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Teachers Unions Chagrin: Waiver Process Left Them Out

Hillel Aron | August 12, 2013



Sad-TeacherThe two biggest statewide teachers unions — California Teachers Association (CTA) and California Federation of Teachers (CFT) — have problems with the waivers granted to eight school districts from the federal program, No Child Left Behind. The objections, however, are more about how they came about than what they mean.

“My guess is that there are probably some elements in there that we would embrace, but I think the process itself is flawed,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “Somehow, the women and men who are actually in the classrooms doing the day-to-day teaching were left out of the process of improving our schools. It’s just not going to work.”

The waiver request was put together by superintendents from eight school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, who received guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and other third parties. Elected school boards were not asked to sign off.

Pechthalt added: “It’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all reform.”

The CTA expressed similar objections to the waiver agreement, blaming Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“By approving this waiver, Secretary Duncan once again demonstrates how his rhetoric that educators be actively involved in education change is just that – rhetoric,” CTA President Dean Vogel said in a statement. “Not one of the local teachers’ associations in the eight school districts was included in the discussion or signed the waiver application.”

UTLA President Warren Fletcher declined to comment.

Teachers unions had objected to the No Child Left Behind Law, which was signed by George W. Bush in 2001, and had supported California’s request for a waiver. After that waiver request was rejected, the eight districts went back to the Education Department with a waiver request of their own.

It became the first “No Child” waiver granted to districts, rather than a state.

The waiver includes provisions to measure student progress by a number of different metrics and to evaluate teachers based, in part, on student progress. One provision problematic for teachers: if a teacher is evaluated as “unsatisfactory” and fails to “improve substantially” after one year, that teacher may be fired.

“The craft of teaching is not something that you learn or change quickly,” said Pechthalt. “Rather than set one year as make-or-break, it seems to me that if an educator is showing commitment to improve, let’s continue to see progress rather than seeing if you’ve met a certain bar.”

Although the unions denounced the deal, they are not seeking to block or overturn it any way.

Previous posts: The ‘California 8′ Waiver: What it Means for Local SchoolsNo Child Left Behind Waiver for CA Districts Includes ‘Unique’ Oversight Panel ‘No Child’ Waiver OKd for LA Unified, 7 Other CA School Districts

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