Los Angeles Looks at Firing Teachers

A controversial proposal to streamline teachers' firing raises questions.

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Some might see the slump in the economy and the school budget shortfalls it has spawned as an opportunity to weed out the weakest teachers in our nation's schools. Indeed, the Los Angeles Unified School District is reconsidering the process it uses to fire ineffective teachers, with an eye toward making it easier to dismiss them.

For now, the teachers might be safe—in whatever way "safe" applies to the current recession. The proposal, which came up for a vote during a recent meeting of the L.A. Board of Education, failed to pass. However, a slim majority vote has created a task force to study the issue, those involved in the board proceedings say.

The now dead proposal would have eliminated teacher and administrator seniority, which allows senior staff to bump less senior staff out of jobs during layoffs, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Also, a new evaluation method would automatically fire teachers if they receive two consecutive poor performance reviews, a change that some say would improve student achievement.

The current procedure for teacher dismissal allows teachers to take their case to an administrative hearing presided over by a judge and two school officials. In the past five years, only 31 teachers across the state have lost their jobs after administrative hearings, LAUSD attorney Kathleen Collins told the Daily News.

Another item on the table was tenure, which is currently granted to teachers after just two years and with little scrutiny. Some critics say the internal process of obtaining tenure must be tightened up to include more measures of accountability.

It's not surprising that the measures haven't passed (yet), but the fact that they were even on the table—in such a caustic period of budget and layoff limbo, no less—is important to take note of. Should firing teachers be easier? Will students be better off in the end?

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education
education reform
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public schools
Los Angeles