Monday, January 27, 2014


Today the Vergara trial began but an ultimate outcome may be years away after the appeals process. The case is an important milestone in the quest to reform the teaching profession and to develop teacher quality equity between schools, something that would have an outsize and positive impact on the least successful students.
While we await and hope for an outcome in favor of  a long-overdue change to the way we evaluate, hire and fire teachers, we should take a look at the general policy initiatives of this school district because statutory employment reform is not a cure-all for what ails public education here or anywhere.

SFUSD has defined itself by promoting three goals - diversity, access and equity.  In fact, the SFUSD policy literature always begins with a rededication to these goals. But these three policy goals  remain unfulfilled and few ever ask the question as to why success has eluded the District, especially given the widespread support of the Board and the community.

There's little doubt that SFUSD  remains largely undiversified relative to the demographic diversity of the individual neighborhoods. This disconnect is widely acknowledged by SFUSD itself and, therefore, is not a matter of debate. As for the other two goals, access and equity, they remain alarmingly elusive due to SFUSD's own policies which promote lowered access and inequity. 

Every school will have a unique character reflecting not only the community served but the culture of the staff and the district. But there should be uniformity as well if access and equity are goals. If Central Office policies intend to promote access and equity, differences in the school programs and services should be minimized such that families can reasonably expect to get the same or very similar opportunities both in quantity and quality from one school to another. But we know that isn't the case. SFUSD has spent years creating a school district with widely disparate offerings  - schools with honors or music or foreign language programs and schools without them. Schools from K to 8. Schools from K to 5. Schools with after school sports and schools without them. Schools with a range of co-curricular activities and clubs and schools with few. Alternative schools, bilingual schools, small schools, magnet schools, academic merit schools, art schools, schools with counselors, schools with parent liaisons, school with computer labs... And now they complain about equity?

For some, particularly those who attend their preferred schools, these differences are considered a strength of SFUSD, but from an equity point of view it is hard to make a case that such fundamental differences between schools are consistent with that goal. The prevalence of school options increases choice, to be sure, but choice is only partially defined by the number of offerings. More importantly, it is defined  by the  ability to access those offerings, for what good is choice if you can't get any?

SFUSD has a long standing problem of applicant oversubscription and that inability for families to receive school placement choices has fueled the long-term exodus from San Francisco and/or its public schools. (By the way, few applicants are really satisfied with their third  or fourth choice let alone their tenth, making suspect SFUSD's optimistic measure of placement success.)

All this constitutes the backdrop by which to analyze and evaluate this district in its ability to "make diversity,  access and equity a reality" (their words, not mine). Just as schools must evaluate teacher effectiveness for the betterment of student achievement so the public must evaluate district effectiveness for the sake of the same.
But any way you cut it, SFUSD fails dismally to achieve the three goals, and that is so because its policies are contradictory to those very same goals. You can't create diversity through the artifices of lottery-based student assignment, a point which I believe has been demonstrated repeatedly with one failed SAS followed by another. We've seen years of diversity-inspired assignment systems and SFUSD remains undiversified in relative terms.

And equity and access will never see the light of day as long as resourced families are allowed leave their neighborhoods for higher demand schools. If the District wants access and equity it has to provide it at each and every school.  It has to make the offerings universal, not a hodge-podge with widely varying opportunities.  The model of moving the pieces around the chess board has not resulted in higher overall student achievement. It has resulted in the opposite - greater disparity in student achievement. Modern day public schools need the resources of the communities and that means moving to a neighborhood-centric model where people come together in public-private partnerships.
SFUSD  has failed to realize diversity, access and equity for one simple reason: it has strayed from the practical and historical mission of public education which is to raise student achievement. This is achieved through universal school attributes - quality teaching and instructional practices, relevant, engaging curriculum, as well as a full range of enrichment classes and other programmatic offerings and services. That is to say, it shouldn't matter where one attends school in order to receive a high quality education. 

It isn't lost on me that the elected  Board members and their administrators rarely speak of achievement  but speak incessantly of diversity, access and equity - platitudes that are little more than political props short of clear policies to promote them.  To this day the stated goal of the SAS is to promote diversity even though it is doing just the opposite. The leadership tells us lack of educational opportunity is the greatest civil rights issue of our time. If it is why  do they make every school different from one another and then proclaim lack of access and equity? Why do they keep blaming the middle class for lack of diversity when they can't get low income applicants to use the CTIP preference? Why one failed assignment system after another?

Our elected representatives on the Board and their administration have not come out publicly in favor of Vergara V. California , despite having done the right thing in imposing some restrictions on lay-offs at-hard-to- staff schools. As the largest inequity of all - the lack of effective teachers at underperforming schools, a true civil rights issue, the Board needs to go much further to fundamentality change seniority and LIFO to bring about the changes implicit in access and equity. The mighty axe of the union stands high in the air and ready to strike down the tenure of any Board members who take any union opposition too far.


Friday, January 10, 2014


Currently the State Attorney is reviewing an initiative for the November ballot, the High Quality Teacher's Act of 2014. It was submitted by Matt Davis and appears that Students First is the sponsor. I have copied portions of the submittal below. With the Vergara case to start this month, there now appears to a second front in an all out assault on teacher tenure and LIFO.

Let me know what you think about this.

This Act shall be known and may be cited as the High Quality Teachers Act of


Section 2. Findings and Declarations.

The People of the State of California find and declare as follows:

(a) All California children deserve access to a high quality education.

(b) A high quality education begins with making sure our children have a high

quality teacher in every classroom. Students of high quality teachers are more likely to

go to college, earn higher salaries, and have lower rates of teen pregnancies. However,

California currently ranks near the bottom among states when it comes to identifying,

retaining, and promoting high quality teachers.

(c) For too long, California has gone backwards when it comes to providing a

high quality education to our children-the state's dropout rate is one ofthe highest in

the country, our K-12 schools badly underperform in terms of student achievement, and

California's low-income and minority children are disproportionately impacted by the

decline in California's public education system.

(d) Today, there are plenty of high quality teachers available, but local school

districts are not able to make sure all of our children have access to a high quality

teacher because local districts are currently forced to retain teachers based on how long

they have been on the job rather than based on whether or not a teacher is doing a good

job of teaching in the classroom.

(e) California is just one of eleven states that bases teacher layoff and

reappointment decisions primarily on how long someone has been teaching, which led

to a finding by the nonpartisan, independent Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) that

such a system can lead to a "lower quality of the overall teacher workforce." (LAO, "A

Review of the Teacher Layoff Process in California,"Mar. 2012, p. 17.) California needs


to follow the lead of states like Massachusetts, Florida, Tennessee, and several others

and put in place a system which identifies and retains teachers based mainly on an

objective, comprehensive, and fair review of whether the teacher is doing a good job of

teaching children in the classroom.

(f) Teachers are more than just educators. They are role models that children

look to for examples of civic and moral standards. At six to eight hours a day, five days

per week, a teacher is poised to become the most influential person in a child's life after

his or her parents. Much of what a high quality teacher "teaches" is not detailed on a

syllabus. As positive role models, high quality teachers also set good examples inside

and outside the classroom of how young people should strive to be law-abiding

individuals and develop good character, integrity, responsibility, respect for others,

honesty, and trustworthiness. As future leaders of our communities, our state, and our

nation, it is imperative that our children have role models who conduct themselves

appropriately both inside and outside the classroom. It is a self-evident truth that

teachers convicted of violent, serious, or sexual crimes cannot be high quality teachers

because they have fundamentally and irrevocably failed in their duty to act as good role

models for our children and therefore must be immediately and permanently dismissed.

(g) A safe learning environment is guaranteed by our State Constitution, which

declares that every person, including our children, has a constitutional right to be safe

and secure in our public and private schools. (California Constitution, article I, section

28(a)(7).) Teachers convicted of a violent, serious, or sexual crime cannot be high

quality teachers because they undermine our children's constitutional right to a safe

learning environment. A teacher who threatens the constitutional rights of our children,

or who creates an environment where parents reasonably worry about the criminal

background of their child's teacher, does not possess the character and trustworthiness

necessary to qualify as a high quality teacher.

Section 3· Statement of Purpose.

The purpose of this measure is to provide every child in California with a high

quality teacher so that they can reach their full potential regardless of economic or

ethnic background.



Section 4· Section 44955 of the Education Code is amended to read:

44955. (a) No permanent employee shall be deprived of his or her position for

causes other than those specified in Sections 44907 and 44923 and Article 3.1, and

Sections 44932 to 44947, inclusive, and no probationary employee shall be deprived of

his or her position for cause other than as specified in Article 3.1 and Sections 44948 to

44949, inclusive.


(b )[Jl Whenever in any school year the average daily attendance in all of the

schools of a district for the first six months in which school is in session shall have

declined below the corresponding period of either of the previous two school years,

whenever the governing board determines that attendance in a district will decline in

the following year as a result of the termination of an interdistrict tuition agreement as

defined in Section 46304, whenever a particular kind of service is to be reduced or

discontinued not later than the beginning of the following school year, or whenever the

amendment of state law requires the modification of curriculum, and when in the

opinion of the governing board of the district it shall have become necessary by reason

of any of these conditions to decrease the number of permanent employees in the

district, the governing board may terminate the services of not more than a

corresponding percentage of the certificated employees ofthe district, permanent as

well as probationary, at the close of the school year. Except as othenvise provided by

statute, the seFViees of no permanent employee may be terminated under the provisions

of this section ..... hile any probationary employee, or any other employee vvith less

seniority, is retained to render a service 'Nhieh said permanent employee is certificated

and competent to render.

(gl In computing a decline in average daily attendance for purposes of this

section for a newly formed or reorganized school district, each school of the district shall

be deemed to have been a school of the newly formed or reorganized district for both of

the two previous school years.

As be'h\'een employees who first rendered paid service to the district on the same date,

the governing board shall determine the order of termination solely on the basis of

needs of the district and the students thereof. Upon the request of any employee TNhose


order of termination is so determined, the governing board shall furnish in VtTiting no

later than five days prior to the commencement of the hearing held in accordance vvith

Section 44949, a statement of the specific criteria used in determining the order of

termination and the application of the criteria in ranking each employee relative to the

other employees in the group. This requirement that the go~;erning board provide, on

request, a "V\'Fitten statement of reasons for determining the order of termination shall

not be interpreted to give affected employees any legal right or interest that vvould not

exist vmhout such a requirement.

(3)(A) liVhen terminating the services of a certificated employee or employees .

pursuant to paragraph (1) who are assigned to positions as classroom teachers, the

order in which certificated employees shall be terminated shall be based on


(B) For purposes of this paragraph, performance shall be iudgedprimarily

upon the evaluation and assessment of each certificated employee conducted pursuant

to Article 11 (Section 44660 to Section 44665) of Chapter 3 ofthis Part. Performance

evaluation and assessment ratings shall be averaged based on the three most recent

years ofperformance evaluation and assessment data. In the event that three years of

performance evaluation and assessment data does not exist for an employee, the

performance evaluation and assessment rating shall be averaged based on the two

most recent years ofperformance evaluation and assessment data. In the event that

two years ofperformance evaluation and assessment data does not exist for an

employee, the performance evaluation and assessment rating shall be based on the

most recent performance evaluation and assessment data.

(C) Under no circumstances shall a certificated employee with a higher

performance evaluation and assessment rating be terminated before a certificated

employee with a lower performance evaluation and assessment rating.

(D)(i) liVhen two or more certificated employees assigned to positions as

classroom teachers receive identical performance evaluation and assessment rating

scores pursuant to Article 11 (Section 44660 to Section 44665) of Chapter 3 oft his Part,

then the order of termination shall be based on the specific needs of the schools within

the school district and the students thereat 'When required to choose pursuant to this

clause between two or more employees receiving identical performance evaluation

and assessment rating scores, the governing board shall identify the specific needs of

the schools within the school district or the students thereofthat justify the order of

termination. which shall be provided in writing to the affected employees.

(ii) 'When two or more certificated employees assigned to positions as classroom

teachers receive identical performance evaluation and assessment rating scores

pursuant to Article 11 (Section 44660 to Section 4466.1:\) of Chapter 3 of this Part and

are not distinguishable on the basis of the specific needs of the schools within the school

district or the students thereof. then the order of termination shall be based on

seniority, with an employee with less seniority being terminated before an employee

with more seniority. 'When required to choose pursuant to this clause between two or

more employees receiving identical performance evaluation and assessment rating

scores on the basis of seniority, the governing board shall provide an explanation of

why the employees were not distinguishable on the basis of the specific needs ofthe

schools within the school district or the students thereof. which shall be provided in

writing to the affected employees. The governing board shall develop guidelines to

govern situations involving employees who first rendered paid service to the district

on the same date and thus have equal seniority.

(iii) The use of seniority pursuant to this subparagraph shall represent the sole

and exclusive exception to subdivision (d).

(c)(1l Notice of such termination of services shall be given before the 15th of May

in the manner prescribed in Section 44949, and services of such employees shall be

terminated in the inverse of the order in which they vvere employed, as determined by

the board in accordance vmh the prm'isions of Sections 44844 and 44845. In the event

that a permanent or probationary employee is not given the notices and a right to a

hearing as provided for in Section 44949, he or she shall be deemed reemployed for the

ensuing school year.

[gl The governing board shall make assignments and reassignments in such a

manner that employees shall be retained to render any service which their seniority and


qualifications entitle them to render. However, prior to assigning or reassigning any

certificated employee to teach a subject which he or she has not previously taught, and

for which he or she does not have a teaching credential or which is not within the

employee's major area of postsecondary study or the equivalent thereof, the governing

board shall require the employee to pass a subject matter competency test in the

appropriate subject.