California Assembly Education Committee Passes AB 1220

Yesterday, EdSource’s John Fensterwald covered the passage of the Teacher and Student Success Act (AB 1220) through the California Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday. Authored by education expert and civil rights champion Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) at the prompting of two teacher organizations, Educators for Excellence and Teach Plus, AB 1220 would extend the probationary period for awarding teacher tenure from just 18 months to three years, with optional fourth and fifth years for teachers who show promise but need more time to demonstrate success, and provide new teachers with additional mentoring and professional development resources. This commonsense solution would give new California public school teachers the time and support they need to develop their craft and earn the professional distinction of tenure — elevating the profession and attracting great educators into classrooms where they’re needed.

While AB 1220 is opposed by the state’s two largest teachers unions, numerous members of both organizations spoke at the hearing in support of the Teacher and Student Success Act. Liz Sanders, an English teacher and bargaining leader for the California Teachers Association at De Anza High in Richmond, said the current timeline forces districts to “either grant tenure while unsure or dismiss struggling teachers,” resulting in high turnover among new teachers.

David Robertson, director of Human Resources for Twin Rivers Unified and Human Resource Council President at the Association of California School Administrators — another organization supporting AB 1220 — went on to explain that sometimes a new teacher will be transferred to teach a different grade at a different school in their second year of teaching and, as a result, the principal at the new school has to decide on tenure based on just three months of observations. This decision is made in such a short time as the new teacher is already trying to adapt to teaching a new grade level in a new school environment. “That’s why we need the third year,” he concluded. And a poll conducted in Winter of 2015 shows that eighty-five percent of traditional district school teachers agree.

Under California’s current law, if new teachers do not receive tenure after their 18-month probationary period — which is shorter than that of forty-two other states — the teacher is generally dismissed and not given another chance in the district. This system leads to high turnover for new teachers, contributing to California’s growing teacher shortage, and forces administrators to make high stakes employment decisions without adequate information. AB 1220 — crafted by and for public school teachers — will help ensure great teachers are rewarded for their hard work and dedication to their students.