A bill intended to make it quicker and less costly to dismiss teachers received a 7-0 approval from the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday, and its author – the chair of the committee, Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo – received much praise from her colleagues for taking on a contentious issue.

Unanimous passage of AB 375, without opposition in public testimony, does not necessarily mean the bill will face a conflict-free path to Gov. Brown’s desk, however. The California Teachers Association, which adamantly opposed an alternate version that died in the same committee last year, has tentatively supported Buchanan’s bill. But its State Council meets this weekend and may recommend amendments. Those advocating a stronger version will suggest technical amendments to ensure that the bill meets its goal of a dismissal process taking no more than seven months, including appeals. Bill Lucia, CEO and president of the advocacy group EdVoice, offered to work with Buchanan on tightening provisions. The bill must go through the Assembly Judiciary Committee before going to the Senate.

Last year’s bill, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would have applied only to dismissals for egregious misconduct, including sex abuse against children. It would have replaced a three-person appeals panel, composed of  two teachers and an administrative law judge, with an administrative law judge alone issuing advisory rulings to school boards, which would have had final authority over dismissals. Buchanan’s bill would keep the appeals board but would make changes to timelines, procedures and rules of discovery that would apply to all dismissals, for bad conduct as well as unsatisfactory performance. In cases of suspected sex abuse, districts could use evidence older than four years if an administrative law judge determined it was relevant.

Buchanan said a two-hour discussion with eight administrative law judges formed the basis for provisions in the bill. Dismissal proceedings currently can cost districts more than $100,000 and take 18 months or longer to resolve.

 

 

 

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  1. Gary Ravani 6 years ago6 years ago

    Navigio: I take issue with one of your assertions: that the rarity of firings has a "primary" cause based on administration. Administrators dropping the ball, according to the auditor's report, is a key issue in the rare instances that firings become necessary, but there is no evidence to suggest they should not be rare occurrences. Some have fallen under the spell of myths about "bad teachers" stalking the halls of public schools the way Joe McCarthy hypnotized … Read More

    Navigio:

    I take issue with one of your assertions: that the rarity of firings has a “primary” cause based on administration. Administrators dropping the ball, according to the auditor’s report, is a key issue in the rare instances that firings become necessary, but there is no evidence to suggest they should not be rare occurrences.

    Some have fallen under the spell of myths about “bad teachers” stalking the halls of public schools the way Joe McCarthy hypnotized a nation with his mythological communists stalking the halls of the State department in the 1950s. There is no evidence of either being true.

    A couple of op-eds, posing as academic “studies” (at least one of which comes out of the Hoover Institution), suggested that 5 to 10% of teachers needed to be fired as ineffective. This, of course, was based on the teachers’ “value added,” a concept so reviled as unreliable and invalid by so many real education researchers that I will not deal with it again here. But, again, the “bad teacher” myth is just that.

    The “double edged sword,” so to speak, of the high attrition rate for new teachers is that many not suited for the classroom leave voluntarily. The classroom is a very uncomfortable place for an adult unsuited for the profession. That they leave alongside some very good teachers is a waste in too many ways.

    A comparable controversy is now coming to the fore about teacher evaluation. Having revised evaluation systems with all the usual slogans about “raising bars” and so on in a number of states it turns out the vast majority of teachers are continuing to be rated quite highly. This has set off the usual suspects in the self-styled “reform” cabal with complaints about how even these new systems aren’t good enough because they fail to identify “enough” teachers, usually 5 to 10% or some other arbitrary number, as being unsatisfactory. Another option is to just own up to the fact that most teachers who hang in there are simply pretty good at their jobs.

    McCarthy was never able to face up to the error of his ways and I doubt the current crop of ideologues will either.

    Replies

    • navigio 6 years ago6 years ago

      Hi Gary. That was bad wording on my part (I tried to make your point in the parenthetic, but probably did not succeed). My statement was under the assumption that we were talking about cases in which firings become or should be necessary (and not only for the reasons mentioned here). Using the term ‘rarity’ is inaccurate though. Anyway, to be clear, I agree with you.

      • Gary Ravani 6 years ago6 years ago

        Thanks for the clarification.

  2. CarolineSF 6 years ago6 years ago

    On the ground, as a parent in the world of schools, where I certainly have encountered the occasional problem teacher, this has been my observation: “The most frequent problems with the dismissal process according to the Auditor had to do with delayed actions, actions not taken, and legalistic foot dragging by…(brace yourself) management and their lawyers. This appears to mostly account for the length of time and expense of the process.”

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 6 years ago6 years ago

      Caroline: The state audit of LAUSD did find that the length of time investigating cases by the district did constitute the largest delay and expense; the district in some cases couldn't explain why cases took so long. However, the auditor only analyzed cases of alleged sexual abuse and physical misconduct, which, because they potentially involve criminal charges, would take longer than most other cases and had to be integrated with the district attorney's separate investigations. Buchanan's … Read More

      Caroline: The state audit of LAUSD did find that the length of time investigating cases by the district did constitute the largest delay and expense; the district in some cases couldn’t explain why cases took so long. However, the auditor only analyzed cases of alleged sexual abuse and physical misconduct, which, because they potentially involve criminal charges, would take longer than most other cases and had to be integrated with the district attorney’s separate investigations.
      Buchanan’s bill, putting a seven-month cap on the dismissal process and pruning discovery procedures, would apply to dismissals for unsatisfactory performance; they comprise most of the cases.
      For a summary of the auditor’s report: http://www.bsa.ca.gov/reports/summary/2012-103

      • CarolineSF 6 years ago6 years ago

        As a parent I've never been privy to what was going on with lawyers in relation to school district labor-management issues, I should add. The part of Gary Ravani's post that prompted me to comment involves "delayed actions ... (and) actions not taken ... by management." I could expound in enlightening detail about several situations (even given that I'm *just* a parent and there's quite a lot that I'm not privy to), but people involved … Read More

        As a parent I’ve never been privy to what was going on with lawyers in relation to school district labor-management issues, I should add. The part of Gary Ravani’s post that prompted me to comment involves “delayed actions … (and) actions not taken … by management.” I could expound in enlightening detail about several situations (even given that I’m *just* a parent and there’s quite a lot that I’m not privy to), but people involved in all the situations I’ve experienced might well be reading this.

        I’ve definitely observed situations where teachers quietly left the profession under pressure of various kinds without being actually fired — enough of them that I don’t believe that any statistics on how many teachers are or aren’t actually fired are valid.

        For that matter, I saw one situation where a principal moved to ease out a teacher after the second year — there were really concrete problems about which not all parents were knowledgeable — and one less-than-informed parent launched a petition and protest to save the teacher’s job. (For the record, I was the one who had a firm chat with this well-meaning fellow parent that led him to drop the petition and protest.)

        I note this to point out that, as usual, the situation is much more complex than the simple storyline would have it.

  3. navigio 6 years ago6 years ago

    foot-dragging is an effective legal strategy, especially in the public sector. reducing timelines may, ironically, increase the effectiveness of that strategy. in the end, i seriously doubt any bill like this will be effective at increasing the firing rate, the rarity of which is of course primarily 'caused' by administrative staff who cant be bothered. (not to mention having effective teachers in the first place). i think we need a bill like this for administrative staff. the … Read More

    foot-dragging is an effective legal strategy, especially in the public sector. reducing timelines may, ironically, increase the effectiveness of that strategy.

    in the end, i seriously doubt any bill like this will be effective at increasing the firing rate, the rarity of which is of course primarily ’caused’ by administrative staff who cant be bothered. (not to mention having effective teachers in the first place).

    i think we need a bill like this for administrative staff. the reality today is that there is effectively zero oversight into the behavior and effectiveness of administrative staff. a district cannot respond to queries (including PRAs) about administrative staff because of privacy laws. Even the BoE has no legal insight into personnel issues (that is as absurd as it comes since these are essentially the single source of contact for logistical needs between the district and the community). In many places, the personnel commission is even hierarchically independent of the normal district structure. the role of the central office is to support the schools. if that is not happening, there is currently zero recourse, other than to start a war at the school level, which of course is horrible for the kids, but who cares about them anyway?

  4. Gary Ravani 6 years ago6 years ago

    As a matter of fact, El, Louis Freedberg who now heads up Ed Source did an editorial some years ago on the process of the Commission on Professional Competence (the panel) that you are wondering about. My recollection is he found they are not used all that frequently because few districts move to fire teachers. The panels have an admin law judge, one person appointed by the teacher, and one appointed by administration. There needs to … Read More

    As a matter of fact, El, Louis Freedberg who now heads up Ed Source did an editorial some years ago on the process of the Commission on Professional Competence (the panel) that you are wondering about.

    My recollection is he found they are not used all that frequently because few districts move to fire teachers. The panels have an admin law judge, one person appointed by the teacher, and one appointed by administration. There needs to be two votes to uphold dismissal. Mostly, they don’t get the two votes. Obviously the “swing vote” is the ALJ and the cases against the teacher, it appears, are not convincing.

    Some insight here might be shed by the State Auditor’s report on “doings” in LAUSD. The most frequent problems with the dismissal process according to the Auditor had to do with delayed actions, actions not taken, and legalistic foot dragging by…(brace yourself) management and their lawyers. This appears to mostly account for the length of time and expense of the process.

    The “bigger picture’ here suggests that lately some seem to have forgotten the difference between allegations brought and guilt found in a court of law, or the panel for that matter. The McMartin pre-school case comes to mind. Or the House of Un-American Activities in the ’50s. Those should be lessons; however, what history shows is that we don’t learn from history.

    The “failure” to fire enough teachers, one way or another, is a driving force behind many of the ideological stands of the self-styled “reformers.” Ambitious superintendents, in some burgs, seem to want to put as many notches on their belt as possible.

    As usual, this is an effort to distract from real problems. Nearly 50% of new teachers leave the profession during the first five years. They do so because of lack of resources and perceived poor leadership. This, according to CSU, costs CA alone about 1/2 billion dollars a year in lost educational and professional development costs. Our real problem isn’t getting rid of teachers, it’s keeping teachers.

    Replies

    • el 6 years ago6 years ago

      The "firing statistics" as you say are incredibly misleading because there is so much attrition. Many teachers - new and old - are "counseled out" through various mechanisms. Not all resignations are entirely voluntary, and not all retirements, either. There is a lot of incentive to avoid the full on firing path. Nevertheless, LAUSD in particular seems to have a problem with being able to shed problem staff - probably because there are so many other … Read More

      The “firing statistics” as you say are incredibly misleading because there is so much attrition. Many teachers – new and old – are “counseled out” through various mechanisms. Not all resignations are entirely voluntary, and not all retirements, either. There is a lot of incentive to avoid the full on firing path.

      Nevertheless, LAUSD in particular seems to have a problem with being able to shed problem staff – probably because there are so many other positions someone can be shifted to where no one knows the annoying/inadequate person – and I’ve had some discussions with someone who is intimately familiar with the issue from there that suggest that the CPC panel is Definitely Not Helping.

  5. el 6 years ago6 years ago

    The articles and information I've dug up about the appeals panel process suggest that it doesn't work all that well, that it takes too long for both parties and isn't particularly wonderful for justice or good education either. If the teacher is truly being wronged by all his administrators and his school board, it's hard for me to understand how the appeals panel can create a functional outcome in favor of the teacher by simply … Read More

    The articles and information I’ve dug up about the appeals panel process suggest that it doesn’t work all that well, that it takes too long for both parties and isn’t particularly wonderful for justice or good education either. If the teacher is truly being wronged by all his administrators and his school board, it’s hard for me to understand how the appeals panel can create a functional outcome in favor of the teacher by simply forcing reinstatement.

    Having an appeal that can find on errors of law or process would be fine.

    I would be interested in knowing more about this. There also seems to be considerable unevenness as to how the process plays out, whether an action ever gets to the panel stage, among different districts.