We had a wonderful guided tour today of Pompeii and Herculaneum with a historian named Francesca. Of course I asked her about Italian education, as I do every parent I talk to from another state or country. She bemoaned the lack of history and geography lessons in her elementary school aged children’s schooling. I commiserated with her on the issue- what can I say? This seems to be a common theme for us as well.
Vergara vs. California.
This is the case that will make or break teacher tenure in California, and possibly the rest of the country.
Is it because teachers get tenure that poor kids in poor districts have bad teachers? Or is it bad administrators and bad teacher working conditions that cause underfunded schools that serve poor kids to have more than their fair share of bad teachers? There are so many issues here, and the court’s decision next week may, in fact, get rid of teacher tenure in California. This is hugely important to me, to my son enrolled in an underfunded school district, and to all of our kids throughout CA.
For the record, I support teacher tenure as it stands. A principal may get rid of a teacher for any reason at all during the first two years, and the principal does not need to explain or justify the decision. Tenure protects teachers after the probationary period, which may last much longer than two years, from being fired arbitrarily. This is a good thing, because teachers can use their educational background and expertise to question educational decisions without fear of politically motivated reprisals. Tenure does not protect us from getting fired; it just makes sure that we don’t get fired unjustly. And many of us have to work very hard to get that tenure, both professionally and politically.
Have I seen bad teachers receive tenure? Yes. Have I seen great teachers not get tenure and fired unnecessarily? Yes. Have I seen teachers get support and make improvements over time? Yes. Have I seen administrators not do their job and let a weak teacher continue and cause harm to children? Yes. Have I seen schools in poorer districts serving poor children hire and keep under qualified teachers? Yes. I have seen it all, and I support tenure as the best way to create a supportive environment for teacher professionals to reach their potential (in addition to equitable funding, dammit!). As a parent, I want schools to be able to pay good professional salaries with benefits and supports in place to make teaching a desirable job. I want my kid to have long term experienced educators who reflect and refine their practice over the years.
And here is a great interview on the case for tenure with Linda Darling Hammond, my former professor whose research focuses on how to recruit, train and develop teachers.
Maestra Malinche (in Rome and high on gelato and ancient history)