The titans of private industry intent on dismantling our public school system have launched a new offensive, this one via the court system.  They are attacking teachers through the ranks of corporate-sponsored “student” objectors. On the chopping block, yet again, is “the trinity of teachers’ rights in California – tenure, seniority and due process in dismissals“.

What is with this?  Teachers are just us??  Only maybe a little better educated and perhaps more dedicated to our kids.

There are three reasons why Due Process ought to be due us all.

For points 1-3, please refer to the following hypothetical situation:

“Ms Gabriola” is incessantly voluble, a person whose cup refuses to stay half-empty, overflowing instead with unceasing enthusiasm and optimism.  She has difficulty containing her high spirits and has been known to skitter about the classroom gesticulating and clapping the occasional back in camaraderie and support.

An ill-contained kudo heralded an accusation of inappropriate contact.

As it happens Ms Gabriola is as well exceptionally strict grading final exams. Many an excellent student of hers has been surprised by their report card, resulting in mistrust and resentment among some students.  While yet others appreciate the rewarding feeling of satisfaction following a challenge, mastered.

1.  Due process protects the community, not just the falsely-accused.

Consider that the accusation is deliberately false, motivated by feelings of resentment from a student who feels under-appreciated.  This teacher’s un-scrutinized removal would have been imposed on an entire set of students some of whom do not share the accusers’ disconnect with the teacher.  That subset of students would be deprived of a teacher whom they deem excellent.  While one set of students judge the teacher harshly, another set knows a different experience.  Due process for the teacher is tantamount to due process for those who would be disenfranchised by her unfair dismissal.

2.  Due process protects the accuser.

Consider that the accusation is maliciously false, motivated not by understandable feelings of resentment from a student ill-served, but by intentional abuse of power by a subordinate enabled by the system itself.  If accusations are not scrutinized and are routinely upheld, the power afforded is essentially entrapping.  Maintaining a system that does not reward unwarranted influence, protects the vulnerable from the allure of power, abused.

3.  Due process protects the falsely-accused.

Consider that the accusation is simply false, whether motivated by spite, accident or misunderstanding.  We all of us could fall prey to injustice and we all of us deserve the due process of defending our honor.  The sixth amendment to the US constitution addresses the basic right to face our accuser; we are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Though these rights are limited legally to criminal proceedings, their moral authority is self-evident.  Without due process an accusation becomes an indictment de facto.  For most of us, the Golden Rule commands an intuitive moral urgency.

Excellence in teaching is no more a universal invariant quality than any other component of human nature.  The interaction between student and teacher is critical.  Just as we are all unique individuals, every teaching relationship is therefore unique.  As such the ranking of teachers amounts to falsely quantifying a qualitative relationship.  Excellence in teaching is governed less by a normal “bell curve” distribution than by the paradigmatic threshold of obscenity:  I know it when I see it.

If we wish to better identify what can only be known by seeing it, then perhaps we ought to be employing more on-the-ground administrators the better to see what they ought to be knowing.  Reducing “rank-and-file” administration by at least 20% while retaining a top-heavy stable of 6-figure Broad-“branded” cronies does nothing toward the effort of knowing or seeing.  Evaluating teachers requires experienced evaluators and the whole array of support staff to enable watching:  copy clerks, administrative assistants, door guards, counselors, secretaries, receptionists, security guards.  Leaving a school of thousands to be run by a half dozen administrators and support staff means no one will ever have any clue whatsoever about teacher excellence.  Support staff cannot be replaced by dubious statistical models of inappropriate tests.

Teacher evaluations do not drive student inequity; unfairly distributed resources do.