Teaching and Learning, Tenure and Due Process

Laura Fuchs, a teacher with seven years experience at one of the more challenging high schools in the DC Public School system, joined the Education Town Hall on June 19 to discuss “tenure,” due process, and Vergara vs. California.

Vergara Ruling and DC

The Vergara anti-tenure ruling was handed down on June 10 by a California judge. (See, e.g., “Strict Scrutiny”.) The Education Town Hall briefly discussed the implications on June 12 with Morna McDermott, a teacher educator active with United Opt Out, and Melissa Tomlinson, a New Jersey teacher and member of the BadAss Teachers’ Association. (See the very end of last week’s Track 4). Tomlinson said she thought the ruling, even if appealed and overturned, had done it’s work in that it was intended to denigrate and intimidate teachers.

Asked if she agreed with this assessment, Fuchs responded:

I think that unfortunately that damage is pretty done.

I think we’re at the forefront of denigrating teachers, when the reality is that it’s the administration that is not properly resourcing schools that need the most resources and not adequately supporting schools that need support. [They launch] initiative after initiative, wasting a lot of money on things that do limited to no good and then blaming teachers when their initiatives do not go as they thought.

Thomas Byrd shared an essay suggesting that the Vergara case was a billionaires’ club lawsuit meant “to undermine teaching profession and push their agenda on our schools.” With this, Fuchs agreed:

DSC01236A lot of people unfortunately view teachers…as kind of the last great union movement, and they’re attempting to tear it down.

As I stated before, states with stronger unions and tenure protections or due process rights actually perform better on tests than those working in right-to-work states. The idea that getting rid of tenure rights promotes learning is absurd. There’s no data to support that.

Does Learning Require a “Perfect” Classroom?

Asked about the teacher evaluation process and how much of it involves student test scores, Fuchs described her own experience, adding “I’ve noticed that my evaluations are greatly impacted by student behavior.”

She compared two evaluations: In the first, she said, she had a “very large class that was not very well behaved.” As a consequence the objective “received a very low score. They was said that it was not a good objective and the students didn’t need it.”

The next year, however, the same exact objective — “I decided not to change it. I believed in that lesson.” — received a different evaluation. “The students happened to be very well behaved,” Fuchs related, and the evaluators “said it was a great objective.”

This is not an evaluator that has an ulterior motive. But it’s just that this behavior — it colors everything. And lot of people who are coming in to observe us, unfortunately, don’t seem to understand that classrooms don’t always look the same, and that doesn’t mean they’re not effective.

And we haven’t found a good way of measuring teachers who are teaching very challenging students. Just because a classroom doesn’t look perfect, does not mean there is not a lot of learning going on.

… Both years I think my lesson was successful. It’s just that one group didn’t require me to repeat the directions…

For more of an insider’s look at teachers and evaluation, listen to Track 3 below —

Listen Thursdays at 11 a.m. (Eastern).

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