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LAUSD grants teacher tenure with little review, Times investigation finds

December 19, 2009 |  9:42 am

http://www.ropcenter.org/files/lausd_logo.jpgA Times investigation found that the Los Angeles Unified School District routinely grants tenure to new teachers after cursory reviews -- and sometimes none at all.

Evaluating new teachers for tenure is one of a principal's most important responsibilities. Once instructors have permanent status, they are almost never fired for performance reasons alone. The two-year probation period, during which teachers can be fired at will, offers a singular opportunity to weed out poor performers.

It is a chance L.A. Unified all but squanders, according to interviews with more than 75 teachers and administrators, analyses of district data over the last several years, and internal and independent studies. Among the findings:

* Nearly all probationary teachers receive a passing grade on evaluations. Fewer than 2% are denied tenure.

* The reviews are so lacking in rigor as to be meaningless, many instructors say. Before a teacher gets tenure, school administrators are required to conduct only a single, pre-announced classroom visit per year. About half the observations last 30 minutes or less. Principals are rarely held responsible for how they perform the reviews.

* The district's evaluation of teachers does not take into account whether students are learning. Principals are not required to consider testing data, student work or grades. L.A. Unified, like other districts in California, essentially ignores a state law that since the 1970s has required districts to weigh pupil progress in assessing teachers and administrators.

Read the full report by Jason Felch, Jessica Garrison and Jason Song here.

Read The Times' yearlong series on teachers, "Failure Gets a Pass," here.