Nothing catches the attention of the media faster than a speeding bullet as the word “boycott.” And, when the president of the Los Angeles teachers union representing 40,000 teachers threatens such action again a circulation-diminishing major newspaper like the Los Angeles Times, it could get interesting.
The Times has been crusading for years against poor and shoddy performances in the Los Angeles Unified School district, the nation’s second largest, and never in its storied history has been a close ally of labor unions.
The latest flap flared when the Times announced it soon would publish a database of teacher names and how they ranked in a value-added performance effectiveness rating.
“You’re leading people in a dangerous direction, making it seem like you can judge the quality of a teacher by … a test,” said A.J. Duffy, union president, the Times reported.
Real or imagined, boycotts if carried out as threatened always creates some panic and chaos to targeted businesses. The Times is no exception.
The paper reported last week total average paid Sunday circulation is 1,019,388 and Monday-Friday circulation is 723,181. On April 26, 2010, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported the Times lost 15% to a total average of 616,606 in the six months through March while the national average decline was 8.7%.
In a robo call to teachers this past weekend, Duffy said the database was “an irresponsible, offensive intrusion into your professional life that will do nothing to improve student learning.
“Our attorneys are looking into the legalities of this database,” he said in the recorded message. “This is part of the continuing attack on our profession, and we must continue to fight back on all fronts.” He asked teachers and other unions to drop Los Angeles Times subscriptions pending the more visible threatened boycott.
The Times justifies its aggressive disclosure plan:
Based on test score data covering seven years, The Times analyzed the effects of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers on their students’ learning. Among other things, it found huge disparities among teachers, some of whom work just down the hall from one another.
After a single year with teachers who ranked in the top 10% in effectiveness, students scored an average of 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math than students whose teachers ranked in the bottom 10%. Students often backslid significantly in the classrooms of ineffective teachers, and thousands of students in the study had two or more ineffective teachers in a row.
The district has had the ability to analyze the differences among teachers for years but opted not to do so, in large part because of anticipated union resistance, The Times found.
The newspaper plans to publish an online database with ratings for the more than 6,000 elementary school instructors later this month.
One of the problems facing district administrators is the way California schools operate: No innovative action can be taken by the districts unless it is spelled out in the state education code.
Addressing the issue:
Supt. Ramon C. Cortines acknowledged last week that the district had not made good use of its own data, which he called the best in the country. He endorsed moving forward with value-added as one measure of teacher effectiveness.
Later in the week, Cortines asked state lawmakers to push through reforms to allow the district to make decisions based on teachers’ effectiveness, not just seniority.
It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out California’s arcane education code which promises big brother knows best and teacher unions where the worst are protected result in poor classroom performances. The Times is doing its job in spite of cutting its own throat. This classic hardball is played between a proud aging Goliath and a giant union whose strength in numbers depends on its unanimity.
Cross posted on The Remmers Report
Comments are welcome. Link to my blogsite or go to my email address at [email protected] . Remmers’ varied career spans 26 years in the newspaper business. Read a more thorough resume on The Remmers Report.
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.