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Educators: Ending 'tenure' no magic bullet

Atherton entrepreneur behind lawsuit challenging teacher tenure and seniority rules

A court decision last week to throw out state teacher tenure rules may lead people to think that this is the solution for providing quality education for all students, a shortsighted view in the opinion of local educators.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on June 10 decided that tenure rules, which allow teachers to get lifetime job protection after just 18 months, were unconstitutional because they allow ineffective teachers to stay in the system, thereby depriving equal access to a quality public education for all students.

"I think some people believe that if you get rid of tenure, you've solved the problem and quality (of education) will go up," said Deborah Stipek, dean of the school of education at Stanford University. The problems are elsewhere, she said, in teachers' lack of social status and paychecks that don't reflect their value to the community. Society needs to invest in the best and brightest, train them well and provide on-the-job support, she said.

"Tenure is a red herring," Woodside High School English teacher Tony Mueller said in an email. "Rather than going after labor unions and worker's rights, 'reformers' should confront the real problems with our education system: gross inequity in funding based on geography, the drastic cuts in social spending for the poor, the obscenely small amount of money spent per pupil in California, the constant attack on teachers from those intent on privatizing the system, and inherent American anti-intellectualism that is suspicious of science, poetry, foreign languages, and history."

Teacher Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association, said her union "isn't happy with the ruling.

"There are a lot of misconceptions out there around tenure," Baldwin said. "K-12 teachers don't actually have tenure; we have permanent status. That does not mean a 'job for life' as some think. Teachers who are not performing to the California Standards for the Teaching Profession can be negatively evaluated, placed on a plan that requires coaching and, if the teacher doesn't improve, the district can move towards dismissal.

"It is up to the school administrators to evaluate teachers and make that decision," Baldwin said. "The unions don't stand in an administrator's way, they just make sure that due process is followed. Teachers don't want 'bad' teachers in the classroom. This ruling is a step to take away a teacher's due process rights."

Baldwin said the ruling could harm "great teachers with experience who happen to be higher on the salary schedule than a brand new teacher."

The lawsuit

Nine public school students represented by Students Matter, a nonprofit with a mail-drop in Menlo Park and founded by Atherton resident and Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, sued the state and the state Department of Education in May 2012, alleging "outdated state laws that prevent the recruitment, support and retention of effective teachers."

The statutes in question -- on tenure, dismissal and last-in-first-out teacher-layoff policies -- were declared unconstitutional in a June 10 decision by Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles County Superior Court. Judge Treu suspended the decision pending an appeal by the state.

The lawsuit asserted that teachers play a crucial role in the lifetime achievements of their students, and that ineffective teachers can have a dramatically negative impact. Lawyers for the students claimed that such teachers are "disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students," which has adverse effects on the quality of their education, Judge Treu wrote in summarizing his decision.

Testimony at the trial included a study asserting that a typical classroom of students collectively loses $1.4 million in lifetime earnings when taught by an ineffective teacher for one year, the judge noted. A witness testifying for the state said that up to 3 percent of California's 275,000 public school teachers, about 8,250 teachers, are "grossly" ineffective. "The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience," Judge Treu wrote.

He compared the students' plight to the separate-but-equal schools for African-American students, a practice struck down by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Educators respond

The ruling is "certainly a dramatic decision," and tenure is symbolic on both sides of the issue, Ms. Stipek of Stanford said. "I think most teachers oppose getting rid of tenure because they don't believe or have not experienced that other strategies for judging the quality of their work are fair," she said.

Two evaluation tools are now available: assessment by the principal and measurement of the achievement of students taught by the teacher. For the first to be useful, Ms. Stipek said, principals need to know effective teaching when they see it. "Some do, many don't," she said, and training is uncommon.

As for measuring student achievement, if students arrive in the fall prepared for the work ahead of them, assessing their progress can be uncomplicated. Students not adequately prepared can still learn a great deal and make "huge progress," but it won't show up in a by-the-numbers evaluation of the teacher, Ms. Stipek said.

Progress is being made on effective evaluation techniques, but teachers have no faith that current methods are fair and unbiased, she said. Job security -- tenure -- is a fall-back position, she said, adding that she is very sympathetic to administrators whose hands are tied by union rules when trying to reassign teachers.

Woodside High teacher Tony Mueller said that some of the "world's best education systems have highly-unionized teachers with even better job security than in California." The lawsuit, he said, is "an attack on unions, workers, and teachers with the intent of breaking unions and privatizing public education."

Students Matter did not respond to interview requests for this story.

Woodside High English teacher Sue Rhodehouse said in an email that she has seen ineffective teachers removed, often speedily. "The current system just ensures due process," she said. "This is a challenging job. Those years that I am given a difficult assignment, I am eager to take up the task because I know that I am guaranteed due process should the need arise. Without this process ... I would question my career choice and discourage others from entering the field."

Teaching as a profession loses 50 percent of its new teachers within five years, said Fred Glass of the California Federation of Teachers. The current system protects academic freedom, he said. "One thing that makes teaching attractive is that somebody has your back," he said. "If you raise a controversial issue such as religion or politics, you won't be fired."

Chris Kenrick contributed to this article.

Related stories:

Simitian: Tenure ruling 'fairly reasoned'

Legal team hammers on tenure rules, and wins

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by TenureDragsUsDown
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 17, 2014 at 11:29 pm

I think Teri is being a bit misleading when she says: "The unions don't stand in an administrator's way, they just make sure that due process is followed. "

She fails to acknowledge that the unions put the process in place. And a judge found that process onerous and unconstitutional. So while Teri believes she does not stand in the way on any individual case, her union made a process which obstructs every case of removing a bad teacher. Pretending otherwise is misleading.

As for the core issues of social status and pay: my respect for teachers will go UP when those who have harmed my kids are gone. And I would have no problem paying a professional class of educators more money. Many teachers don't understand the perspectives of the community: we value high quality professionals, not low quality labor. Teacher respect goes up when you shed the bad teachers rather than protect them with antiquated labor rules.

Start to think like professionals, not laborers.

You will find your value and pay rises with quality and demand. Teachers have a lock on the skills MOST valued by society: an education. That they squander their value and dilute their profession by associating with with lemons is a puzzlement to us all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2014 at 4:01 am

Does this ruling apply also to PAUSD' principals/assistant principals/other officials?

I am asking since it is my underfunding that principals, assistant principals and possibly other PAUSD officials are tenured after two years. I'll gladly stand corrected. (BTW - I am not sure that this ruling is the answer to the many real problems. However, I am curious, thus my question above).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 7:05 am

It is easily argued that Teri Baldwin directly drags us down as PAEA president. She makes a valid statement about PAEA making sure that due process is followed, but she and Triona Gogarty, past PAEA president, actively encouraged teachers to fight any principal who held them accountable, which is why we just had huge turnover at Gunn, and a majority of other schools. This is the template used at every PAUSD school, and if you study it, you'll see that we've had an outrageous amount of principal and assistant principal turnover. Tenure in PAUSD does work out to be guaranteed employment for a lifetime because only a foolish principal would ever dare to remove an underperforming tenured teacher, and only the bravest would even dare removing a non-tenured teacher. That principal would be demoted to the adult school or back to the classroom (with PAEA protection) by the next school year. This has repeatedly happened, and is happening in PAUSD, and protecting bad teachers is exactly what Baldwin and PAEA do. It's about keeping the dollars flowing. Check the warrants of the last board meeting, you'll see that PAEA gets over $80,000 per month in dues, and that money gets kicked up to the parent organization, CTA. The livelihood of PAEA and CTA depend on the number of PAUSD teachers increasing every year, thus it is in the their interest to not lose one paying member. Teri Baldwin, you and PAEA absolutely stand in administrator's way of removing bad teachers. Your statements are as believable as your colleague who said that tenure protects a controversial issue. Tenure in the PAUSD is nothing like that and you were wise to avoid saying that misleading statement. If tenure was so good, then fight for it for principals right now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:05 am

> The problems are elsewhere, she said, in teachers' lack
> of social status and paychecks that don't reflect their
> value to the community

It's all about the money for these people. They want to work half a year, less than a full day compared to other people, and retire at a lavish 72% of their last years' salaries after 25 years, or so--and it's still not enough! Yet, they won't even promise to insure that our children can read and write when they exit the public education system.

> Society needs to invest in the best and brightest, train
> them well and provide on-the-job support, she said.

In any other industry, people are expected to educate themselves, and to train themselves (within the framework of their employers' needs). But for people working in the Education Industry—it's not the individual's responsibility to train, or educate, herself—but someone else's. No wonder people with any sense of individuality, and interest in achieving as much out of life as is possible, avoid teaching like it were a plague. Who wants to work with, or even be around, people with so little personal motivation?


Wow! Seems we have hit the mother load here!!!

> 'reformers' should confront the real problems with our education system:

> gross inequity in funding based on geography,

Perhaps there is something to be said about this problem in the past, but how prevalent is it today? Since the early 1970s, the State of California has been providing funding for schools (with the exception of a hand full of Basic Aid districts). The funding is not based on geography (which is a codeword for property-tax based funding schemes). The formula of school funding is state-wide—providing about $10,000-$11,000 per student, which is close to the national average.

> the drastic cuts in social spending for the poor,

It's interesting that we have, after a century and a half of public education, a permanent lower class (which educators and government types love to label "the poor"). Why is it that public education hasn't created a state of prosperity that is enjoyed by all?

> the obscenely small amount of money spent per pupil in California,

As noted above, the Legislative Analysts' Officer (LAO) periodically releases reports on school spending. The amount spent on California children is about $10,500/student—when all of the spending sources is considered. Given that teachers and staff consume about 85% of all school budgets—then words like "obscenely small" is just another codeword for higher salaries.

By law, 40% of the State's budget is dedicated to public education.

> the constant attack on teachers from those intent on privatizing the system,

America has produced the highest standard of living, and the greatest per capita wealth of any country over the history of man—through private ownership. The public education system has always had a place in this system, which provides the funding for public education. The notion that the private sector could not hire teachers, rent buildings, and provide students with a similar, or better, level of education demonstrates how ignorant this "teacher" is of the country that has been so good to her.

> and inherent American anti-intellectualism that is suspicious of science,
poetry, foreign languages, and history.

Well—now maybe we are getting down the bottom of the well of discontent that motivates this lady. Where exactly in a teacher's education is she taught about "inherent American anti-intellectualism?" Well, certainly this sort of thinking can be tracked back to some elitist education graduate schools. But is it really true?

Are American's inherently more anti-intellectual than Russians, or Egyptians, or the Chinese? America spends about 5% of its GDP on public education. Perhaps this angry teacher/person could provide us with a list of other nations around the world that spend 30%-50% of their GDP, for instance, on public education, and offering up how "intellectual" these countries are, compared to America?

Well—clearly this person is angry, but it's also clear that she is not very well informed (dare one say "educated") on what makes America tick, and why its public education system has the problems that it does.

Getting rid of tenure may not be a golden bullet that will fix everything, or even much of any thing, but it's a start.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wha?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:48 am

Good luck getting anyone to go into the teaching profession if you do away with tenure. The pay stinks (regardless of what some say here) and the working conditions can be very stressful.
The end of public education.
I also believe some teachers need to be fired, and that the administration is negligent in not making this happen. There is a way to fire them, it takes documentation and effort.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

[Portion removed.]

Maybe you can explain how taking away tenure and firing teachers is going to cause more people to rush into low performing schools and work for the same (or as you seem to propose, less) money? How is that going to work exactly? It's not like teaching is the same as serving food during the lunch rush or bolting carburetors into cars on an assembly line. Anybody can build some crazy metric as you did (and the plaintiffs did in their legal case) to show they were harmed. The problem is, how do you make things better? What's going to protect good teachers from bad administrators, many of whom couldn't hack it as teachers themselves?

This is simply a case of the libertarian spin machine aimed at destroying public education and a judge with "robe rage" - the legal case itself simply doesn't add up. But, maybe it will generate enough interest so that we start to address some lingering issues with funding public education in California. In the end, I can't help but think Palo Alto is going to come out worse as a result because we have some much more to lose than other districts.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nonesuch
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:50 pm

There is. O such thing as a "magic bullet" for what ails the schools, but ending tenure is the first step, and it is the most important step because it heads in the right direction and gets the ball rolling toward more positive change.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2014 at 8:19 am

It's pretty hard to construct an argument why lifetime tenure after 18 months on the job is a good thing for kids.

Everybody knows this, and is disgusted. Teacher unioneers concerned about "lack of social status" might want to consider this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palymom
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

Union busting plain and simple. Republican special interest group leading the charge using minority students and their families as puppets. Attack on women too since the bulk of teachers are women.

No tenure will ensure that male administrators renew young, hot, and inexpensive teachers despite lack of subject matter prowess. Age and sex discrimination is rampant in public education just like industry.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palymom
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

Union busting plain and simple. Republican special interest group leading the charge using minority students and their families as puppets. Attack on women too since the bulk of teachers are women.

No tenure will ensure that male administrators renew young, hot, and inexpensive teachers despite lack of subject matter prowess. Age and sex discrimination is rampant in public education just like industry.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 19, 2014 at 11:47 am

It's not "lifetime tenure" and it's not after 18 months, at least not in PAUSD. Most teachers new to the District get tenure, IF they're qualified, in their 3rd year. A strenuous evaluation process occurs over that time to ensure that the teacher is capable and ready. Add to that the stress of dealing with Palo Alto parents and an increasingly diversified classroom and curriculum demands and lower-end pay scale and it's a wonder anyone stays in the profession at all.

All the good teachers I know are "called" to teach-- it's their passion, their will-- they spend countless hours preparing for the classroom, updating curriculum, going to conferences. They're clinging to their calling with their fingernails...I have seen so many not-so-great teachers urged out of the district in a variety of ways, including NOT granting tenure-- that's the most common method for keeping the teaching quality high. But I've also seen teachers who have become less effective moved out of the system, despite their tenured status. It happens far more than the general public realizes.

Getting rid of tenure does absolutely nothing to address the inequities of poverty; it merely robs a struggling, denigrated, and noble profession of one of the only protections it has left.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by public school advocate
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2014 at 11:55 am

When will Students Matter file suit against the grossly unequal financing across California school districts? If the judge is basing his ruling on the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, then the separate and unequal educational opportunities based upon the wealth of one's community must be addressed. Instead, these organizations with deep pockets are chipping away at the very concept of public education and using it as a pretext to funnel public money into for-profit companies that have no accountability to the public at all. The teacher tenure issue is a red herring, indeed, but the good news about the ruling is that the concept of equality of opportunity was used as the basis of the decision.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wha?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:03 pm

The teachers I know often get pink slips at the end of every year until the next budget cycle, then are hired back. Tenure is for academics. Public school teachers have little or no job security year to year, but lots of protection through the union while they are actually working.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Nice sexist comment about males and young women. Are you a dinosaur? As for other posters, PAUSD tenured teachers have a de facto contract for life. Only the temporary employees get the letter. Teri Baldwin and Scott Bowers strike an agreement of how many temporary teachers move to probationary. Those who get another year of temporary do indeed need 30 months (not 36) before they get to walk in the tenure ceremony. No tenured teacher is allowed to be moved out by a principal without the blessing of PAEA.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm

ma3


 +   Like this comment
Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Jun 19, 2014 at 2:09 pm

One more nail in the coffin of California public education. No, make that a spike.

Those teachers who can leave will leave for better jobs. The rest will be fired in due course for "incompetence," "insubordination," or "just because."

That will save the taxpayers lots of money--until those children left on the streets start making careers in prison. But we'll feel good, because those uppity teachers and impoverished colored students will have been put in their place [portion removed].

And, lacking an educated voting public, California will finally become a solid Red state. In fact, maybe that's the real purpose.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm

It's nonsense to say that if tenure is removed, no one will want to teach. On the other hand, if tenure is removed, I believe teachers' pay will go up to the correct market levels and we will have better teachers entering the profession and the lack of tenure will keep them on their toes. I work in a private company and while I don't have tenure, most companies will not fire someone willy-nilly but only if, after repeated warnings, the employee refuses to perform. I would expect the same or better in our public schools. There is nothing to complain about. In college I had a professor who only came to teach a few times a semester. The rest of the time he would play golf. Of course there were other tenured professors who came in every day but I don't see why anyone would work hard if they had a guarantee of not being fired.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pat
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2014 at 6:14 pm

It is not easy to get a principal removed and teachers do not have the power to do it. Trust me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Today's college students want jobs is lucrative industries like tech. You need 5 years of college - one beyond the BA - to become a teacher in CA. Who wants to spend an additional $20-40K on a 5th year of college? The starting salary for beginning teachers in PAUSD is $52K. The typical student graduates with a BA/BS and $40k+ in loans. Do the math? Duh!
Women have many more professional fields into which they can enter. In 1972 when I graduated from Stanford, 90% of my female classmates went into either teaching, nursing, or librarianship programs. The "brave new world women" or 10% went into law, medicine, and the sciences.

The baby boomers are retiring or being forced into retirement at alarming numbers. Yes, even here in Palo Alto!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2014 at 9:41 pm

"...if tenure is removed, I believe teachers' pay will go up to the correct market levels and we will have better teachers entering the profession and the lack of tenure will keep them on their toes."

O yeah. And the lamb will lay down with the lion, disease and famine will be bygone, and there will be peace on the land. And teachers will teach on their toes like ballerinas. Praise be!

MR's blithe prose contradicts the totality of free labor market experience since the beginning of time. Absent job protections, wages drop, job security disappears, and only the otherwise unemployable remain.

No competent college educated person will put up with that situation if he/she has an alternative.

"I work in a private company..."

There's the difference. Public school teachers work for the government, at its pettiest level, at the whims of the pettiest of petty bureaucrats. Try that sometime.

Iconoclast has it right. The intent of this shenanigan is to continue the systematic dismantling of California public education that governor Reagan initiated 48 years ago.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2014 at 10:20 pm

PAUSD teachers, in the form of PAEA, absolutely have the power to remove their principal. Has Pat been sleeping through the last seven years?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pat
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 11:09 pm

@Teri, too--- The parents were responsible for finally getting the district to listen at Addison. They didn't listen to the teachers and from what I understand, PAEA's hands were tied.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2014 at 6:00 am

I find myself in complete agreement with midtown resident.

IMHO, teacher's unions are horrible.

There is no need for tenure for schoolteachers. They do not need the protections offered to college professors and researchers.

For realistic insights into how unions and tenure corrupt the system, see the movie Waiting for Superman.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2014 at 10:04 am

I would like to know how many times, as Teri Baldwin says, this actually happens, "Teachers who are not performing to the California Standards for the Teaching Profession can be negatively evaluated, placed on a plan that requires coaching and, if the teacher doesn't improve, the district can move towards dismissal" And what does the teachers union do when the district "move towards dismissal"?

Here are the California Standards for the Teaching Profession: Web Link

Just a quick read of them and I can tell you that my kids have had or I've heard of teachers that fall far short.

Granted, most are great, and I think nearly all do their best. But, some skate by due to the need for teachers, period.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Jun 20, 2014 at 1:55 pm

>For realistic insights into how unions and tenure corrupt the system, see the movie Waiting for Superman.

Golly gee, if they put it in a movie it must be right.

What those Superman waiters don't realize is that charter schools do no better, on the average, than plain old public schools. But, hey, it's a free country. They're entitled to their illusions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teri Baldwin
a resident of Addison School
on Jun 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Teri, too,
I am not sure where you are getting your information, but I would like to clarify something. I have never sat down with Scott Bowers and struck "an agreement of how many temporary teachers move to probationary". Those are not my decisions, they are administrative decisions on which I am not consulted. Also, you stated "No tenured teacher is allowed to be moved out by a principal without the blessing of PAEA." That just isn't true either. Over the years many non-tenure teachers have not been asked to return to PAUSD and I am never even told this is happening, so I am not sure why you would imply that "only the bravest" principals would consider doing it. I am never consulted on any status changes or staffing movements. I understand you may not like PAEA or me, which is fine and your choice, but I do take offense to you printing things that are just not true. This may be your personal view of what you think happens, but it doesn't happen that way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2014 at 4:11 pm

@Teri Baldwin:
Thanks for the clarification. I'm glad you're engaging in this forum. As we may see with the new Superintendent, transparency and frequent communication will really help us all conduct a civil discourse on these momentous topics.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I respect Teri's opinion and her assertions, I just don't agree with all of them, of course, though I do agree that she doesn't know where I'm getting my information from. I stand by what I wrote, and what I didn't. Especially true is that no tenured teacher (not non tenured as Teri wrote, so please pay attention!) would ever be allowed to be targeted by administration without the blessing of PAEA. You just can't do much about an underperforming tenured teacher. Do some homework, folks. Start with older teachers who have had a few parent complaints, and who have been forced to transfer to another school site. It's all very defensible by administration and human resources, but it is pressure designed to force retirement or resignation, and administration has to be sure that PAEA will not make too big of a stink. Teri may present herself and PAEA as not responsible for the neverending ousters of principals, but Addison is a good example. Teachers and their complaints were definitely listened to over the past two years, but it helped that a few staff members bent the ears of a few parents to get them involved. None of this is earth-shattering news, it's perfectly civil, and it is not momentous.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Happy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2014 at 9:02 am

Teri Too, since you are so "well informed" I'd love to know what you think of the good tenured teacher that was fired from Hoover this year. From what I heard the very strong, experienced, solid principal at Hoover fired her because she wasn't an active team player, not because she was a poor teacher. The teacher was very open with why she was being let go. Point being- if a principal is strong they can and will fire teachers with or without tenure.
PS have you ever read the book The Price of Privledge? It may help you in understanding that by attempting to control ever aspect of your child's life, you are doing them no good.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Get Imformed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2014 at 9:23 am

PAEA allows us to fight for our students rights. Why do you think we only have 21-24 students in a class when Skelly wanted 28+? We fought for it. The teachers vote every year to have smaller classes over more pay and better benefits. The union helps you're kids in so many ways. Seriously people, get educated on true facts before spouting all your ignorant comments on here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Get informed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2014 at 9:30 am

"*informed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2014 at 9:24 pm

There's a new spin: PAEA exists to help students. Hate to burst your naive bubble, but any CTA or PAEA negotiator will tell you that the union exists only to serve teachers, and nothing else. Certainly this ruling will force union leadership to repackage their message. The teacher as noble victim hasn't played well since the 2008-09 and 2002-03 recessions. Teachers consistently voted for salary increases because they could not afford to live in Palo Alto and they could not afford the price of gasoline. Start with the June 2012 board meeting videos and go from there to verify. Always check your facts before resorting to name calling. I don't see how that helps children. And as far as the Hoover principal firing a teacher, I don't want to spend too much time explaining this, but in a nutshell, principals do not fire teachers, it is a process that goes through human resources and then is approved by the board. And firing a tenured teacher, well that's like spotting Bigfoot or a unicorn. Feel free to give us more information in that. Again, just read every single board packet of the last seven years, in addition to watching most of the meetings, and we might be able to have a better dialogue.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by It may be a magic bullet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2014 at 12:38 am

Happy,

"PS have you ever read the book The Price of Privledge? It may help you in understanding that by attempting to control ever aspect of your child's life, you are doing them no good."

It's ironic because "control" is exactly what the teacher unions appear to seek to maintain.

I haven't heard a good reason why tenure is necessary, compared to the costs of bad teachers. It's tricky to say that teachers fought for smaller class size - on behalf of students. Wouldn't they want smaller class sizes for themselves too? If teachers were true advocates for students, they would end tenure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Addison
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2014 at 3:32 am

@ Teri

Teri B. is an excellent teacher and a great person whom my child was privileged to have in kindergarten at Addison. I don't know why she is so vigorously protecting lazy, rude, cruel teachers her former students had to endure at Jordan and Paly. Please do what is best for our kids and get rid of "bad" teachers. It is too late for my kids to benefit from this new law, but I am glad that it will help other students.

Each year, about a third of the students from Addison apply to private schools and only a fraction are lucky to be accepted to one of these schools. These private schools can fire and hire at will and yet have a great track record of teacher retention. In the private school world, good teachers stay for decades and the lousy ones are asked to leave. The system seems to work fine, just like every non-government industry in our capitalist system.

Please do what's best for the kids. Protecting lousy teachers is not in the best interest of this most vulnerable group of people, young kids.

Teachers are not the highest paid professionals given their level of education, but then again, they have June, July, August, two weeks for Christmas, ski week (now 3 days), and a week for Spring break .... no other job gives you this much time off every year.

Teaching get great benefits, retirement, $80K - $138K/year (based on the Post article listing PAUSD teacher salaries), job security. I don't think teachers will vanish from PAUSD if they don't feel job security. It will actually encourage the hard working teachers who carry the load for the lazy ones to stay in the profession rather than leave. Get rid of dead weight, it will only help the students and hard working dedicated teachers.


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Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2014 at 9:00 pm

@Addison:

A few nits to pick:

"Each year, about a third of the students from Addison apply to private schools and only a fraction are lucky to be accepted to one of these schools. These private schools can fire and hire at will and yet have a great track record of teacher retention. In the private school world, good teachers stay for decades and the lousy ones are asked to leave. The system seems to work fine, just like every non-government industry in our capitalist system."

I have no idea if a third of the students at Addison apply to private schools, but do we really know why they are doing this? I doubt it's due to tenure laws. There must be many many reasons. Status, privilege, and money quickly spring to mind, although there must be as many reasons as there are applicants.

Also, it is true that private schools hire and fire at will, and the system does work fine, since it is a capitalist system as you say. Private schools also get to charge quite a bit more than is budgeted per student by PAUSD. They also get to "fire" students they don't want by not letting them into their schools - I'm thinking of English Learners, students with learning disabilities, and so on. Is getting rid of tenure going to level this playing field? Public education is not a capitalist institution, but it certainly has produced its share of capitalists.



"Teachers are not the highest paid professionals given their level of education, but then again, they have June, July, August, two weeks for Christmas, ski week (now 3 days), and a week for Spring break .... no other job gives you this much time off every year."

Just a little nit here: We're not off June, July, and August. It's June, July and HALF of August. My personal opinion; I love summer off, but I would gladly work a longer school year for a number of reasons that are not germane to this discussion. Are you ready for teachers to be paid 33% more for a longer school year? We're talking $100k-$200k!

"Teaching get great benefits, retirement, $80K - $138K/year (based on the Post article listing PAUSD teacher salaries), job security. I don't think teachers will vanish from PAUSD if they don't feel job security. It will actually encourage the hard working teachers who carry the load for the lazy ones to stay in the profession rather than leave. Get rid of dead weight, it will only help the students and hard working dedicated teachers."

Like most statewide education policies, Palo Alto occupies its own universe. This policy will likely have an effect on the teacher retention in hard-to-staff urban districts that already have difficulty filling positions. You are quite right that Palo Alto will not have trouble finding applicants. But, this lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles county and they were ostensibly trying to protect the civil rights of the students in that district. This conversation about tenure might be more fruitful if we take a more state-wide viewpoint.


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Posted by It may be a magic bullet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Anony Mouse,

You forgot Spring Break and shorter hours.

This is the part where everyone will talk about the very long hours worked (some do) but yet some teachers do not grade much or give feedback, won't answer emails, and the lessons are the same recycled ones. Some spend long hours but are ineffective.

Great teachers would be rewarded more in a non-tenure system. The price fixing works best for those who do not carry their weight.


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Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2014 at 9:40 pm

@It may be a magic bullet

So, let's design this new state-wide school system you envision!

My questions: What will this reward system look like? How much money are we talking? Who will be making these decisions? Is there an interest in ensuring that there will be fairness? How will teachers be evaluated? Principal evaluations? Test scores? Parent happiness? Emails answered quickly? Hours worked? Vacations foregone?

There seems to be a belief that we can flip a switch and turn this public institution into a capitalist engine. What does it look like?

What are some of the possible unintended consequences of a capitalist model?

This is a fantastically complex system we have. There are many deeply entrenched stake-holders. Teachers are certainly one, but so are tax payers, the Feds, students, and on and on. How do we move this big thing in the right direction? If we remove tenure tomorrow, what will happen? Perhaps all these hordes of ineffective teachers that you write about will be fired. That would be great, I suppose. How many good teachers will be fired because they were not kissing the right rings? Who will replace them? Who would want that job? (Remember I'm talking statewide - Palo Alto will have no problems)

I'd love to engage in a discussion about what this new system will look like. Let's look at all the nooks and crannies and see what we can come up with. I love Palo Alto! It's an idea machine!


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Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2014 at 7:07 am

I'm noting uncivil sarcasm above from the same poster who was moaning about civility. But let's quickly get past that and the other PAEA tactic when its power is threatened: fear, the fear that teachers are special and principals are crazy people who just want their rings kissed and will fire teachers whimsically. Well, if that is true, is a principal or assistant principal magically cured when they return to teaching? Phil Winston returned to the classroom in 2013, Trinity Klein and Kimberly Cowell will return in two months. They are now tenured PAEA members. Winston, who according to documents that the Weekly acquired, had many teachers feeling uncomfortable for many reasons, not just one, but we will likely not hear of any issues anytime soon now that he is a dues paying member of PAEA. I'll leave it to readers to make their own conclusions on this one. Now I'll digress back to the topic: ending tenure. Teachers and principals don't need tenure. They do need job security. The current system of tenure (for all California districts, not just PAUSD, that would be arrogant), needs the scariest intervention of all: change. Change the system that protects underperforming teachers. Read the research about the effect of one ineffective teacher on a child, especially socioeconomically disadvantaged child, and use the needs of the child to frame the argument first.


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Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2014 at 8:16 am

@Teri, too,

Sorry, I got a little excited last night. I thought we were going to design a new system that would fill the schools with the highest quality teachers. We just need to align all the incentives, find the money and so on. Is there anyone who reads this who would be willing to engage in that discussion? Palo Alto is an idea machine. We've already exhaustively identified the things that are exasperating about this system. Let's kick around some ideas for the future. Change! Focus on the student! Please Teri, too, bring some ideas and let's discuss. I invite any HR professionals to jump in too. How do we turn this big system around and put it to rights?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2014 at 8:52 am

The statement that "going after unions" is a bad thing is hilarious. Unions control EVERYTHING. There is so much evidence that unions are costly, distructive and anti-learning and anti-education. I actually don't oppose tenure, I do think it should not be granted so quickly where it is a joke and an endless costly noose around the neck of the taxpayer.
Also: throwing money at things doesn't equate to quality otherwise the D.C. school system and Oakland school system and Newark school system would be high-achieving...and they sure are not.
I am all for merit pay for high quality teachers.
I strenuously oppose the union system for professionals. If you want to be called a professional, then don't use a shop system.
Oh and NEW and AFT are among the very most powerful special interests in politics.


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Posted by It may be a magic bullet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Anony Mouse,

"Palo Alto is an idea machine. We've already exhaustively identified the things that are exasperating about this system. Let's kick around some ideas for the future. Change! Focus on the student! Please Teri, too, bring some ideas and let's discuss. I invite any HR professionals to jump in too. How do we turn this big system around and put it to rights?"

The sarcasm is unnecessary but I will assume you're serious.

Usually change is best if it comes from within. The best ideas for reform comes from those on the ground. A consulting firm could help, and you can invite HR and all the usual management professionals but it takes innovation and desire to change, from the education professionals themselves.

Schools are apparently not used to the individual performance reviews that happen regularly at companies. Usually a professional performance review involves peer input, management input, and a variety of other inputs. It could be client satisfaction, or it could be having solved a big problem for your team that gets you additional compensation. "What have you done for me lately" so to speak. In schools the customers are kids, and they are not exactly taken seriously for their feedback (parent feedback is just sour grapes), or there are the flawed (always 100% satisfaction) surveys, or mass standardized tests. A real analysis of what is working and what is not in any institution would not rely on mass testing or poorly constructed input systems.

A performance review is ultimately self-introspection and honesty about how you have measured up to the job description. It gets broadly and fairly checked and is not arbitrary. Could it be done right in public schools? Absolutely.

Convenient for teacher unions to stall the tenure conversation at the fear. No ideas from the educational professionals themselves to get rid of bad teachers? What you call a Los Angeles issue is not so. We have achievement gap issues here in PAUSD but because it's supposedly so perfect here, the accusation has often been made that the achievement gap In PAUSD is to be blamed on the parents of the students.



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Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2014 at 10:38 pm

@It may be a magic bullet

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I'm glad you took my comments seriously - those exclamation points were enthusiasm, not sarcasm. Your final paragraph was especially insightful. I agree that teacher quality is not only a LAUSD problem. We need to take a hard look at PAUSD, especially our embarrassing achievement gap. In my own school, there is a lot of energy around improving and changing teaching practices and school management practices, with a great deal of collaboration at both the "worker" and "management" levels. The conversation always centers on students. At recess, lunch, after school, all the time. School reform and improvement has some necessary components: a talented principal with exceptional energy and communication skill, a diverse staff of new and more experienced teachers who are encouraged to speak frankly and honestly about their shortcomings and strengths. How can this type of reform-mindedness be expanded beyond the individual school and into the district or even state-wide level? It seems like the requirements are similar; honest, open, talented leadership and an environment that encourages introspection in teachers. On a broader scale, it requires a change in the discourse. There needs to be humility, and respect for all viewpoints and a willingness to assume positive motives to all actors - unless evidence is clear to the contrary. The fact is, the vast majority of teachers, administrators, parents, and students all want the same things. I know this because in PAUSD I've observed it to be true. How do we change the discourse? (I might add that @it may be a magic bullet has done a little something toward that goal with his/her comments)


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2014 at 3:10 am

Sparty is a registered user.



Forbes:

Marin County, Calif., provides the best bang for the buck. In 2004 Marin spent an average of $9,356 ($6,579 adjusted for the cost of living relative to other metro areas in the U.S.) per pupil, among the lowest education expenditures in the country. But in return Marin delivered results above the national average: 96.8% of its seniors graduated, and 60.4% of them took the SAT college entrance exam and scored a mean 1133 (out of 1600).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alexandria City, Va., which sits just six miles outside of our nation's capital, spent $13,730 ($11,404 adjusted) per pupil, but its high schools registered only a 73% graduation rate, with 65.0% of the seniors participating in the SAT for a mean score of 963.


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Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:28 am

@ sparty

You are comparing apples and oranges. This just proves that the amount of money you put into it doesn't equate to success. I am sure there is a threshold of funds that lead to diminishing returns. Alexandria Virginia public schools are very different than Marin County California public schools. The students at these schools come from vastly different backgrounds and have very different resources available at home, which most of the time leads to the difference in test scores, grades, graduation rate and college acceptance.


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Posted by Suggest accountability
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jun 25, 2014 at 8:45 am

The teachers union has been noticeably absent in helping to solve the recent crises, though certain teachers have taken the time to blame parents. Proposals from anony mouse or Teri Baldwin avoid accountability as if their effectiveness is not going to impact my child. Most teachers have made a positive imoact, but the ones that have had negative impacts have made the current tenure system unacceptable. That's great that a teacher can have years of chances to improve their performabce, but what happens to our kids during that. Tenure needs significant changes and PAWS needs to either reform it and its purpose, or get out of the way while others make the attempt.


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Posted by Suggest accountability
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jun 25, 2014 at 8:47 am

PAWS should be PAEA, thank you autocorrect.


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Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2014 at 1:57 pm

@Suggest accountability

I agree, reforms need to be made. I'm here, and I am ready to engage on the subject. Tenure reform is part of the reform process. Please engage and help to envision what this would look like. We have a reality right now. Let's envision what the ideal system is and think really hard about how to get there. Right now we have a court decision that may or may not be helpful, and some people who think this is a great victory, and others feel the opposite. We are clearly not on the right path as a state. What is the right path?


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Posted by It may be a magic bullet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Anony Mouse,

"..a diverse staff of new and more experienced teachers who are encouraged to speak frankly and honestly about their shortcomings and strengths"

Good point, and asking/documenting what a person being reviewed sees as obstacles in doing their job is integral to a well crafted performance review. What can the organization and management do to help everyone succeed. Speaking to the issue of intentions, the whole point is for people to succeed not fail. Why go to the trouble and expense of hiring if not for the long term.

It sounds to me that the self-introspection at schools is done as a team, but evaluating individuals is a more political process since even if you concluded that someone is outstanding or ineffective, there aren't any actions that follow to either reward, or change a person who is not working out. This may be why there is fear, because the current process is political. If a new system would reward great teachers, and help the under performing ones do better, wouldn't that be the right thing to do? In PAUSD it would likely be a very small fraction who could not meet expectations. But, that handful who cause mini-implosions to kids year after year would be measured, given chances to improve, or asked to leave as it should happen. The fear of losing the truly bad performers should not hold back the huge difference eliminating tenure would make to everyone in school (not just students, it would be good overall).


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Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2014 at 2:56 pm

@It may be a magic bullet

You nailed it!

But, as you can see, public education has deep political roots - at its base it is a democratic and therefore political institution. No teacher comes into the profession as a fully functional teacher. It requires years of practice. So, as you rightly put it, the idea is to evaluate and support, rather than evaluate and punish. It's hard to overstate how disorienting and overwhelming those first few years are. Keep going @It may be a magic bullet, I think you're making some excellent points.


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Posted by It may be a magic bullet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Anony Mouse,

By the way, in a performance review system, there would be one for Principals too of course. Well crafted performance reviews are so much more objective, and I would prefer that to the current hierarchical system. It's almost like you have to luck out on people.


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Posted by It may be a magic bullet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Anony Mouse,

"the idea is to evaluate and support, rather than evaluate and punish. It's hard to overstate how disorienting and overwhelming those first few years are."

This is all doable. I'm not saying it's simple, but probably easier than one would think. I would get a team of teachers and administrators to explore how the local big companies do their reviews/feedback on necessary supports (Google, FB, banks, law firms,etc), and play around with some adaptations. It helps when you see organizations that may be completely different but you find out there are similarities.


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Posted by It may be a magic bullet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Anony Mouse,

"It's hard to overstate how disorienting and overwhelming those first few years are."

This may be because of the mostly subjective process. The structure of a good review wold help.


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Posted by Suggest accountability
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jun 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm

It does take years for some teachers to get it, but a fact that exists in PAUSD and all districts is that there are first and second year hires that outperform veteran teachers. The problem is that while resources are supporting the PAEA under performing teacher to learn how to get better, some of the students are being damaged academically. We have already spent reflective time over the past few decades, this court decision states the obvious that the current tenure system is not about kids. It's fairly fundamental. The suggestion is there to end tenure. End it already and then we can focus on supporting teachers to serve students and have a positive effect on their learning, and if we can measure that there are ineffective teachers in the system, let's support their way out of our classrooms. This is where PAEA and Teri Baldwin can propose metrics for teacher effectiveness.


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Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2014 at 9:06 pm

@Suggest accountability

Keep working with us on this. I think everyone on this thread has already agreed with most of your assertions. Interestingly, those assertions are true in any organization, public or private. Some new teachers outperform more experienced is manifestly true, as is the reverse. The question is (and I hope you're willing to join us on this thought experiment) what will this new system look like? Evaluation needs to improve, and @it may be a magic bullet has made some interesting comments about leveraging the experience of some of the HR stars in our area such as Google and Facebook.

I can understand your desire to "end it already", but I hope you will join us in thinking about a new system. It requires compromise, negotiation and a willingness to ascribe decent motives to all involved. It's easy to fall into a nihilistic mindset when dealing with emotionally charged issues. At the end of the day, all sides need to come together to find common ground. What are you willing to compromise on?


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Posted by It may be a magic bullet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Anny Mouse,

"I can understand your desire to "end it already", but I hope you will join us in thinking about a new system. It requires compromise, negotiation and a willingness to ascribe decent motives to all involved. It's easy to fall into a nihilistic mindset when dealing with emotionally charged issues. At the end of the day, all sides need to come together to find common ground. What are you willing to compromise on?"

The way to sell this (because it's actually true) is that the replacement to tenure would be a win-win for everyone. You yourself have the framework - "evaluate and support, rather than evaluate and punish." No good performance evaluation system would be designed to punish.

PAUSD is actually in an ideal position to test something as it has mostly great teachers. I'd say many exceed expectations, most meet expectations, and those who are below expectations could be nudged to improve. Of the ones that need improvement, many could be turn-around stories with the right evaluations and goals, others may be waiting for the right structure, and the few who may be major problems, the compromise could be that they are given a fair amount of time to correct their ways. In severe cases (probably not here but in LA) you really need to get them out of the classroom right away, away from kids, as you would want to in any organization, without spreading the "carry" among students. In High School, I think they actually balance some notorious issue teachers with the good ones. That's really going out of the way to accommodate and carry, but some students get hurt in the process and that's not right. With a quality evaluation system the compromises would be seamless and fair. The thing is that educators will have to sell this to themselves, and get past the political posturing. Spend that time designing your own best/better system instead. You'd probably have overwhelming support for trying. I saw speech from a former Google exec who moved into advising nonprofits and startups, Shona Brown. She was among the early Google people and she built their People Operations. Somebody like that would be interesting to reach out to, not just HR specialists. Imagine how fast Google grew in such a short period of time, it's doable. I don't know her, her speech just came to mind.


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Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 11:36 pm

I agree, let Anony Mouse negotiate (nice PAEA mindset) and magic bullet put his/her faith in nudging (and in Google and Facebook) in a new, virtual, never-to-exist system while others actually focus on action. We have a rich guy in Atherton and a judge who have bypassed the teachers unions and forced them and the California public to ask if tenure has anything to do with kids. If it does, give it to principals, too. Notice how silent our governor and other politicians, like our dear Joe Simitian, for example, are on this ruling. They are beholden to CTA and NEA, not the kids. Without this latest ruling, I would not be able to write these things without being trolled or shouted down. Now at least we can have a dialogue.


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Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm

@Teri, too

True, some sort of victory has occurred. What's next? I think it makes sense to reverse engineer a system, using best practices from private industry and begin the work of selling it to constituencies. It's clear that you believe that this victory represents some sort of opening. Now all the parties can be forced to come to the table. So, let's say all the parties are at the table. What then? What do you tell each constituency?


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2014 at 4:01 pm

This is the reason ending tenure is such a bonus for students. From the "Rate your teacher" website about one teacher. I removed identifying info. I've been in the Guidance office when students come in crying about this person and the Guidance staff has such a look of sympathy combined with resignation because their hands have been tied. Getting rid of teachers like this will be a blessing.

"She was an awful teacher and she lost all my interest in (subject name). Poorly organized and did not teach and is not helpful. If you get this teacher i suggest you transfer asap! She is awful

01/08/14 She should NOT be teaching (subject name), if it can even be called "teaching". Abusive and rude. The whole class is confused. Years go by and why is she still allowed to teach? Principal Winston had her out of there for one year but now Principal Diorio let her teach (subject name), again. Hello? Please don't allow her to traumatize students anymore! It's completely unfair to all! Only the top students can do well in her class.

12/13/13

I'm currently in her class and it basically sucks. Its been one semester and we've made it a chapter into the textbook. All the other classes are at least 3 chapters in, Final's are next week and we learned the entire second chapter in one 90 minute period. She doesn't use a textbook nor has enough for the entire class and teaches the class mainly in English. I feel like i'll be screwed next year.

09/22/13

Terrible teacher! Uses google translate and does not know material as well as students do!

08/12/13

She was an unbelievably irritating person to deal with for several reasons: Her exam grading was completely botched up Really condescending to talk to Boring class with bad use of class time Grading is 30% tests, 20% participation, 20% classwork, 20% homework, 10% exams You theoretically can get a 66.6 percent in tests and get an A- in the class Avoid this teacher at all costs!!!

05/16/13

For ASL students, she gets much easier the second semester or year. Once she knows you, she pretty easy to work with and teaches a fun class. And we get some periods where we just watch movies or whatnot. She really doesn't deserve all of the negative reviews she attracts. If you try hard and get to know her, the class is fun and easy.

08/09/12

She really was the worst teacher so far... Except for one other. I really got bumped on the community service hours with her - advice: if you did community hours in recent past and she says you can use them DON'T unless you can provide proof ( aka like a signature or a reflection from the person). Can't believe I passed her class with a C....

05/14/12

she doesn't let you go to the bathroom unless you (blocked) correctly.... if you do it incorrectly... well that sucks for you. she refuses to repeat herself, so if you didn't understand something... tough luck!! she LOVES to embarrass people in front of the whole class so if you do something wrong, you best believe she'll point it out and make you feel stupid for doing it. she picks favorites, and if she doesn't like you, she'll make the class awful for you.

05/10/12

i am in (teachers name) class for (subject name). she SUCKS! i asked to close the window because it was getting too cold, and she said no. shes such a mean person that i hope one day she will get fired and live alone with her dog. it was a hot day one day and she had a fan...which only faced HER!! shes not a friendly person, and should be kicked out of this school FOREVER. sincerely SOMEONE WHO HATES (teacher's name)

11/29/11

The absolute meanest teacher in the effing school. i cant believe she works at the school still she is awful. mean

11/17/11
Wow. Maybe the worst experience I had at Paly. I do not know how this (teacher) is still teaching. clearly hates the students and her profession. Stay away from this (teacher)! Evil. Just plain evil.



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Posted by Problems
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm

@Teri, Too
What was the nature of problems at Addison that upset the teachers? Have they been resolved?


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Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

If you want to find out what happened at Addison, you can ask Teri Baldwin, president of PAEA, and teacher at Addison. That will be the union view. Then you can use common sense to find the simple answer.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Addison School
on Jul 26, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Addison was never a strong school in preparing special needs children for middle school. Last year Addison's 5th grade was particularly poor. Teachers were under intense pressure from Special Education to say children succeeded from the policy of Full Inclusion from Day 1. Teachers were heavily pressured in meetings to say 5th graders were doing well and should be removed from IEPs, and should be mainstreamed for full or part day in middle school. Teachers who said a child was struggling could expect a personal visit to their classroom from Administrators in Special Education, and multiple visits to observe their teaching and hear how well the child was doing by Special Education staff. If a child were to leave mainstream, the teacher risked losing other support such as a classroom aide provided for the disabled child but who helped all the students in the classroom. Parents who did not sign documents agreeing to mainstream or remove students from Special Education received threats that Special Education would sue the disabled child, that the child would be brought to a secret court hearing, or that parents could go to mediation but that would again be secret and the family would have to pay the legal expenses from PAUSD suing the child. Some parents were told by Special Education to remove their child from public school as their right, which would enable the District to sue them and say the parents were wrong.

The Director of Special Education made the October 2013 presentation to the Board of Education saying PAUSD had achieved full inclusion from Day 1 and kids were off IEPs because it had already succeeded, only a couple months into the policy. Board of Education members told Addison parents that Addison teachers received more support and were satisfied because that is what Special Education told them, when surveys said the opposite. Special needs kids were bullied and blamed for being the victim. Mainstream children had to see the special needs children breaking down when they could not get help. Un-certified behaviorists and TOSAs, lacking full professional behavioral qualifications, reported the children were doing well, only to have severe problems erupt as school continued. Parents who tried to investigate problems and get teachers more help were told little, or received strange legalistic replies similar to the postings in Palo Alto Online posts "Judge sides with family in Palo Alto special education case" related to PAUSD's lost court appeal for the student with allergies. These could be off topic, not responsive to the question asked, stated information could not be found or did not exist, even when clearly in the court documents or article or link associated with the post or used the wrong link and said they were just asking questions, or making a point about Special Education's power and the ridiculousness of parents caring for disabled children. Reading these Palo Alto Online posts made it clear what had happened at Addison last year, that lawyers or Administrators wrote the information. It was a heart breaking realization to see how little they intended to help the special needs children and instead to spend legal fees to achieve their goal.

Special Education does not do well in providing clear or written reports unless required by law. As court documents and their OCR resolution shows, they lose data, say they can't find information supporting the need to help a child, or say they do not have information in their stored record. Maybe that's so, or maybe they think that is so because they keep telling themselves that. What's clear is there can be no independence in reporting since the special education staff, behaviorists, psychologists report to the Director of Special Education. It is an expensive way to use tax payer money and results in little confidence in PAUSD. The results for children, both special needs and general education, are heart wrenching.


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Posted by pA
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 27, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Addison is the best school on the planet earth according to my kids. It is a safe place with caring and supportive teachers and parents. One of my kids needed a little help with reading and another one needed help with speech, they received both from the Special Ed without me ever having to ask.

Our neighborhood high school is a different story, a very heartless environment, many teachers are tired of teaching and are staying in the profession just because it is a paid 9 month a year job with good benefits and retirement.

Unions protect the most amazing and gifted teachers and the apathetic ones. Unions hurt our kids.


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Posted by Tenure Needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2014 at 10:56 am

Addison is a very nice school, but this make it sound cultish:
"Addison is the best school on the planet earth according to my kids."
Kids say that because they are told it at assembly, and parents at school meetings. The problem there is insisting must always be happy, paste a smile on and say there are no problems, no bullying and all special needs kids receive adequate help - this just lets problems persist. Nothing can ever improve if everything is only the happiest place on earth.

You are the target market for Special Education. A child who needs a little help with reading and speech - services they already provide - will get the little help, then can move on. That's their ideal Special Education student. At high risk are children with more severe disabilities who Special Education policy requires be mainstreamed. That is fine, but all schools do not have equal services or administrators who know how to fight for them. Teachers are under phenomenal pressure to say kids are improving, that disabled kids are more independent and should be moved out of Special Education. I feel much more comfortable hearing the opinion of a tenured teacher than one who can be fired if they don't agree with administration and Board policy.

Both PAUSD special education and general education teachers need tenure and union protection. Special Education hires contractors, temporaries with no job protection. Addison can't seem to keep a psychologist, principal, can't get certified behavior staff, SLP and OTs get too few hours. Staff can be moved around when Special Education wants. Teachers are now being put into more and more demanding roles to be general ed teacher, behavioral expert, psychologist, reading specialists. Tenured teachers have the job protection to speak truth, to give their real opinion to families and not what Special Education wants them to say. Palo Alto Online provides a forum for freedom of speech.

Part of the reason for tenure is to protect teachers from political pressure. PAUSD teachers are in a very political school district. Board of Education member is on the Board of NSBA, which told PAUSD to fight OCR to allow disabled students to be bullied. The same law firm file briefs for NSBA that PAUSD pays to sue disabled children. That raises questions if all the shock Board of Education members and their lawyer expressed over the OCR resolution was spontaneous, or related to a wider agenda. Taxpayers pay the membership dues for NBSA and legal fees. It is very worrisome to think NSBA is promoting PAUSD to sue children to achieve a lobbying and legislative agenda. They can do this if they want, but better not to use PAUSDs taxpayer's money indented to teach children. At least teacher's use their own money in dues deducted from their paychecks.


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Posted by Tenure for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2014 at 3:55 pm

If teachers need tenure protection, then why does our principal not have it? Doesn't she need it, too?


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Posted by abc
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 31, 2014 at 1:53 am

Please, please don't diss Addison. My kids graduated from there years ago and still remember it fondly - it really is a special place to be a child. I am sorry about the lack of support you received for your "At high risk ..... with more severe disabilities" child. I believe Escandito is set up for such cases, not Addison. Frankly, mainstreaming policy is cruel to the fragile children with severe mental weaknesses and their disruptive behavior is unfair to the rest of the student body. I do recall that there was a boy with severe genetic (his mother was also mentally off, although a Harvard graduate) assimilation issues and he had a dedicated person assigned to sit in with the boy on all the classes just to make sure the boy behaves civilly in the classroom environment. How very lavish of the state and the district to pay someone a full time salary in the upwards of $100K to take care of just one pupil.


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Posted by Tenure
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:34 pm

@abc Please don't dish parents at Addison. You left three years ago, you don't know what has happened since. Still, you have allude to some accurate points about then and now. Sometimes the cost of hiring an aide full time to be with one child exceeds the cost of a special school set up for the child's needs. Yet most families do want full mainstreaming if possible, and Districts in general oppose sending students to special schools.

Your other point is accurate in general that some PAUSD schools have more resources for disabled children, but disabled children do not have the choice to go to programs at Escondido or any other school to get these Resources. Special Education policy is all students mainstream in the general education classroom in their neighborhood school. A family can put in to transfer the child to another school if there is room, but not into a program at that school. They will only receive the same limited help they received at Addison. According to Special Education's reports at Board of Education meetings, mainstreaming has worked 100% and all students, teachers and families are completely happy and supported and disabled kids getting better and now need less support.

@Tenure for all
During the last principal search, the District told parents (which was during a period of layoffs) that union contracts allowed employees to return to any job they previously held. Employees whose jobs were eliminated could bump another employee out of their job. This is why the Addison Secretary had to leave, and clerk was laid off for a while. Thankfully, they are back working for PAUSD. Teachers whose jobs end can go back to being teachers, as the Special Education Coordinator did. Not all administrators have taught in PAUSD. The principal had a psychology related credential, and not taught in PAUSD. Also she resigned 3 months before the end of the school year. Wishing her a bright future.

Addison teachers need tenure and union protection in this environment. Addison's current Special Education teachers have already testified against PAUSD's disabled students in hearings. The current Addison Resource Room Specialist testified once and the Addison Speech Language Pathologist testified twice. Teachers and parents have to wary that they are collecting information for Special Education to use in court. It is very hard for any teacher to stand up to pressure from these professionals, plus Special Education employees told to enforce policy of only mainstream. Teachers also have to withstand pressure from Administrators. Teachers have to be able to speak the truth and say what is best for the child.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm

The idea that teachers will be fired because they speak up is a bit melodramatic. People speak up in the business world all the time and they are not fired and are often promoted because of it. Teachers should have jobs because they are good at it. Not because they received a virtual lifetime job guarantee after 18 months or so of teaching. If teachers were treated as the professionals they are - from the time of acceptance into a teaching program (it should be our top college students not the bottom) to the college education they receive to classroom support and yes, MERIT PAY! teachers deserve to be treated as professionals.

@abc, tenure and pA - Addison absolutely was the best school under a former principal who transferred to Duveneck and has since moved out of the District. While not perfect, my kids have attended 3 different elementary schools in PAUSD and Addison was by far the best in bullying prevention, protecting and supporting students, having a great teacher/parent relationship and a wonderful staff that worked as a team.


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Posted by palo alto resident too
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Teachers certainly can face negative repercussions for speaking up in PAUSD, especially Special Education. Without tenure new teachers and staff can be gone very quickly. Look at the turnover in Special Education and at Addison. Schools are not the business world, it's election year and PAUSD is an intensely political place with the Board forming policy based on NSBA and the policy changes it wants to make in America, and is using PAUSD to do it. Just go look at their web site. No Special Education teacher is going to be around very long opposing Special Education pressures to move kids off of services.

It's nice you had a good experience, but you can't force your experiences on every child who lives through a different experience. Addison's disabled children live in a parallel world, forced to attend a place where at lot of bad things are allowed to happen. Indeed, at the time you are referring to there was intense, daily bullying of disabled children at Addison for their disability traits. A few staff might try to stop it, but more often parent pleas for help were met with staff with pasted smiles on their faces making remarks like "there is no bullying at Addison," "it's the happiest place on earth." Parents of disabled students can tell you how dismissive some of the teachers are at Addison, that they blame the disabled children as making the choice to be disabled, or they say the disability is all an act for the parents at home, that the child is perfect at school and it is all the parent's fault or all in the parent's head. It's sad, but there is not much teachers can do when given too many responsibilities without adequate training to handle all the types of children they are now being asked to teach. Yes, teachers step up and their efforts are admirable. It is not at all helped by the fact teachers learn to say these things from Special Education, whose strategy is to demean families so they won't seek help. Parents can tell you of the intense pressure Special Education places on teachers to say the child is doing well and should move out of Special Education, of Addison therapists and Special Education teachers who say the child has no problems, even with children who run away from classes and scare other kids with their behavior. Then these same "professionals" testify against the disabled in court to ensure they receive no help and continue to hamper other children getting an education. Blaming the disabled child and parents for being disabled and for being forced to be at Addison is much easier than educating the child, training teachers, or placing a child somewhere teachers have been trained to teach them. These types of problems don't originate in Addison teachers, they come down from the top from the District's lack of grasp on reality. Although tenure won't solve our District poor handling of reality, teachers shouldn't be fired or moved for being put in a situation they can't do anything about.


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Posted by Addison Staff
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:53 am

The Addison principal sent parents a letter that the new school psychologist will be a former Addison psycologist. The rest of the Addison staff is posted on the Addison web site. This shows the District did not take parents seriously when they asked for someone who put children first, and not to say whatever Special Education told them to say. A new principal won't know enough to stand up to a tenured psychologist and speech therapist who know all the Special Education tricks. A culture that remains silent while injustice persists will continue.


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Posted by Addison Staff Testifying
a resident of Addison School
on Aug 10, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Links to hearing decisions with Addison school staff testifying against PAUSD students, based on staff listing on Addison's web site. IEP meetings are noted when used in hearings.

Web Link
OAH 2011080591
District filed case against child
Speech Language Therapist testified paragraphs 13-19, 29 (IEP meeting), 37, 39, 65

Web Link
Parent filed case against District
OAH CASE NO. 2013051161
Resource Specialist paragraphs 44, 51-54,72,77
District Behaviorists 33(IEP meeting), 65-72,77, 84, Findings 47

IEP Independent Educational Plan meetings are noted since parents may not be aware staff may be collecting information for hearing against child.

Addison web site does not list behaviorists assigned to the school. Behaviorists may work as employees or contractors, either working directly or supervising cases and/or behaviorists at Addison. A behaviorist testifying supervised all District behaviorists, so is involved in all behavioral cases at all schools.

To search if teachers or staff or contractors testified: Web Link
Web Link


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:21 am

@ Addison Staff Testifying - The idea the staff are testifying against the student is a pretty drastic statement. I read thru your first link and it sounds like the staff were actually very complimentary of the progress "Student" made. It also sounds like the Student was viewed as a typical student in terms of behavior and academic progress.

It is not unusual for parent in PAUSD to expect their kids to be classroom superstars and to be disappointed when they are not.


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Posted by Customer Service
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:48 am

palo alto resident,

"The idea the staff are testifying against the student is a pretty drastic statement."

Who is to say what is drastic anymore. It sounds to me like some people are finding it very difficult to express their frustrations, and for anyone to be able to make sense of them.

It sounds to me like the district has very poor customer service. We have no data about the things that keep popping up on these threads. Every year there should be a community report of the complaints, nature of complaints and how they are addressed. If the report says zero complaints and then we have ten lawsuits, not good!

Either somebody is making a big deal about their personal problem, and while I care that EVERY student gets fair treatment, one problem should not be made to sound like it is impacting everyone. We have all seen some parents take it over the top. I'm talking what appear to be reasonable parents - they lose it when it's about their kid.

If there is a critical mass of issues with any one type of complaint, customer service should be able to tell us - yes we have been experiencing such and such problems and THIS is how we are dealing with them. The district can't hide behind "we are not free to disclose" due to privacy. It's DATA. Without identifying people, schools or anything, get a CUSTOMER SERVICE report going.


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Posted by Testifying
a resident of Addison School
on Aug 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm

@ palo alto resident
"The idea the staff are testifying against the student is a pretty drastic statement."
That is exactly what they did. This is a court hearing, with testimony, evidence, lawyer and judeges who issue ruling. The judge's rulings say a number of times "the testimony of xyz...." (teacher or therapist name omitted.) PAUSD attorneys prepared these teachers and therapists to testify, who were paid to do it. Attorneys pick staff who sound good in a courtroom.

"...the staff were actually very complimentary of the progress "Student" made."
Of course they said complimentary things. The purpose of the teachers/therapists testimony was to get a ruling that the child did not need the placement or services. They are expected to say things that are complimentary. Any evaluation should include strengths and weaknesses. That does not change the fact that they are testifying against a child who is their student or a student they evaluated.

These are professionals some tenured, some contractors. A lot of money goes into cases because a court case is to win. Contractors who do not do what the district tells them are not likely to be rehired. One of the psychologists was hired from another District after successfully testifying against a child. If Special Education controls Psychologists who work under them, doesn't that create an incentive for psychologists to build a record of winning testimony instead of focusing on what should be their first and only priority, the mental health care of children?

The testimony of the Board Certified Behavioral Analyst in one of these cases raises ethics concerns. BCBA code of ethics say the child interests comes first always, not the school district. Why did the District need three behaviorists to evaluate the child? Why did they use two uncertified behaviorists and bring in a third who was certified? They don't do that for children who need therapy. Did the two uncertified behaviorists not understand the ethics rules? Why did the District use two behaviorists who, despite years of experience, never bothered to get a license or certification? Did these behaviorists disclose to the parent in advance what they were going to do with their student's private medical information. Did they explain there relationships, lack of certification, intentions to the parents who were required to send their child to them for evaluation by uncertified staff?

The parent may have sent their child to evaluations and therapy with these staff thinking they were there to help the child. Parents need to be aware of what school staff do with their child's medical information when they do evaluations and treatment at school. Very few would think speech language therapists and behaviorists for autism will testify against the child.

Every parent should look up their school district and the staff working with their child. Teachers and other employees should too to know what they are dealing with.
Web Link


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Posted by BOE Agenda 8/26/2014
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 25, 2014 at 11:54 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by JJ
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 2, 2014 at 2:14 am

To the litigious and self proclaimed entitled parent,
I looked up on-line under "speech pathologist" and there are plenty around this area. Many accept health insurance. Sure it may cost you money, but this what rainy day savings are for, to take care of people and unpredictable situations as the arise. Take care of your child, and spend a little of your money (not mine). You seem to act entitled to use all of our resources for just your child, how about NO. I don't like all the negativity you utter about Addison, it is an excellent school with amazing teachers. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Teri, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2014 at 6:56 am

JJ's post is evidence enough that Addison is not an excellent school.


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Posted by Fees
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 2, 2014 at 7:07 pm

@JJ legal fees are a School District, not individual site, expense. It is the District that is litigious as opposed to a school site or parent. It's doubtful any parent is spending the large sums of legal money the District spent in recent months. But see for yourself. You can find PAUSD's legal billings in the monthly Warrants submitted with Board of Education meeting materials. Warrants for June and July are posted now. You can go into the archive to read further back, but do review past months, also. Web Link
It will take you a long time to read through all the pages.

You can also find legal bills and activity in Palo Alto On line's Public Information request. The June Public Information Request is posted now. Go to Board of Information, Public Records Request, or the link at Web Link
It reveals the extent the Board of Education worked with the law firm to publish a resolution opposing the OCR, all of which had to paid for by the public. This was promoted by their national association NSBA and PAUSD's law firm, who publishes on their web site they seek to overturn law. Check out the NSBA web site and the law's firm's web sites (PAUSD has more than one law firm involved.) See how the players are related. Look up attorney's who have been sanctioned for dragging out legal cases against children, remarkably similar descriptions to what Palo Online said they were doing with the OCR resolution. Look at how the players here all relate to each other and PAUSD. It will take a long time to read through all this material, but it will be useful before you criticize others who have.


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