Los Angeles’ Markham Becomes Flashpoint for Teacher Seniority Reform Debate

Rob Manwaring:

We recently highlighted Markham middle school, a low performing schools in Los Angeles, in a report on low performing school improvement. Now Markham has become the flashpoint of the debate in California to overhaul teacher seniority policies. Governor Schwarzenegger recently visited Markham to highlight the problems at this school which unfortunately became a victim of seniority staffing policies (See related story). As part of a fresh start restructuring of the school, a non-profit organization established by the Mayor let all of the teachers at Markham go, rehired some of them, but mainly hired new young teachers to staff the school. The goals was to model the school after successful charter schools in the district like Green Dot. Unfortunately the school was still subject to the district’s collective bargaining agreement. So when the LA Unified faced a budget problem, it laid off over half of the staff at Markham in the summer of 2009, and has yet to be able to backfill those positions. The school is also part of a lawsuit by the ACLU to stop LAUSD from doing further harm at Markham and school like it.
Earlier this spring, the a task force created by LA’s superintendent, Ramon Cortines and chaired by Ted Mitchell, CEO of New Schools and chair of the State Board of Education (and my old boss), developed a set of recommendations to overhaul the district’s teacher and administrator policies including evaluation, seniority, tenure, differentiated compensation and career pathways. The report is worth a look. But, part of what this group determined was that there needed to be several changes in state law to allow them to implement the changes proposed.