Matt has done a great job of describing how we could restructure schools to attract and retain the most effective people as teachers — most recently in this post.
But nothing really captures the insanity of granting lifetime employment to modestly paid graduates mostly from the bottom third of college classes with no reward for excellent performance like stories about rubber rooms. Rubber rooms are the places where teachers too incompetent to remain in classrooms go to receive public paychecks for doing absolutely nothing. A number of large districts have developed rubber rooms because it is prohibitively costly and time-consuming to actually fire a teacher.
In Los Angeles the rubber rooms have become so crowded that they’ve started “housing” teachers — paying them to stay at home. In an excellent piece this week in the Los Angelese Times we learn:
“For seven years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has paid Matthew Kim a teaching salary of up to $68,000 per year, plus benefits.
His job is to do nothing…. In the jargon of the school district, Kim is being “housed” while his fitness to teach is under review…. About 160 teachers and other staff sit idly in buildings scattered around the sprawling district, waiting for allegations of misconduct to be resolved.
The housed are accused, among other things, of sexual contact with students, harassment, theft or drug possession. Nearly all are being paid. All told, they collect about $10 million in salaries per year — even as the district is contemplating widespread layoffs of teachers because of a financial shortfall.”
“The Times reviewed every case on record in the last 15 years in which a tenured employee was fired by a California school district and formally contested the decision before a review commission: 159 in all (not including about two dozen in which the records were destroyed). The newspaper also examined court and school district records and interviewed scores of people, including principals, teachers, union officials, district administrators, parents and students.
Among the findings:
* 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.”
If unions succeed in organizing charter schools, they could eliminate a refuge from “worker protection” measures like these.