There is hope for failing public education across the U.S., and it’s not Common Core.
The Golden State that gave the country the transgender bathroom movement shone a bright light this week, but the light was overshadowed by multiple national and global crises. One judge in California boldly bucked the system and delivered a judgment for California’s students that could change the trajectory of public education in this country.
The problem with our public educational system is complicated. It cannot be fixed with nationalized standards as attempted with Common Core. The Common Core “one size fits all” approach will never fit. Sixteen states have either dropped the standards or have paused participation to set their own standards. Four states never adopted Common Core at all. The problem with public education is not that it needs nationalization. The problem with our system includes, but is not limited to, the effects of poverty on learning, standardization that ignores the culture, student-to-teacher ratios, language, parent engagement and accountability, federal dollars controlling school districts, the school boards, district administrators, and of course the focus on pay and seniority by the teachers unions and (some of) the teachers themselves. One of these factors was dealt a blow this week in California.
On June 10, 2014, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu struck down the California teacher tenure and seniority system as unconstitutional on the grounds these protections harmed predominantly low-income, minority students by allowing incompetent instructors to remain in the classroom. This system of protecting teachers “impose[s] a real and appreciable impact on students’ fundamental right to equality of education,” he wrote.
This decision effectively ends the process of laying off teachers based solely on their hire date and ends job security traditionally obtained by a teacher who has only taught for 18 months. Judge Treu stayed his opinion until the state exhausts its remedies. Surprisingly, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sees this decision as a “mandate to change similar laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students.”
Now if Students Matter, the Silicon Valley group that brought Vergara v. California, can survive an appeal by the state and then focus on ripping Common Core out of California by its root, we may be on our way to real public education reform in this state, if not across the whole country. The challenges cannot be fixed in one blow, but it is refreshing to see real change in a state whose legislators and judges (i.e. (Retired) Judge R. Vaughn Walker) too often lead the nation in tomfoolery. Good decision, Judge Treu.
Photo credit: Terry McCombs (Creative Commons)