a closer look

De Blasio defends city's tenure process in wake of California decision

Mayor Bill de Blasio defended New York’s tenure system on Wednesday, calling it an effective way to recruit and retain teachers one day after a California judge struck down a slate of laws related to job protections for teachers in that state.

“The tenure system, done right, is a valuable piece of the way we educate because what it’s going to allow us to do is get quality teachers, get them to stay in our school system,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The comments come after a preliminary decision in Vergara v. California ruled that the state’s tenure law discriminates against poor and minority students, who get saddled with the most ineffective teachers whose jobs are protected under the law. Buoyed by the ruling, some advocates have already expressed interest in pursuing legal action against New York’s tenure law, which includes similar protections to those that teachers receive in California.

De Blasio said he had not reviewed the case, which has received national attention because of the implications it could have for other states with powerful labor laws. But he defended New York City as already having a “very aggressive process” in place to usher weak teachers out of the city school system.

Part of that process is a tenure review that in New York City has grown increasingly rigorous in recent years. Research from Stanford and the University of Virginia, released Wednesday, found that the city’s tenure review process has recently been effective at easing out ineffective teachers before they received tenure.

Five years ago, the city established a rubric to evaluate teachers up for tenure, a step that shifted the review process from the relatively pro forma exercise it had been for decades before. Tenure approval rates fall dramatically. Between 2007 and 2013, the percent of eligible teachers who received tenure fell from 97 percent to 53 percent.

Most of those teachers weren’t denied tenure, but instead had their decisions delayed: between 2008 and 2012, teachers whose probationary period was extended grew from less than 5 percent to over 40 percent of eligible teachers.

ercentage of New York City teachers who had tenure denied or extended, 2006-2013
Percentage of New York City teachers who had tenure denied or extended, 2006-2013

Researchers found that teachers who had their tenure decision delayed were 50 percent more likely to leave their school for another school the next year, and 66 percent more likely to leave the system altogether. And the teachers who replaced them typically scored better in their tenure reviews and showed some evidence of doing more to improve student test scores, they found.

Those teachers were more likely to work in schools with higher proportions of black students, the study found, which means the city’s tenure process has been “helpful to kids in those schools,” said the University of Virginia’s James Wyckoff, one of paper’s authors.

That is one difference between California’s tenure process and what happens in New York City, Wyckoff said. Whereas the judge viewed tenure in California as coming at the expense of students, Wyckoff said, “I think the approach the city is taking is that it wants to make sure teachers who receive tenure are effective.”

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meet the fellows

Meet the 38 teachers chosen by SCORE to champion education around Tennessee

PHOTO: SCORE
The year-long fellowships offered by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education were awarded to 38 Tennessee educators.

Six teachers from Memphis have been awarded fellowships that will allow them to spend the next year supporting better education in Tennessee.

The year-long fellowships, offered by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, train and encourage teachers and other educators to speak at events, write publicly about their experiences, and invite policymakers to their classrooms. The program is in its fifth year through the nonpartisan advocacy and research organization, also known as SCORE, which was founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist from Tennessee.

The fellowships, known as the Tennessee Educator Fellowships, have been awarded to 150 educators since the program’s launch in 2014. This year’s class of 38 educators from around the state have a combined 479 years of experience.

“The fellows’ diverse perspectives and experiences are invaluable as they work both inside and outside the classroom and participate in state conversations on preparing all students for postsecondary and workforce success,” SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson said in a news release.

Besides the Shelby County teachers, the group also includes educators who work for the state-run Achievement School District, public Montessori schools, and a school dedicated to serving children with multiple disabilities.

The 2018-19 fellows are:

  • Nathan Bailey, career technical education at Sullivan North High School, Sullivan County Schools
  • Kalisha Bingham-Marshall, seventh-grade math at Bolivar Middle School, Hardeman County Schools
  • Sam Brobeck, eighth-grade math at Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory Charter Middle School. Shelby County Schools
  • Monica Brown, fourth-grade English language arts and social studies at Oakshire Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Nick Brown, school counselor at Westmoreland Elementary School, Sumner County Schools
  • Sherwanda Chism, grades 3-5 English language arts and gifted education at Winridge Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Richard J. Church, grades 7-8 at Liberty Bell Middle School, Johnson City Schools
  • Ada Collins, third grade at J.E. Moss Elementary School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Lynn Cooper,  school counselor at South Pittsburg High School, Marion County Schools
  • Colletta M. Daniels, grades 2-4 special education at Shrine School, Shelby County Schools
  • Brandy Eason, school counselor at Scotts Hill Elementary School, Henderson County Schools
  • Heather Eskridge, school counselor at Walter Hill Elementary School, Rutherford County Schools
  • Klavish Faraj, third-grade math and science at Paragon Mills Elementary School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Mavis Clark Foster, fifth-grade English language arts and science at Green Magnet Academy, Knox County Schools
  • Ranita Glenn, grades 2-5 reading at Hardy Elementary School, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Telena Haneline, first grade at Eaton Elementary School, Loudon County Schools
  • Tenesha Hardin, first grade at West Creek Elementary School, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
  • Thaddeus Higgins, grades 9-12 social studies at Unicoi County High School, Unicoi County Schools
  • Neven Holland, fourth-grade math at Treadwell Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Alicia Hunker, sixth-grade math at Valor Flagship Academy, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Alex Juneau, third grade at John Pittard Elementary School, Murfreesboro City Schools
  • Lyndi King, fifth-grade English language arts at Decatur County Middle School, Decatur County Schools
  • Rebecca Ledebuhr, eighth-grade math at STEM Preparatory Academy, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Aleisha McCallie, fourth-grade math and science at East Brainerd Elementary School, Hamilton County Department of Education.
  • Brian McLaughlin, grades 10-12 math at Morristown-Hamblen High School West, Hamblen County Schools
  • Caitlin Nowell, seventh-grade English language arts at South Doyle Middle School, Knox County Schools
  • Paula Pendergrass, advanced academics resources at Granbery Elementary School,  Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Julie Pepperman, eighth-grade science at Heritage Middle School, Blount County Schools
  • Kelly Piatt, school counselor at Crockett County High School, Crockett County Schools
  • Ontoni Reedy, grades 1-3 at Community Montessori, Jackson-Madison County Schools
  • Tiffany Roberts, algebra and geometry at Lincoln County Ninth Grade Academy, Lincoln County Schools
  • Craig Robinson, grades 3-5 science at Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary, Achievement School District
  • Jen Semanco, 10th- and 11th-grade English language arts at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Amanda Smithfield, librarian at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Cyndi Snapp, fourth-grade math at Carter’s Valley Elementary School, Hawkins County Schools
  • David Sneed, 12th-grade English at Soddy Daisy High School, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Yolanda Parker Williams, fifth-grade math at Karns Elementary School, Knox County Schools
  • Maury Wood II, grades 4-6 technology at Westhills Elementary School, Marshall County Schools

work hard play hard

Memphis teachers share basketball, even if they don’t share a district

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede

Freedom Preparatory Academy is gathering teachers from district-run and charter schools to play basketball. The teachers, mostly black men, have turned it into a networking opportunity as well as a way to let off steam.