NTP Does Some Californication…And I Can’t Don Pajamas All Day

Skip these first two grafs if all you seek is content. Funny thing about this blog is that I not only get whacked for sins of commission, things I write, but also for sins of omission, things I don’t! I get a lot of emails to the effect of, “why haven’t you written about x or y? You can’t possibly support/oppose it can you? Jerk!” Or, as one reader wrote the the other day: “Swamped? Light posting? You live to serve this ship!”

Believe me, if I could make a living blogging, I would and then I’d blog much more! Exercise those ‘ol First Amendment rights, the hours are great, you work in your pajamas, the groupies are fantastic (a cross between Almost Famous and Good Will Hunting), I can’t buy a meal, and you don’t even have to write complete sentences or use proper grammar…what’s not to like? It’s a dream job. But it doesn’t pay the bills so other things intrude.

That’s a long way of saying that it’s only because I’ve been busy that I haven’t written about the recent bill in California which has important substantive and political implications and was a big win for that merry band of contrarian redistributive rebels known as The New Teacher Project.

Recall the NTP report, Unintended Consequences. It was not think tanky noise. Rather, it caught the attention of some California legislators, most notably California State Senator Jack Scott. He asked for more analysis from NTP about how various teacher assignment rules played out in some CA urban districts. Turned out the answer was: Much the same way as NTP showed in their report.

So, he introduced a bill to allow principals at school that CA has identified as “low performing” to choose which if any at all, teachers voluntarily transfer into their schools. Yes, I know, really radical stuff, there goes labor movement! It’s Shirtwaist all over again…Anyway, the bill passed, more on that below. Basically, it allows low-performing schools to recruit early and have additional control over staffing. The bill continues some transfer rights and preferences for veteran teachers, but requires that schools be able to consider new teacher applicants and transfers equally after April 15 and ultimately hire the person they consider best for the job.

On the politics, the very powerful CTA strongly opposed the bill but it passed out of Assembly and Senate committees unanimously and out of the legislature by lopsided margins. In other words, very bipartisan. That’s really significant. Basically a civil rights/reform coalition won a not insignificant victory on an important issue. Winds of change, perhaps.

This also seems a slice of a simple and elegant idea put forward a decade ago by Lee Jenkins, then a superintendent in Northern California. Why, Jenkins asked, don’t we give really low-performing schools a lot of flexibility to do things differently including waiving a lot of process oriented regulations with an eye toward relentless effort to improve outcomes for kids. In other words, don’t handcuff struggling schools. Obviously, it takes more than that and just removing regulations is no cure by itself, but it’s not a bad framework for thinking about this and raises some interesting and fun questions for what policies around that should look like.

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