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California Teachers Look To Forge A Middle Path On Issues Of Tenure, Layoffs, And Dismissal

January 12, 2015

A  New Teach Plus Survey Finds California Teachers Want Tenure Decisions to Take More Time, Include Classroom Effectiveness; Teachers Believe Layoff Decisions Should Be Based on Both Performance and Seniority

LOS ANGELES, CA, JANUARY 12, 2015—A new Teach Plus survey of more than 500 California teachers demonstrates that teachers in the state value tenure but want it to become a truly meaningful professional  benchmark earned through performance.  Teachers believe that a substantially longer period of time than the current 18 months is necessary for administrators to make tenure decisions.  Teachers also broadly support making classroom effectiveness an integral part of both tenure and layoff decisions.  

The report, “Raising the Bar:  The Views of California Teachers on Tenure, Layoffs and Dismissal,” is the first to analyze California teachers’ views on tenure, layoffs, and dismissal in the wake of the state’s landmark Vergara decision.  As that ruling is reviewed by the higher courts and new legislation on staffing rules, such as AB215, is enacted, it is critical that teachers are heard on the decisions that affect their profession.  Key findings are:
• 65 percent of teachers believe that three to five years in the classroom are necessary before administrators can make tenure decisions.  
• 92 percent of teachers believe that they should be required to demonstrate classroom effectiveness as part of the tenure decision.
• On average, teachers want performance and seniority to have equal weight in layoff decisions (based on a fair evaluation system).
• 71 percent of teachers think layoff decisions should be based entirely or partly on classroom performance.  
• 92 percent of teachers believe that it is important to have their views reflected in any new California rules for teacher tenure, due process, and layoffs

“Teachers are very clear both on the value of tenure and on the need to modify the current system so that tenure becomes an earned, performance-based standard,” said Mike Stryer, Vice President for District and Union Policy at Teach Plus and an author of the study.  “The report presents a real opportunity for policy makers to move beyond polarized debate and have an open conversation with teachers about modernizing the current statutes.”
Teach Plus, a national non-profit that puts teacher leaders at the center of improvement at all levels of the education system, polled 506 teachers all of whom teach in the state’s K-12 traditional public schools.  The composition of surveyed teachers was representative of the teaching force in California in terms of age, gender, and length of service.   The survey was conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research and administered by an independent vendor.  Teacher respondents were not informed of the survey sponsors.

Other survey findings include: 
• 81 percent of teachers feel that tenure is either very important or somewhat important to them personally.
• 72 percent of teachers believe that 18 months is not enough time for an administrator to make tenure determinations.
• 75 percent of teachers believe that qualified teachers should play a role in the decision to grant tenure to a teacher.
• 70 percent of teachers believe that district support for an ineffective teacher should be limited to 2 years.

The survey report follows the September 2014 release of a policy brief from Los Angeles Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows that includes specific recommendations for statewide legislative changes to tenure, dismissal, and layoff statutes.  The Fellows’ recommendations aim at making teacher performance a factor in job-related decisions while retaining due process in California.  The recommendations around layoffs include both performance and seniority considerations so that effective and experienced teachers can remain in the classroom to serve students.  

“The teachers in the survey want to see performance factored into tenure decisions, which reinforces our recommendations in the policy brief,” said Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow Camille Hommeyer, a special education English teacher at Manual Arts High School in LAUSD and one of the authors of the policy brief and the research report.  “And with so many teachers putting high value on tenure, it is time to make it truly meaningful professionally.”


About Teach Plus
Teach Plus aims to improve outcomes for urban children by ensuring that a greater proportion of students have access to effective, experienced teachers. Teach Plus runs three programs designed to place teacher leaders at the center of reform: Teaching Policy Fellows, the Core Collaborative (C2), and T3: Turnaround Teacher Teams.  The programs focus on demonstrably effective teachers who want to continue classroom teaching while also expanding their impact as leaders in their schools and in district, state and national policy.  Since its inception in August 2009, Teach Plus has grown to a network of more than 20,200 solutions-oriented teachers in six major cities across the country.  www.teachplus.org