Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Headmaster Obama, Start Kicking Some Teachers' Butts

President Obama, you promised to make our education system the envy of the world.

You have taken the time to speak directly to students to encourage them to work hard and stay in school.

But what are you doing about the teachers' unions, labor commissions and courts that won't allow school administrators to get rid of teachers that can't teach?

The Los Angeles Times did an investigative study. Following are some of the disheartening and unbelievable findings.


"L.A. Unified officials have struggled with the system more than most. Of the 15 tenured employees on record as fighting their terminations before review commissions in the last decade and a half, nine won their jobs back.

The main reasons: Commissions did not find the district's evidence damning or persuasive enough.

The district wanted to fire a high school teacher who kept a stash of pornography, marijuana and vials with cocaine residue at school, but a commission balked, suggesting that firing was too harsh.

L.A. Unified officials were also unsuccessful in firing a male middle school teacher spotted lying on top of a female colleague in the metal shop, saying the district did not prove that the two were having sex.

The district fared no better in its case against elementary school special education teacher Gloria Hsi, despite allegations that included poor judgment, failing to report child abuse, yelling at and insulting children, planning lessons inadequately and failing to supervise her class.

Not a single charge was upheld. The commission found the school's evaluators were unqualified because they did not have special education training. Moreover, it said they went to the class at especially difficult periods and didn't stay long enough.

Four years after the district began trying to fire Hsi, the case is still tied up in court, although she has been removed from the classroom. Her lawyer declined to comment on her behalf. The district's legal costs so far: $110,000.

Key conclusions are:


* Building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming, costly and draining for principals and administrators that many say they don't make the effort except in the most egregious cases. The vast majority of firings stem from blatant misconduct, including sexual abuse, other immoral or illegal behavior, insubordination or repeated violation of rules such as showing up on time.

* Although districts generally press ahead with only the strongest cases, even these get knocked down more than a third of the time by the specially convened review panels, which have the discretion to restore teachers' jobs even when grounds for dismissal are proved.

* Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she can't teach is rare. In 80% of the dismissals that were upheld, classroom performance was not even a factor.

When teaching is at issue, years of effort -- and thousands of dollars -- sometimes go into rehabilitating the teacher as students suffer. Over the three years before he was fired, one struggling math teacher in Stockton was observed 13 times by school officials, failed three year-end evaluations, was offered a more desirable assignment and joined a mentoring program as most of his ninth-grade students flunked his courses."

Big O, no amount of hard work by a student will overcome this kind of crap.

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