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Editorial: The battle between teachers and administrators

August 12, 2011

With school districts facing ever-higher student achievement standards, it should come as no surprise that the battle between teachers and administrators would increase in intensity.

In the latest tussle, teachers unions are decrying resolutions under consideration in Burbank, Glendale and elsewhere that would support increasing the length of time in which a new teacher is under evaluation. 

Unions don’t like the so-called probationary period — which currently lasts for two years — because new teachers can be more easily dismissed during that time than after the probationary period ends. Administrators say a three-year probationary period is needed to fully assess whether a teacher is a dud or has promise, and will fit in with the campus. 

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The push to extend the two-year period is predicated on the contention that it takes new teachers several years to start hitting their stride, which makes it hard for administrators to truly gauge their effectiveness in the classroom. Unions argue that an extension is unnecessary, saddles new teachers with an extra year of looking over their shoulder and further erodes professional stability.

An argument could be made for both sides of the coin, each one no doubt espousing their benefits to student achievement and the classroom. 

It’s a line in the sand that has been drawn and battled over for decades. But with principals under greater pressure to keep their schools on par with ever-higher performance goals, they have less and less leeway in making permanent hiring mistakes.

If one bad hire can drag down average test scores — for better or worse, the standard by which districts are judged — is it any wonder that administrators want more time for evaluation? On the other hand, with the gloomy economy, can anyone really blame the unions for trying to protect jobs? 

One thing seem to be clear: This is as much a power struggle as it is a debate over educational quality. Our kids cannot come in second in this fight. Right now, it looks like they’re in third. 

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