Monday, August 4, 2014

What SD GOP Can Learn From Campbell Brown's Mistakes on Education

On Thursday Stephan Colbert interviewed Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who is supporting and leading a lawsuit in New York over teacher tenure.  The basis of the lawsuit is that tenure laws are to blame for the education problems in the state.  This may sound familiar:

Daugaard described tenure as a thing of the past. 
"We are moving away from a system that relies on tenure and into a system that is based on rigorous, evidence-based evaluation," Daugaard said. 
The governor also plans another change to tenure that he didn't talk about in the State of the State speech, his senior aide Tony Venhuizen said. 
Currently, tenured teachers can be terminated for specific reasons - breach of contract, incompetency, "gross immorality," unprofessional conduct, insubordination, neglect of duty, violating school policies and "poor performance" - the last of which is left up to school districts. 
Daugaard wants to make poor performance more specific. His plan would give schools just cause to dismiss tenured teachers if their annual performance evaluations put them in the worst category - "unsatisfactory" - for two consecutive years.
 The Republican candidate who has been working to punish and demoralize teachers for the last four years follows this mistaken idea that tenure of teachers is a horrible, horrible thing.  Alyssa Hadley Dunn, a former English teacher and current assistant professor of education at Michigan State University fact checks some of the statements in a recent Washington Post article.  While this issue is focused on New York, there are many, many statements that could be applied to South Dakota's attitude under Daugaard.

One example is the idea that tenure keeps ineffective teachers in the system.  Dunn debunks this myth when she points out:

 And why is there attrition? Research shows that inequitable working conditions such as low pay, lack of resources, and an increase in bureaucracy cause teachers to leave high-needs schools. Without due process rights, it is even less likely that qualified teachers will want to work in high-needs schools with difficult conditions, because it would also mean that students’ lower test scores could jeopardize their employment with no available no recourse. 
There are many ways to draw effective teachers into high-needs schools. Disregarding teachers’ rights is not one of them.
There of course is a significant problem in South Dakota with the teacher shortage that was ignored by Daugaard and other GOP like Ernie Otten and Isaac Latterell. 

Another example is that tenure protects "bad" teachers and make it impossible to fire them.  First off, it is important to note that in South Dakota tenure simply means a continuing contract because many times school board are not able to offer contracts until late in the year.  Plus it allows means that just cause should be showed instead of cutting experienced teachers to save some cost or because a parent has a grudge against a teacher for giving his or her child a B+.  

Dunn tackles this myth as well:
Tenure has little to do with protecting “bad” teachers. As educational historian Diane D’Amico writes about the history of teacher tenure, “teacher tenure never really protected teachers and nor was it supposed to.” Should a teacher who has been found to be incompetent work with children? Of course not. That is not what Ms. Brown’s opponents are arguing. It is, despite Ms. Brown’s claims to the contrary, really about due process. Job security means that teachers are entitled to a fair trial if they are wrongfully terminated, say for standing up for students’ rights or whistleblowing about inequitable treatment of themselves and others.
South Dakota GOP need to take lessons not from Campell Brown, but instead to listen to someone that studies and is an a knowledgeable professional when it comes to education policy like Alyssa Hadley Dunn.

No comments:

Post a Comment