I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, June 26, 2014

America: Stunningly Incoherent on Teachers & Tenure

There's a new poll, just out yesterday, that details the thoughts of California's citizens when it comes to education and tenure (the text is here). The biggest conclusion?

California's citizens are suffering from an extraordinary level of cognitive dissonance when it comes to their schools:
41. California Public school teachers who receive a positive recommendation from supervisors are currently awarded “tenure” after eighteen months in the classroom. Teachers without tenure can be terminated for any reason. Tenured teachers can only be terminated for just cause, and they are entitled to due process protections that give them the right to contest the case against them. Which of the two positions do you agree with most:

- We should keep tenure for public school teachers because it protects them from being fired based on personal or political reasons, prevents schools from firing more experienced teachers to hire younger, less-­‐expensive teachers, and allows teachers freedom to teach potentially controversial topics without fear of reprisal. 25% (22% parents)

- Public school teachers should not receive tenure because the policy makes it extremely difficult to fire poorly performing teachers, so that many California school children, particularly those in economically challenged school districts get stuck with poor teachers year after year. 61% (65% parents)

- Can’t say/refuse. 14% (13% parents)
So nearly two-thirds of people say there shouldn't be any tenure. Except...
44. California public school teachers are currently awarded tenure after 18 months in the classroom.  Which of the following do you agree with most:  

Two years is too long for teachers to wait for tenure – 4% (5% parents)
Two years is the right amount of time for tenure  17% (13% parents)
Two years is too soon for a teacher to earn tenure  38% (41% parents)
Public school teachers should not receive tenure at all  35% (35% parents)
Refuse – 6% (7% parents)
Yes, one-third of Californians said there shouldn't be any tenure -- right after two-thirds of Californians said there shouldn't be any tenure.

Jersey Jazzman (artist's conception)

OK, I'm being more than a little facetious. Polls are actually really hard to design well; item 41 asked which position the respondent agreed with "the most," which muddies the waters. Still, I think this poll tells us something about how people view the tenure debate: like most complex issues, they have a hard time reconciling disparate views:

- Nobody wants bad teachers in the classroom. But nobody wants to see someone get fired arbitrarily.

- Nobody thinks a bad teacher should get to keep her job while a good teacher is laid off. But nobody wants to see layoff decisions made that are functionally the same as rolling dice.

- Everyone thinks people who do a good job should be rewarded. But nobody thinks it's fair to reward only a scant few who happen to get lucky.

- Nobody thinks schools that serve poor kids should be staffed by inferior teachers. But it doesn't make a lot of sense to fire staff if you don't have good replacements -- and how do you get those without making working conditions better and raising pay?

- Nobody thinks anybody should have a "job for life." But I don't see many folks clamoring to pay more in taxes (especially in California), and tenure has a value to teachers but costs taxpayers nothing; who would want to get rid of something that's such a good deal for them?

- Nobody thinks our schools have enough money. But...

Actually, there's not much debate on this one:
25. Do you think California public schools currently have the money needed to provide students with a quality education, or do you think the state should be spending more on schools?  

- California public schools have enough money -- 23% (19% parents)
- The state of California should be spending more on schools -- 64% (70% parents)
- Unsure 13% (11% parents)
Two-thirds of Californians don't think the state spends enough to educate its children.

Maybe David Welch can fund a lawsuit to do something about that. Of course, that would mean that he would have to pay more in taxes. Heaven forbid, he might actually have to pay as much as poor Californians do!

Now this is something I'd like to see a poll about; wouldn't you?


Jack Covey said...

This poll news is not as bad as you think, and here's why.

Just as with "think tanks" and bogus "studies/results," corporate reformers commission bogus "polls," with equally bogus "results"... so the public would be influenced into thinking in ways that---but for the bogus poll and the publicizing of those bogus results---they never would have otherwise.

This is the whole "agreeing with and jumping on the bandwagon" theory, and it is particularly effective with people who are neutral, uninformed, or undecided on an issue...

The thought process sort of goes like this....

"Hmmm.... well, it's really telling that so many people---those who are more interested and knowledgeable than I am about this---actually think this, and think it so strongly. Therefore, there's must be something to it... You know, in that case, I kind of agree with what they're saying, now that I think about it... "

Some fellow UTLA teacher folks were not having any of this "manufactured consent"---present in the right-wing on-line org "L.A. SCHOOL REPORT," which publicized the poll---and then hit back hard!

These teachers---acquaintances of mine, by the way ---blew this bogus story wide open with in COMMENTS section.

It is in the COMMENTS section that the UTLA teachers shared their own "research" about the poll being discussed---the group conducting the poll, the funders, and the ridiculous wording of the poll questions:


Giuseppe said...

Jack, thanks for the link but it's coming up with a blank page, even if I just try http://laschoolreport.com
Maybe the page is flooded with traffic?

Jack Covey said...

Yeah, that link stinks.

Here it is one more time...


check out the COMMENTS from UTLA teachers, and what they dug up regarding the the organization that did the poll, the funders, and the ridiculous wording of the questions.

In fact, this article prompted people from another poll that contradicts the one above---where the public disagrees with Vergara, and supports teachers---to contact L.A. School Report, and led to this latest article: