Editorial: Albuquerque Journal

Public Statement Newspaper Editorials

Editorial: Lawsuits over tenure, evals remind that kids are No. 1

A court decision in California and a pending lawsuit in Texas – and education reform efforts in New Mexico and elsewhere – are indicative that Americans are fed up with poor student performance and an intractable education system.

A California judge ruled that teacher tenure and job protection laws in that state – among the strongest in the nation – are unconstitutional and violate students’ civil right to an equal education.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that state’s laws making it nearly impossible to fire grossly ineffective teachers are harmful to students, particularly in low-income and minority student schools, where a preponderance of these teachers are assigned.

The suit was brought by nine students and their advocates and was funded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Welch, who created Students Matter, an advocacy group to challenge the California education system.

Meanwhile, the Houston Federation of Teachers is suing its school district in an attempt to overturn its use of “value added measures” implemented in 2007 as part of a teacher’s evaluation score. Value-added is a method that seeks to determine the value a teacher adds to his or her students’ performance based on standardized tests.

Similar to complaints here in New Mexico, some teachers in Houston claim the VAM system is inaccurate, arbitrary, difficult to understand and violates their constitutional rights to due process.

There have been similar lawsuits in Florida and Tennessee, as taking grievances to court appears to have become a major avenue for redress for both teachers and critics of today’s education system.

However, the rising tide of efforts to improve student outcomes and to remove ineffective teachers and reward excellent ones raises the core question: Is the education priority in America about students or about teachers?

Effective teachers are key to student performance. No question. But at the end of the day, the first priority of public education can’t be about job security. It needs to be about the students and whether they are getting an education for college or productive work.