By John Lloyd – LA Times Blowback
The Times doesn't mince words. It calls the UTLA "the most regressive force in the
Let's take the last of these claims first. No one—least of all the UTLA—would disagree with the idea we ought to reward "good teachers," and fire "bad teachers." But what does this mean, exactly? First of all, anyone who devotes her life and career to educating young people is to be applauded, not thrown in the trash can if her students' test scores don't meet some district bureaucrat's standard.
Quite simply, the LAUSD needs to see its teachers as its most valuable resource and work with struggling teachers to improve. Step one might be for a peer group of teachers and administrators to sit down with the underperforming teacher, figure out what that teacher's strengths and weaknesses are, and work with that person to devise concrete strategies for improvement. This process might also—gasp!—ask the teacher what he/she needs (more aides, better curricular support, professional development opportunities, etc.) to do a better job. The Times approach, however, is all top-down. A district bureaucrat says jump, and the teacher, like an obedient factory worker, jumps. The teacher doesn't dare ask questions (remember, tenure will be a thing of the past, and you can be fired for asking the wrong questions).
From the tenor of its proposal, the Times seems to think that teaching isn't really hard work, after all. The Times apparently thinks it is not unreasonable to expect teachers to stand in front of a class or restless ninth graders all day—all of whom are eager learners, of course—and then supervise students at lunch and after school, too. Why, who needs a lunch break? (Hint: it must be those "bad teachers"). I'd like to see the Times editors do this for one day. They might then realize that educating and supervising young people can't be done on the cheap, and that the District needs to pay for playground supervisors and additional staff to oversee worthy after-school programs.
The Times claims that younger teachers are interested in "good wages, upward mobility, and affordable housing." And older teachers presumably want, what, lower wages, downward mobility, and unaffordable housing? Precisely how ending tenure will address the lack of affordable housing is not explained by the Times. But, never mind that, the Times has another solution: get rid of teachers' pensions! After all, we know those younger teachers won't need them. They'll be living large on all the equity they've earned from that "affordable housing" they've invested in with their "high wages."
Far from being a forward-thinking solution to the
Then again, maybe I just don't understand the superior wisdom of the Times. After all, I was educated in that out-of-date post-World War II public school system where teachers were treated with respect by society, and weren't expected to give up their dignity and their rights to do their jobs.
John Lloyd is an assistant professor of history at Cal Poly Pomona.