Thursday, June 12, 2014

Two Major Education News Stories

One story comes from California where a California superior court overturned laws related to the employment of teachers and, specifically, the use of tenure.  The other is the defeat of the House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor.

The tenure story is somewhat akin to the story on Common Core.  Whatever your views on standards (CC) or whatever your views on teacher tenure (California), how we all got to this place needs some real notice. 

(As I previously reported, a rather long expose at the Washington Post revealed for all to see that Bill Gates, once he got convinced about Common Core, was THE driving force behind Common Core.  It's not a pretty road.  Same with the California ruling this week.)

So about the California ruling, known as the Vergara Decision. 

From Education Next:

The plaintiffs, a group of students and school districts, sued, arguing that several state statutes stood in the way of all students receiving the education guaranteed to them under the state constitution. “Plaintiffs claim that the Challenged Statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students. Plaintiffs’ equal protection claims assert that the Challenged Statutes violate their fundamental rights to equality of education by adversely affecting the quality of the education they are afforded by the state.”

Basically, some students and districts were saying they had lesser teachers because of tenure.  The court agreed with them.  The law had given tenure to teachers after two years, had required layoffs using seniority along with a timeline of process before a teacher could be fired.

To note: one of the students bringing the case singled out a teacher that she said was a very bad teacher but that teacher was also named Pasadena teacher of the year and had many awards for excellent teaching. 

There are 11 states that use evidence of student growth - test scores - as the key reasons in giving tenure. 

This was essentially a civil-rights case, and the court underscored that point by starting its opinion by referencing Brown vs. Board of Education and then quoting the famous passage that education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

From the ruling:

“This Court is directly faced with issues that compel it to apply these constitutional principles to the quality of the educational experience.” (Emphasis added by EN.)

Like just about every groundbreaking decision, this one includes dramatic language to make its point (and likely help sustain the decision on appeal). “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

This is being considered a landmark case across the country.  Secretary Duncan issued a statement in support of the ruling while naturally, the teachers unions were very unhappy.  This ruling is likely to have far-reaching effects and, as well, reach the Supreme Court.

Diane Ravitch:

You might call it the judicial version of No Child Left Behind -- that is, pull the right policy levers -- say, testing and accountability, or eliminate tenure -- and every single child in America will be proficient by 2014.  Judge Treu was also regurgitating the unproven claims behind Race to the Top, specifically that using test scores to evaluate teachers will make it possible to weed out "bad teachers," recruit and reward top teachers, and test scores will rise to the top.

BUT who brought this case?  NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“Let’s be clear: This lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education.

Well, he would say that, right?  He's the union head.  

But, the plaintiffs in the case did not bring this on their own.  They had a lot of help with a lot of firepower.  From Politico:

They were represented by a high-powered legal team including former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, who is perhaps best known for successfully fighting to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The team was hired by a nonprofit organization called Students Matter, which in turn was founded — and has been largely funded — by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David F. Welch.
Sources familiar with the plaintiffs’ work said the trial and accompanying public relations campaign cost “in the low millions,” with most of that financed by Welch.

These were several Bay Area moguls who are moving heaven and earth to weaken the teachers union. (Remember when I told you about Reed Hastings of Netflix who wants to get to a 90% U.S. student population in charter schools?  You need to get rid of the unions to do that.)

Watch for this continuing story.

The story of Eric Cantor's loss might be less obvious.  Representative Cantor really liked and pushed charter schools.   His Tea Party opponent, David Brat, may even be worse.  From Mother Jones:

And he has called for drastic cuts to education funding, explaining, "My hero Socrates trained in Plato on a rock. How much did that cost? So the greatest minds in history became the greatest minds in history without spending a lot of money."

He frets about the state of morality in schools and about Beyoncé:
"For the first 13 years of your kid's life, we teach them no religion, no philosophy, and no ethics…Who is our great moral teachers these days? Every generation has always had great theologians or philosophers by the century that you can name. Who do we got right now? [Audience: Jay-Z] Right. Right. [Audience: Beyoncé] Right. Beyoncé. When you can't name a serious philosopher, a national name, or a serious theologian, or a serious religious leader, at the national level, your culture's got a major problem. We got a major problem."
Interesting times we live in.  

2 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Mr. Brat is a free market enthusiast, so he must be aware that cultural heroes are selected by the wisdom of the free market. He should like that, right?

Eric B said...

And not to be all technical and stuff, but the first five years of life are spent out of school, when parents can teach their children any dang thing they like. Or if they choose preschool, they can choose Plato-teaching preschools. And once they do get to school, parents can still teach kids about Plato after school. Not to mention the options of private religious schools and/or homeschooling. Yeah, public schools have a monopoly on child thought, all right.

@Charlie, technically, I think his main focus of study is freedom of religion and its impact on free markets. If that's not an argument to end (college professor) tenure, I don't know what is.