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Education Protection Laws Fail Intentions

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It only seems natural that educators should be held accountable for their students, right?

This isn’t a trick question. Currently, the controversial statewide lawsuit Vergara v. California is challenging the constitutionality of laws that threaten the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, claiming that not all students have access to adequate education. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of nine students and their families, tackle longstanding policies regarding teacher tenure, seniority status and the dismissal process.

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, administrators report needing at least three years to efficiently evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness, but the permanent employment law only grants administrators an 18-month window to decide on a teacher’s tenure status.

18 months is hardly enough time to decide on a matter as important as tenure, which impacts not only an educator’s future, but also the futures of hundreds to thousands of students. A teacher’s long-term effectiveness–which should consider student satisfaction, progress and achievement–simply cannot be determined from the get-go, as teaching is a refined practice. However, the desired extension should not be used as an excuse for school administrators to slack on supervising and reviewing their staff members.

The California Department of Education agrees with the state’s current dismissal process, arguing that districts have the discretion of removing ineffective teachers. However, according to LA Weekly’s five-month investigation, LAUSD officials spent approximately $3.5 million within the last decade trying to fire seven of the district’s 33,000 teachers for lackluster classroom performance, with only four actually being removed.

With such steep costs and little results, it is no wonder that the public school administators are hesitant to take action against ineffective teachers.

Furthermore, adding to the nearly impossible dismissal process is the flawed practice by most schools: the “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) policy.

Though the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research proved that there is no correlation between seniority status and teacher effectiveness, LIFO is continually practiced, ignorantly disregarding more important human factors such as passion and dedication.

It is common sense that students perform best with dedicated and motivated teachers that hope to inspire and help students reach their full potential. What the LIFO policy does is reduce passionate teachers to numbers that, among thousands of other educators, often suffer unfairly based on an egregious correlation between experience and efficiency. According to The New Teacher Project, only 13 to 16 percent of the teachers laid off in a seniority-based system would also be cut under a system based on teacher effectiveness.

Experience is important, yes, but experience is no excuse for failing teachers, nor is it an excuse to value job security over the security of our future generations.

As the controversial lawsuit nears its end, whether or not it concludes victoriously is beside the point. The lawsuit’s purpose is not to address all flaws within the education system with a victory. Instead, what the lawsuit seeks to do is remind the public that change is needed and possible within a seemingly perpetually flawed system.

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