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L.A. Schools Try to Get Tough on Mediocre Teachers

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L.A. school superintendent Ramon Cortines makes a daring pronouncement: the school district needs to do a better and harsher job at weeding out mediocre teachers before they get tenure.

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Details from the L.A. Times, which quotes Cortines saying:

"This district can be rightly criticized for the promotion of ineffective teachers over the years. That is about to change," Cortines said. "We do not owe poor performers a job."

Taking aim at weak probationary teachers now could spare the district from firing others who are more effective but have slightly less experience next summer when there will probably be another round of layoffs. Teachers must be let go by seniority, according to state law, which has forced the Los Angeles Unified School District to ignore performance in its dismissals, officials said.....

Cortines urged district officials to scrutinize the 404 probationary teachers who received a "needs improvement" on one or more criteria on their evaluations last year. Under state law, instructors are at-will employees for two years before being made permanent, a status that renders them all but impossible to fire.....

A series of stories by The Times last spring found that the district fires only about 20 permanent teachers annually and that many of those decisions are overturned by a state panel that has final say on instructor dismissals.

The teachers union isn't excited by Cortines's proclamation, as union president A.J. Duffy complains to the Daily News:

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the ability to remove probationary teachers is already within the rights of district administrators. He stressed that measures are needed to ensure that those making evaluations were being fair.

He added that the district also needs to provide more support to struggling teachers. Otherwise, he said, Cortines' proposal would lead to nothing more than a "witch hunt."

"If any teacher speaks out, well then they can be evaluated as a bad teacher," Duffy said.

Past City of Angles blogging on LA USD and teacher firings.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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