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Bumping rights for teachers — a good idea?

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Unlike the teacher’s union, which is asking for a 20 percent raise for all of its members in the next contract, the Oakland school district isn’t throwing out any numbers.

But the district is broaching some controversial topics in its proposal, including one that teachers and districts across the country grapple with.

One provision of particular significance to teachers, as well as students, is commonly known as “bumping rights.” A teacher who loses her job during a school closure, for example, would have hiring priority at the OUSD school of her choosing, based on seniority.

The district wants to give principals greater freedom to hire the teachers they want — including those outside the district – earlier in the year. Teachers would still have rights to a position at another school, but it wouldn’t necessarily be their top choice.

The New Teacher Project published a report on the subject, titled Unintended Consequences.

I’m anxious to hear what you think.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Ted

    I followed the link to the “Unitended Consequences” report and found that none of the supporting statements were from teachers, they were all from management and various management oriented think tanks such as the Gates Foundation. In Oakland we are very familiar with the unintended consequences of bumping rights and the various clever maneuvers principals employ to work around staffing rules to get the teachers they want, however the lack of teacher support for the report raised questions for me. Isn’t it ironic that some of the same people that want to minimize teachers’ creative contributions through scripted learning support a report that says the teacher is the most important aspect of student success? What do the “educational leaders” really believe – are teachers important or aren’t they?

  • http://wannabteacher-learningtoteach.blogspot.com/ wannaBteacher

    I’m a teaching credential student in California, so I have a personal interest in this issue.

    The seniority system is a difficult question. On the one hand, a teacher can become irrelevant or out-of-date and still maintain a position of preference vs. a new and/or more skilled teacher. On the other hand, this is essentially the definition of middle management in America. In the corporate world (where I worked for 10 years to save money so I can afford to be a teacher), it is very difficult to dislodge a manager who has been in a position for even two or three years, never mind 10 years. Hiring and promotion in corporate America is based more on intra-office politics than on merit, yet corporate America muddles on to make the U.S. the world’s economic powerhouse.

    I was amused recently to read a New York Times column condemning a teachers’ union for opposing online schools. The article dismissed outright the union’s concern that some parents might not be qualified to monitor a child’s online learning. In the view of the columnist, any parent could accomplish this task.

    On the other hand, you have me, a teaching student. I have received a BA in psychology and communication, as well as an MBA in finance.

    To become a teacher, I have taken a two-hour “basic skills” test. I took a five-hour content area test on math, English, health, science, physical education, etc. I have received a Red Cross CPR and first aid certificate for adults, infants and children. I have been fingerprinted and had a full background check.

    I still must take another test to demonstrate my competence in reading instruction, as well as an examination on the U.S. Constitution.

    I will take 39 hours of education courses, the equivalent of a master’s degree — without the actual master’s, which would require another one and a half years. During the two or three semesters in which I take these courses, I will spend about 10 hours a week in the classroom. Next, I will do one semester of observation and one semester of student teaching.

    After all this, when I receive a “provisional” credential, I will complete a “beginning teacher induction course” in my first year or two of teaching so that I can receive a permanent or “clear” credential.

    When I am finally a “real teacher,” my students will be tested every year at least two times with state and nationally referenced tests. Because I intend to work mainly in schools with economically disadvantaged students and second-language learners, my students’ scores will be lower than those of all-white, rich schools.

    It’s very hard to pass a test when you don’t know enough English to read the directions — and if you think that’s the teacher’s fault, consider the case of students I’m working with now who immigrated from Mexico in September. I spend 5 or more hours a week with them on an individual basis teaching English and reading, but I’m not a miracle worker. When they take the standardized test in March or April, they will probably be proficient enough to be able to find where to write their name or identification number.

    So, my students may not perform well on these standardized tests. My job and my paycheck will be constantly in jeopardy. Under federal rules, I will be required to “volunteer” to tutor children after school, limiting my opportunity to sleep, plan lessons, review student’s work and continue my professional development.

    As a teacher, I will have to be continually monitored to verify that I am competent to perform nearly impossible tasks. My ability to adequately educate students will constantly be questioned.

    According to the New York Times columnist, on the other hand, any parent can serve perfectly well to teach their students.

    Apparently, anyone can teach — except teachers.

  • Carissa

    WannBteacher, well said!

  • John

    WannBteacher. Your comments illustrate that becoming, and staying, a teacher is NOT as easy as it used to be!

    I have several credentials, acquired before 1983; the year ‘teacher skills testing’ became mandatory. Consequently, I never took a teacher skills or competency test to acquire or retain any of my credentials. They are mine for LIFE, forever free of any renewal obligation (monetary or educational). In fact, thanks to recently enacted legislation, those who acquired their credential(s) before 1983 and haven’t taken the CBEST (skills test) are NO LONGER (as of 7-1-08) no longer required to take this test if they want to return to teaching after a 39 month absence from the classroom.

    Perhaps the “education politicians” believe those who acquired their credentials before 1983 are inherently smarter than those who acquired them after 1983? Or perhaps it has something to do with global warming?

    For what it’s worth, you come across as being a lot smarter than I was as a young teacher. Perhaps you’re the rare (post 1983) exception!?

  • jim2812

    Bumping rights for teachers might be a good idea but in the Oakland Unified School District it has not been practiced.

    To have bumping rights a teacher would have to know the hiring date of his/her competition for a job and this information is not available to teachers.

    An Oakland teacher applies for a transfer to a position but is not given information about the person that is finally hired for the position. Under the present OEA/District Contract teachers have a right to meet with Human Resources representative and discuss why they were not selected but the few teachers that make the appointment are merely told it was the site administrator’s decision.

    Without bumping rights the concept of Results Based Budgeting (RBB) can be practiced and a principal can turn aside a highly qualified teacher as costing too much to their site budget but never has to admit that RBB is what is being practiced.

    In effect, the lack of bumping rights in Oakland contribute to the poor morale of teachers because the transfer process is not an open process and personnel decisions are, as a consequence, interpreted by teachers as being unfair.

  • FactualFreddy

    Fact is, given the pay, it’s incredibly challenging to become and remain a good teacher. However, anyone with statistics on teacher “firings” or “layoffs” would have to conclude that once you’re in, you’re in (firings are less than 2%). The VAST majority of those “let go” are temp or probationary teachers who “didn’t make the grade.” That’s pretty low for any organization I’ve known.

    As for the bumping and hiring process, I agree it should be more open. Principals shouldn’t be required to take a particular teacher, but they shouldn’t bring one in through the back door either.

  • missteach

    wannabe teacher,

    and you will be irrelevant and out of date in how many years?

  • teacher

    As a parent, I’d say principals should be able to assemble their own staff, within reason. As a kid in a troubled urban district in the ’70s, I saw the ENORMOUS impact a good principal with a free hand could make in a school in a SINGLE year.

    That said, I worry about how vulnerable teachers are in a bureaucratic system where they often have no direct supervisors.

    As a career changer, one thing that is astonishing is that large schools effectively are missing a management layer between teachers and the administration. Department or grade chairs are informal positions with little or no attached pay, time or authority. So at a high school like Oakland Tech, principals base evaluation on such tangential aspects as interviews, extremely sporadic observations or, worst of all, word of mouth and parent/student critiques.

    This is an argument for small schools, by the way. But I’m not sure why chairpersons in large schools don’t/can’t have real authority and responsibilities and rewards.

  • Oakland Teacher

    While the issue of seniority raises many interesting questions, as a “veteran” teacher with nearly 2 decades in the district, I really must take exception to the implications behind WannaBTeacher’s comment that ” The seniority system is a difficult question. On the one hand, a teacher can become irrelevant or out-of-date and still maintain a position of preference vs. a new and/or more skilled teacher.”

    I have been a BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment)coach for several years, and while I have met some amazing and inspiring young and/or new teachers, not one of them has ever been more skilled than a more experienced teacher.

    I consider myself at the peak of my career, and yes, I do have seniority, and yes, I earned it with my 20 years of service. It’s not an ideal system, but as a teacher, I’m so sick and tired of hearing how these awful teachers are protected by tenure or the union or some other such nonsense. What garbage. A newer/ younger teacher is not automatically a better teacher. It would really be best to address the root cause of the problem which is the overall inequities endemic in both the school system and the society.

    But I have worked damned hard these two decades, and within the admittedly skewed context in which we labor, you betcha I have earned my seniority. I wonder if WannaB will feel in two decades if he has become old and obsolete.

    Well, I’m still young, have at least 15 more years of service, and I’m at the peak of my game. Does WannaB teacher think also that beginning teachers should earn the same pay as veteran teaches? Sorry, WannaB, in a perfect society, we would all earn the same amount, I suppose, but in this society, years of service are recognized by moving up the pay scale, which, by the way, is not asset in OUSD, where, due to Results Based Budgeting, veteran teachers are viewed as overpriced workers whose services can be had for a third less pay with someone with about three-quarters less experience.

    Newer and/more more skilled… not usually, my friend!