Teachers may have more time to earn tenure under new bill

Teachers may have more time to earn tenure under new bill

(Calif.) School districts will have more time to evaluate teacher performance before offering permanent status or letting them go under an Assembly bill announced Tuesday.

AB 1220, from Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, aims to extend the current minimum time for administrators to offer tenure from two years to three.

The bill–referred to as the Teacher and Student Success Act–would also provide teachers who show promise but are not up to par with permanent status performance up to five years to earn tenure with supplemental mentoring and other professional development resources.

“For students to succeed, we must provide teachers with what they need to achieve success in the classroom,” Weber said in a statement. “AB 1220 will provide the extra time and support essential for teachers to demonstrate success and be recognized for their hard work.”

Opponents of the current K-12 teacher tenure system in California often say the process is too easy, and that, unlike at the university level, it is no longer a professional benchmark that rewards hard work and success in the classroom. Those in support argue that the two-year requirement is a strong incentive for incoming educators to remain in the classroom at a time when the state is facing a teacher shortage.

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, Colorado, Connecticut and New York are examples of best practices in terms of providing permanent status. All three states require teachers to be evaluated as effective or highly effective for at least three years while taking into account student growth.

Weber’s bill would align California with teacher tenure laws in 42 other states, which award tenure after at least three years of teaching.

Although the California Teachers Association has not officially opposed AB 1220, the union has in recent history lobbied against any bill that increases the weight of student test scores in calculating performance, or is perceived to weaken permanent status for teachers or make it more difficult to achieve.

The last two legislative sessions has found at least two bills proposed by Weber come under fire by the CTA.

In 2015 she authored AB 1495, which sought to link student performance to teacher effectiveness and require local educational agencies to develop evaluation systems that use a minimum of three levels to rate professional achievement.

The CTA wrote in opposition that the bill didn’t help districts hold school leaders accountable for supporting each teacher's development to ensure they were performing to the best of their abilities.

Last year, Weber’s AB 2548 was met without dissent in both the Assembly and Senate before being vetoed by the governor. The bill would have, among other things, enhanced the emphasis the state’s new accountability system would put on student test scores.

In that case, the teachers union urged lawmakers to defeat the bill because they said it would impose new accountability restrictions on local schools before they had a chance to fully implement the new accountability provisions of the Local Control Funding Formula.

Supporters of Weber’s new bill, however, say this extension will help new educators by given them more time to find their stride in the classroom.

The educator advocacy organizations supporting the bill–Teach Plus and Educators for Excellence–say the will relieve new teachers of having to demonstrate effectiveness in 18 months, given that current statutory requirements mandate the district notify a teacher of their permanent status offer on March 15th of their second year.

"Teaching is a craft that requires time, feedback and support to really develop," Erin Haddad-Fitzgerald, a member of Educators for Excellence, said in a statement. "AB 1220 honors teaching by making tenure a more meaningful professional milestone that is focused on how educators grow and develop as practitioners."

AB 1220 will be heard by the Assembly Committee on Education in early April.