- Principals in low-performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will no longer have to hire “displaced” teachers and can now choose educators who they think will do the best job of raising student achievement, under a resolution passed by the school board last week, according to L.A. School Report.
- About a fourth of the principals of the district’s 1,000 schools will now have that hiring flexibility while the rest will still have to abide by the rule that they fill vacancies with a teacher who was either removed from another site for being ineffective, is returning from a leave of absence, or was maybe replaced by a more senior employee.
- Nick Melvoin, the vice president of the school board, said in the article that he will push to remove the “must-place” policy for all schools — which costs roughly $15 million — but other board members acknowledge that the district’s contract with the teachers union will likely make that difficult.
LAUSD’s “Close the Gap” resolution is just one example of district leaders allowing a set of schools to operate differently in order to make rapid gains in student achievement. In addition to giving these schools more freedom over personnel decisions, such schools often receive additional resources, such as more counselors or financial incentives to hire teachers.
While he was superintendent of the Sacramento Unified School District, for example, Jonathan Raymond implemented a program for seven low-performing "priority" schools, giving them an additional administrator, a full-time curriculum coordinator and additional training for teachers. The plan drew fire from the local teachers union over seniority issues, but the schools did make gains on California’s Academic Performance Index.
One question over such initiatives — whether launched locally or by the state — is how drawing effective teachers to low-performing schools affects the schools they left. A study released earlier this year on Tennessee’s Innovation Zones showed that such policies can have a small but negative effect on the “sending” schools. The researchers, however, concluded that because the struggling schools have improved under the approach, the strategy is overall successful, especially if the “sending” schools can take quick action to hire another effective teacher or give existing teachers additional support.