The Honorable Ben Allen
Chair, Senate Education Committee
State Capitol, Room 5072
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: 3091 (Weber) as amended June 7, 2018 – SUPPORT
Dear Chairman Allen:
Teachers matter. Teachers are the most important in-school variable that influences student outcomes, and California’s schools vary widely in their teacher quality. California’s most affluent students are more often taught by the most experienced, most qualified and most effective teachers in our state. The opposite is true for our students of color, those in poverty or foster care.
We believe that our state has to address this problem through many strategies, including more equitable funding, access to great teachers and school leaders, parent empowerment, and other policy reforms. As a group of organizations, we are proudly standing up for more equitable access to high-quality teachers. Specifically, we have a unique opportunity to change our state’s law to strengthen the process for teachers to earn permanent status, commonly referred to as tenure. Currently, administrators must decide if teachers in California earn tenure – a lifetime employment protection – after only 18 months on the job. Further, supports for struggling teachers are limited.
California is a state that prides itself on our progressive values. However, when it comes to educational equity, we are falling short. Across California, over 6 million students, 75% of which are students of color1, attend public schools that vary widely in their access to resources and in their outcomes for children. California’s achievement gaps – the gap between the achievement of Hispanic or Black children and White children – persist. In the most recent administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress only 10% of Black students and 15% of Latino students were proficient in 8th grade math, compared to 44% of white students2. Our state has begun to take important steps to level the playing field. However, one area that the state continues to ignore is teachers.
How the Current Law on Tenure Fails to Support Students and Teachers
Currently, California’s tenure process creates a “do or die” scenario, whereby administrators must decide within 18 months if a teacher can permanently be at the helm of a public classroom. Yet research shows that growth in a new teacher’s effectiveness is most substantial during their first 5 years of teaching3, and teachers agree that the probationary period for teachers needs to be extended. An independent statewide poll of unionized teachers in traditional public schools found that 85 percent of teachers support extending the probationary period to at least three years. The current process is not fair to administrators, teachers, or students. Students need high-quality teachers who have proven their effectiveness. Administrators need more time to evaluate whether new teachers are ready for permanent status, and teachers need more time to develop and demonstrate mastery of their craft.
A Change to State Law to Better Support Students and Teachers
The Teacher and Student Success Act (AB 3091), authored by Assemblymember Weber and sponsored by teacher advocacy groups, would reinforce California’s commitment to equity in public education and support for the teaching profession.
We believe that AB 3091 has the potential to create important improvements for education in California. AB 3091 establishes a framework that would:
- Extend the current timeline to tenure from just 18 months to at least three years. This will provide new teachers with the time needed to improve and demonstrate success in the classroom and provide administrators the time needed to fairly evaluate probationary teachers.
- Elevate the teaching profession by declaring that tenure should be an earned professional milestone that rewards quality teaching and dedication to student success. This will help to attract new teachers into the profession and combat California’s unsustainable teacher shortage.
- Help ensure that all California students, especially students of color and those from low-income families, have access to quality teachers, by helping to establish tenure an earned benchmark that rewards hard work and demonstrated success in the classroom.
AB 3091 is a move in the right direction for students, teachers and equity in California. It shows the public and teachers that California is serious about the teaching profession and serious about equity for its students. The bill would also make California’s policy consistent with that of 42 other states4.
It’s time to put strong education policies behind our progressive rhetoric. We are asking our state legislators to step up on behalf of California’s children and teachers by supporting strong tenure policies and AB 3091. Surely, we can commit to taking this step forward for the next generation of students and teachers and the promise of equity in California.
Alliance for a Better Community
Kirk Clark, Vice President
California Business Roundtable
Center for Powerful Public School
Ryan Smith, Executive Director
Educators for Excellence
Oscar E. Cruz, President and CEO
Families in Schools
Chief Executive Officer
GO Public Schools
Joan Sullivan, CEO
Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
Katie Braude, Executive Director
Sarah Lillis, Executive Director
Teach Plus California
Deena Margolis, Vice President of Community Impact
United Way of Greater Los Angeles
1 Cal Ed Facts. California Department of Education. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sd/cb/ceffingertipfacts.asp
2 National Assessment of Educational Progress. 2017 Mathematics State Snapshot Report https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2017/pdf/2018038CA8.pdf
3 Tara Kini and Anne Podolsky, Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research. (June 2016). Learning Policy Institute: Palo Alto, California.
4 NCTQ State Policy Issue: Tenure. (2015). National Council on Teacher Quality: Washington, DC.