's the football team.

But hell, I'll believe politicians care about tenure when they start voting themselves out.

Re:Good (1)

Euler (31942) | about 1 month ago | (#47208869)

I agree that many schools bend the rules for athletics, music, theater, chess club, whatever... But I've never seen how tenure stopped that injustice.

Hard teachers should be unpopular... good, effective teachers that help kids pass Regents, SAT, and AP tests are popular. If you live in a place that doesn't care about those things, then feel free to ignore this post.

Re:Good (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208473)

Let the professors who what to pursue their on line of inquiry start their own schools and persuade students to pay them...What is disturbing is how judges decide one year that a thing is "constitutional" and the next that is is not. Judges are perhaps the least qualified to decide these issues. All of this simply informs us about how important it is to limit the power of any one group, especially of those groups that are wealth consumers rather than wealth creators.

Re:Good (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 1 month ago | (#47208709)

Nonsense. If your reason for the existence of tenure is valid, then K-12 teachers need it much more that university professors. K-12 teaching is ALL politics. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have no experience in education.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208757)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have no experience in education.

Exactly! Those who can teach. Those who can't pass laws about teaching.

Re:Good (4, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | about 1 month ago | (#47208731)

I think you woefully underestimate the office politics in primary school administration. There are far too many administrators who want to micromanage their teachers and/or suck up to parents. And the "unpopular" part is telling parents that it's their fault - or their kid's fault - that he or she got a bad grade, especially when that parent can march into the office and complain to the principal thereafter.

It's not exactly the same as at college, but the pressures are there. The process to get rid of bad teachers needs to be objective, and merely eliminating tenure to restore "fire at will" will be nothing of the sort.

Re:Good (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208789)

What, you mean like refusing to teach teach intelligent design ?

How about a teacher who ARE good but is not anti-gay or not anti-abortion within the bible belt ?

How about teachers who ARE good but are unpopular because they have high homework requirements, or they have a non nonsense in class attitude.

Re:Good (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 1 month ago | (#47208885)

Why would anyone think that secondary school teachers are not forced to toe a political or religious line from their superiors? In high school we had a class on forms of government. During the portion on communism the teacher would play the role of advocating communism. The teacher would also advocate for socialism and republics and monarchies as each was featured. That was in 1962. If we had that class today a teacher would be in serious trouble as the expectation of freedom of speech is not now what it once was. I know someone will ask what advantage does communism offer. Rapid decisions without lengthy negotiations and consultations are one feature of communism. The other feature is that some communist nations actually have provided a safety net for the lowest classes of citizens. The bad part is that communist governments tend to murder people who do not eagerly fall in line with the plan of the hour.

This is just K-12 for now, yes? (1)

Shag (3737) | about 1 month ago | (#47208391)

Perhaps it's more of an issue at the primary and secondary levels - at universities, it takes a while to get tenure, and the bad apples should be sorted out by then (although there are certainly those who get tenure, then do things they probably shouldn't). It does make me wonder whether there'll be a push for something similar at the university level, though. Given the horror stories in the press about how adjuncts and lecturers are treated, moving away from a tenured faculty (claiming "cost" and "responsibility" reasons, or whatever) might fit just fine.

Oh, Thank God! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208397)

That's just what we need. More instability in the job market!

Re:Oh, Thank God! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208519)

Another step toward 100% unemployment, Thank 'Bama!

Re: Oh, Thank God! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208611)

You're right! Things are going really downhill. The stock market is up, employment is up, soldiers are coming home from unnecessary wars ... Oh, wait.

Re: Oh, Thank God! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208635)

The troops are coming home to take our jobs!

Re:Oh, Thank God! (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 1 month ago | (#47208893)

What does a state government decision have to do with the president?

Oh, right, you're just a troll.

State constitution, not Federal (2)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 1 month ago | (#47208399)

It's worth pointing out the law was ruled unconstitutional vs. the California state constitution, not the Federal constitution. Any state that does not have a "right to an education" clause in their constitution probably has legal tenure laws, at least vs that argument.

The slightly breathless article claiming this is "new ammunition" for challenges in other states is overstating the usefulness of the ruling, especially considering the judge ordered California tenure law to remain in place during appeal. State constitutions are independent of one another, so a ruling in one state court carries very little weight in another state's court.

Re:State constitution, not Federal (2)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 1 month ago | (#47208425)

related to this is the joke of a document that is the CA constitution. if the US constitution is like the three laws of robotics, enumerating a core set of principles from which other principles follow, without containing any fluff or extra junk, the CA constitution is like that scene in Robocop where the citizen's commission filled Robocop's head with dozens of directives like "don't jaywalk" and basically shut him down.

Case in point - there was a big fight over whether or not to legalize indian casinos. At a statewide ballot the majority voted no. So the casinos reorganized and put a constitutional amendment on the ballot 4 years later, which requires 2/3 vote. Due to better organization the constitutional amendment passed.

I wouldn't be surprised if the teachers try to get a constitutional amendment that gives teachers special privileges.pretty sweet to be in a politically connected union and have no ambitions other than riding your current job into a fully-paid retirement at age 55.

Re:State constitution, not Federal (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 1 month ago | (#47208767)

pretty sweet to be in a politically connected union and have no ambitions other than riding your current job into a fully-paid retirement at age 55.

This used to be called "middle class."
You're so far divorced from the way things used to be, that now it's some kind of offense for people to retire while they still have their health.

Books have been written on the destruction of the American pension system.
The "how" varies from decade to decade, but it's not a pretty story, no matter which period of time you want to look at.

Tenure at the secondary level is a steaming pile (3, Informative)

wannabe (90895) | about 1 month ago | (#47208403)

At the college level, tenure is an important consideration for professors. It allows research into areas that are unpopular in a contemporary setting without fearing for employment. It facilitates the free exchange of ideas that are so important in a proper educational setting. However, in a public school at the primary or secondary level, what new and contentious ideas are expressed? What fear do teachers have in parroting their lessons to the students? Lessons are handed down from on high and the teachers are responsible to ensure students are proficient (in theory). So why is it that we need public school teachers to have tenured positions?

I am open to thoughts on this subject, but based on what I know right now, providing high school teachers with tenure is a big load of crap. It keeps bad teachers in place and is simply one more outdated benefit that society can no longer afford. When high school teachers are working on original research and disseminating their results to students, then tenure is justified. Until then, it's just one more barrier to improvement.

Destruction IS THE GOAL (3, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | about 1 month ago | (#47208647)

Universities have decreased in tenure and didn't give it out easily to begin with; that is what I've been told, I don't have data to back that up but in my experience, only 1 person in the dept had tenure. It took the poor guy just 4 years from retirement to finally get it; the rest are probably not going to get it and they are not much younger.

Meanwhile teachers in k-12 only have to survive without making waves for 2 years and they are set. Now, people might hear that they can't be fired; but that is NOT the case. It depends on the system how bad that is.

The standardized testing system is a joke and you won't make it much better than the joke it is. Unlike most subjects, education is a FUZZY topic and trying to quantify it is is impossible to do. But we are making idiotic metrics so that we can "fix" the system along those metrics...

The reality is, from what I heard from a big player in the GOP is the plan is to RUIN public education and destroy the union as well. People like education too much so they must be made to hate it, then they will be receptive to formerly unpopular ideas like privatization of schooling and letting the poor fend for themselves -- a neocon dreamland. The expensive debt producing No Child Left Behind was designed to harm the system; it had no motives other than that. I got it from the horse's mouth.

Their plans have worked extremely well. we hate the unions, we hate teachers, we love accountability but hate that people wanting to keep their jobs are teaching to the tests we measure them on. Education is turning into wrote learning; which is great if your future is at Walmart or in a 1st world sweat shop. The elite can pay for better schools (because they are better humans; duh! they have more money ) so their kids can learn to rule. History repeats... One has to expect it to trend towards the norm of human history (which never was democracy or upward mobility.)

Re:Tenure at the secondary level is a steaming pil (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about 1 month ago | (#47208651)

If it is a pile, then rest assured it will be reinstated by the ninth circuit court.

Re:Tenure at the secondary level is a steaming pil (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 1 month ago | (#47208745)


However, in a public school at the primary or secondary level, what new and contentious ideas are expressed?

That's easy. A 3rd grade math teacher insists on his students memorizing multiplication tables. The principal disagrees, saying "drill and kill" is just outdated, and the students must use calculators instead. The teacher ignores the principal, who knows nothing of mathematics instruction. The teacher is put on leave for insubordination, and eventually fired.

Re:Tenure at the secondary level is a steaming pil (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 1 month ago | (#47208839)


However, in a public school at the primary or secondary level, what new and contentious ideas are expressed?

Another example: Instead of participating in "social promotion", an 8th grade math teacher fails 50% of his class since none of them can add fractions. The principal considers this outrageous since the students have been taking lousy math courses their entire lives and deserves a break. The teacher disagrees, and is aware of state (California) law which says teachers have the final say in grades, unless there is an error in computing the grade, or fraud. The principal fires the teacher, since such teachers can not and do not exist in the public school system here.

Some things will not change. (1)

callahan2211 (1963904) | about 1 month ago | (#47208413)

New teachers get the lowest performing kids. Veteran teachers teach the AP classes and honors classes. This is really the opposite as it should be. If teachers are retained or promoted based on performance, then those with students with higher skills will perform better. If a principal does not care for a teacher for whatever reason, he will just put the lowest performing, most troubled kids in that teachers classroom. This alone, will not solve the problem of low performing schools.

About time... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208421)

I worked in schools as an IT guy for several years. I cannot tell you how many bad teachers were there simply because they had tenure. Far, far too many. Teachers should be judged by their ability to teach, impart knowledge, by their merits as educators. Full stop. Test results should count against teachers. As should ability to control the class at large. So many teachers fail in the basics of being an adult. Sadly, college does not prepare teachers to handle conflict, personality traits, student discipline, etc. Most teachers throw their hands up and either declare the children delinquents or send those same children to the office over and over again rather than try and get to the root of the issue.

I was blessed to have been given the chance to be a mentor for a student that wanted to go into IT via high school graduation and onto college. He was my intern for a school year. All he wanted was to learn in an environment that worked for him, not the stoicism of the classroom. I let him run with tasks to see him work and he shined. I spoke to the couselors about him and his grades for the year in other classes improved markedly because of a little care from someone. Schools suck largely because there is no accountability of the teachers. They "teach" students to pass the state standards exams. There is NO critical thinking taught, no thinking for yourself. Most kids in their senior year don't even know what a dangling participle is, let alone a gerund, or basics like using semicolons. My own intern thought Africa was a single country. He said others think the same. He couldn't find Israel on the giant wall map with the laser pointer.

Teachers need to be taken to task as well as school administrators. Education is not what it once was, sadly.

About time... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208507)

I currently work as a technology director for a school district and have for other districts in the past. I see teachers spending the bulk of their time on netflix, pinterest, facebook, etc... Not teaching. I see students being given busy work in the labs creating idiotic power points on useless subjects and what do I see on my screen showing all the staff computer screens? I see those students teacher in their classroom doing up his fantasy football stats.

I even had 1 teacher who had 126 service calls to her room in 2 years. There was only 340 class days in that time, so she was avg. a call for help every 3 days. They all think they are gods gift and cant understand why dozens of their brightest students are doing everything they can to get into online courses.

Where I am now, I have the equivalent of an entire grade doing nothing but online college courses and other online courses. The students dont want to be sitting in a classroom with a failure teacher who does nothing but play youtube and netflix videos every day.

I hope this sweeps across the country.

TEACHERS!!!!!!! PAY ATTENTION TO THIS NEXT STATEMENT!!!!!

If you helped to get rid of the trash, it would make you more VALUABLE and you would get paid MORE.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND. When there are a hundred failure English teachers ready to work and 1 good one, guess how much the good teacher will get paid? If the failures are gone and the school has 1 teacher with a good recomendation applying, guess how much they will try to court you for the opening?

About time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208523)

Also, I have personally seen this with chemistry and physics teachers. They can get whatever they want $$$ because their subject is hard, therefore other teachers dont want to do it. I have sat down with administrators trying to brainstorm how to get someone extra $$$ and get around the teachers union so we could actually attract competent teachers. When that fails, we follow the contract and hire the best we can for the $$$ the union says we can pay them.

Re:About time... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 1 month ago | (#47208715)

This is truly sad. A good teacher is so incredibly much better than an online course. If teachers these days are so bad that they do not even manage to compete with online courses, things have utterly gone down the drain.

Re:About time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208533)

Test results should count against teachers.

The point of tests is not that everyone passes. Most of the people should get a C on a properly graded test with very few A's and very few F's.

Re:About time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208795)

Strange. All my kids' teachers have been incredibly good... and they are all tenured... and the teachers at the private school I went to as a kid, really stunk (no tenure). Instead of blaming "tenure", maybe it's just the school.

Bad Comparison (4, Insightful)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 1 month ago | (#47208807)

Your example shows that if a knowledgable person takes a single student under their wing, the student might thrive. Now, imagine yourself in front of a classroom full of 30 students, most of whom are totally uninterested in your field. Do you have the same amount of time to commit to that one student who is really interested? You can't compare yourself to "bad" teachers, for you might be a bad teacher yourself under the same circumstances. Anyone can be a great teacher to one bright, really interested student.

Tenure should be available but not inviolable (4, Interesting)

DarkFencer (260473) | about 1 month ago | (#47208455)

There are important reasons for tenure in K-12 education, especially in this era. K-12 schools (and in turn teachers) in many areas receive incredible pressure from parents. It used to be if a child got poor grades the teacher wasn't the one blamed. Now there are many parents who have spoiled brats who they believe can do no wrong.

That being said, tenure's protections should exist but should make teacher's positions far less invincible than they are in many areas now. There should be a process of discipline and removal for poor teachers. It should be as objective as possible so as to avoid undue parental pressure.

Otherwise it creates a perverse incentive for teachers to inflate grades of their students.

Re:Tenure should be available but not inviolable (2)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 1 month ago | (#47208531)

There should be a process of discipline and removal for poor teachers. It should be as objective as possible so as to avoid undue parental pressure.

Therein lies the problem. What should it be based on? How many students pass? Standardized test scores? How about teachers that are good but get a job at a school whose students are generally poorer-performing vs teachers that aren't as good but work at a school with a higher caliber of students?

Re:Tenure should be available but not inviolable (1)

DarkFencer (260473) | about 1 month ago | (#47208587)

Therein lies the problem. What should it be based on? How many students pass? Standardized test scores? How about teachers that are good but get a job at a school whose students are generally poorer-performing vs teachers that aren't as good but work at a school with a higher caliber of students?

Oh - I completely understand that it is a difficult question. Many of the evaluation options thrown out by people involve more standardize testing (which will favor students, and in turn teachers in better socioeconomic classes and with less English language learners).

I'm not an educator myself, but I think an honest review for tenure purposes would have to consist of a comparison of student results from year-to-year, not just comparisons between students district/state/nation-wide. Then you could possibly see how a teacher has had a negative or positive (or net-zero) effect on student progress in their subject area.

But again, this is my own layman's guess.

Tenure should be available but not inviolable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208565)

They already inflate grades. At the last school I was a technology director for, we had 2 valedictorians and 2 salutatorians because 2 different camps of staff had already picked their winners at the beginning of the year and didnt like the other camp of teachers. What are the odds that 2 students will get the exact same gpa down to the 3rd decimal place and then to follow that up have 2 more students get the 2nd position down to the 3rd decimal place?

When you work in tech support at a school, you get to see what teachers have up on their screens all day (facebook, pinterest, fantasy football, etc...). It rarely has anything to do with school.

Re:Tenure should be available but not inviolable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208581)

There should be a process of discipline and removal for poor teachers. It should be as objective as possible so as to avoid undue parental pressure.

Good news that's exactly what they already have in place.

Re:Tenure should be available but not inviolable (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208845)

It used to be if a child got poor grades the teacher wasn't the one blamed. Now there are many parents who have spoiled brats who they believe can do no wrong.

This is the biggest problem. Sometime in the last twenty years, a large percentage of parents decided that the primary predictor of their child's intelligence was the skill of the teacher they had at this moment. Socio-economic class, parent-teaching, cultural and familial support for education, hard work, raw talent, and peer support were all but ignored. If little Johnny got good grades, it was because he was brilliant. If he got bad grades, it was because the teacher was unqualified.

Certainly, there are bad teachers. There are also bad lawyers, doctors, programmers, bankers and waiters. However, there are also loads of bad --or at least neglectful and irresponsible-- parents who have been taught that the rest of the country will support them if they blame their lack of care for their child's education on an arbitrarily selected teacher. Thanks, rest-of-America. We should certainly try to get rid of bad teachers, and despite loads of people who were bitter at some teacher who didn't meet their needs, most truly bad teachers do get removed. It's harder to remove the mediocre teachers, especially when there is a shortage of good teachers... due in no small part to the number of people who insult education in general and habitually complain about teacher's attempts to get any sort of parity on salary-per-education level against other post-bachelor-degree fields.

That being said, tenure's protections should exist but should make teacher's positions far less invincible than they are in many areas now. There should be a process of discipline and removal for poor teachers. It should be as objective as possible so as to avoid undue parental pressure.

Otherwise it creates a perverse incentive for teachers to inflate grades of their students.

One thing that many people here on Slashdot don't seem to understand is that this proposed system is already in place in the majority of schools in the country. Most school districts' "tenure" is simply a "must document before firing" rule. I've seen four "tenured" teachers removed from positions in the last six years. I know that there are some places with hard tenure, and I'm not a fan of that. But other opponents of primary/secondary tenure would do well to at least recognize that for the most part, they already have their wish, and that they should be wary of painting all teachers with the same brush.

The primary reason that this "tenure" exists is to provide some sort of fair treatment for teachers. Remember: Teachers in the grand majority of school districts aren't allowed to quit their job. They are contracted and the contracts have punitive clauses for early resignation. It also protects teachers at higher pay scales from being fired just to free up budgeting money (something that many schools have done anyway). While I know a number of companies that have fired senior software developers to replace them with cheaper junior (or off-shore) staff, I don't know of any case where that resulted in higher quality work. I don't know why schools would be different. So, this "tenure" is less about providing a cushy job where teachers don't have to work hard anymore, and more about trying to convince them they won't be discarded on a whim, or because their salary is too high, or because little Johnny's mom was upset that he got a B.

And here's the most annoying thing: All the people who have been pushing test scores as some savior for the education system are just making it worse. Understand that its easier to get good test scores than it is to be a good teacher. "Teaching to the test" is bad teaching, but that is what proponents of judging teachers by test scores are reinforcing. By deciding that a teacher's quality is directly reflected by a statistical measurement which is not strongly linked to teachers (and quite often, not even statistically relevant), they have created a system that allows bad teachers to hide from disciplinary action behind an armor of statistical nonsense that they created by doing their job badly. I find it bitterly hilarious that this sort of thing gained so much popularity on Slashdot, where people claimed to be competent with statistics.

Why cannot they work from home? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208501)

This is a good start, now just like everyone in Silicon Valley, teachers should be forced to leave early to pick up their kids, work from home and have a good work life balance

Re:Why cannot they work from home? (0)

callahan2211 (1963904) | about 1 month ago | (#47208555)

Everyone in Silicon Valley? I believe the the high tech SV actually is low tech when it comes to telecommuting. Just look at what the new CEO did @ Yahoo, no more telecommuting. They could save billions of dollars in lost time, gas and housing costs if telecommuting was used more heavily in SV.

Re:Why cannot they work from home? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208739)

That was just an underhanded way of firing X% of their workforce without doing an actual layoff. They knew many of their telecommuters wouldn't stay if they had to come into the office everyday.

Tenure exists for a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208513)

University professors have tenure so they can't be fired for research that goes against the groupthink. Public school teachers shouldn't be able to get tenure.

Re:Tenure exists for a reason (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 1 month ago | (#47208691)

Does not work. Professors do not get tenure in the first place when they have ideas that go against the groupthink. Their only chance is to develop these ideas after they have tenure, but basically nobody does. The final test for getting tenure is to verify you are a good loyal little soldier that will not rock the boat or maybe even find out that older, more established professors are full of shit.

You job should be no more secure than anyone else (0)

marcgvky (949079) | about 1 month ago | (#47208527)

This is great.... it's time to make everyone equal. I am a Marxist and don't understand why education is some type of protected class.

Finally (0)

nomad63 (686331) | about 1 month ago | (#47208537)

Finally, a judge with common sense in the most liberal state in the country, fed by the donation of teachers' union. Wha-da-ya-know ? There still are people with integrity. I meant the judge. Take an example from him big bald governor of shame...

Sure, but (1)

deego (587575) | about 1 month ago | (#47208609)

Sure, tenure makes no sense for schools.

But, what I'm really wondering is: Just what was the creative logic that the /judges/ used to conclude that tenure violated something (civil rights?) enshrined in the state constitution..

     

Nah, it's not April (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 1 month ago | (#47208631)

Can't be. What next? PEU-Dem (Public-Employee Union-Democratic party relationship) found to be one party rule? Nah. A judge actually shedding light on Calfornia's corrupted system. It's got to be April. I'm sweating like a pig, it's 8 PM and the Sun ain't gone down yet though. Something ain't right. Damned pranksters.

Only incompetent teachers need tenure (1, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 1 month ago | (#47208671)

The others will be evaluated highly time and again. Hence the majority of teachers (which are incompetent, have no doubt) tried to secure their positions by lobbying for these laws. The same is, incidentally, going on with professors.

Re:Only incompetent teachers need tenure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 1 month ago | (#47208689)

So you would be perfectly with one of those "Incompetent" teachers being fired for refusing to teach creationism?

Re:Only incompetent teachers need tenure (1)

L4m3rthanyou (1015323) | about 1 month ago | (#47208777)

We're talking about California here. The ruling could certainly bring some unfavorable consequences, but I doubt that will be one of them.

Re:Only incompetent teachers need tenure (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 1 month ago | (#47208763)

Nonsense. It's not unheard of that an unscrupulous principal tries to fire a teacher who makes his incompetence evident via simple free speech.

Teachers... (1)

msauve (701917) | about 1 month ago | (#47208705)

"Tenure laws one of the most..."

Can the poster buy a verb? Or maybe have their non-tenured English teacher buy one for them?

WTF Summary (1)

L4m3rthanyou (1015323) | about 1 month ago | (#47208799)

"Tenure laws one of the most controversial aspects of education reform, and now the tide seems to be turning against them.

Clearly, the submitter was instructed by a series of undeservedly-tenured English teachers.

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