Fighting tenure for school teachers

David Boies, the star trial lawyer who helped lead the legal charge that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban, is becoming chairman of the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group that former CNN anchor Campbell Brown founded in part to pursue lawsuits challenging teacher tenure. As the New York Times reports:

“Mr. Boies, the son of two public schoolteachers, is a lifelong liberal who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore and prosecuted Microsoft in the Clinton Administration’s antitrust suit. In aligning himself with a cause that is bitterly opposed by teachers’ unions, he is emblematic of an increasingly fractured relationship between the Democrats and the teachers’ unions.

“Aimages-2s chairman of the new group, Mr. Boies, 73, will join Ms. Brown as the public face of a legal strategy in which the group organizes parents and students to bring lawsuits against states with strong tenure and seniority protections. In a suit filed in New York last month, plaintiffs supported by Ms. Brown’s group argued that tenure laws make it too difficult to fire ineffective teachers and force principals to make personnel decisions based on seniority rather than performance. The suit argues that such laws disproportionately harm low-income and minority students.A California judge recently ruled in a similar case that teacher tenure laws violate students’ civil rights under the state’s constitution. The group that brought that case, known as Vergara v. California, said it would be pursuing similar litigation elsewhere as well. In a sign of the legal firepower attracted to the cause, Theodore B. Olson, Mr. Boies’ partner in the California same-sex marriage case, has been advising the Vergara plaintiffs.In an interview in his firm’s offices in Manhattan, Mr. Boies said he viewed the cause of tenure overhaul as “pro-teacher.”

“I think teaching is one of the most important professions that we have in this country,” he said. But, he added, “there can be a tension” between union efforts to protect workers and “what society needs to do, which is to make sure that the social function — in this case teaching — is being fulfilled.” Mr. Boies, who said he viewed education as a civil rights issue, is offering his services pro bono. Continue reading “Fighting tenure for school teachers”

On paying for book publication

At almost any gathering of academic publishers or librarians, you’ll hear someone float the idea—sometimes phrased as a question—that the model for publishing scholarly monographs is broken.

imgres-3As InsideHigherEd reports: “Two sets of ideas aired at the Association of American University Presses’ annual meeting, held here this week, don’t say the model is damaged beyond repair. But the proposals, both from groups outside the university-press community, suggest that it needs to be retrofitted, at the least.

“One possible approach came from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the other from a task force on scholarly communications run jointly by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Research Libraries. Both raised the question of how to better subsidize the digital publication of scholarly monographs, and both included the notion that faculty authors’ home institutions might do more to help pay for those books to be published. Such support would help deal with what university-press people often call the “free-rider problem,” in which institutions without presses—most of them, in other words—leave it to those with presses to support the system that gives faculty authors publication credentials.

“The AAU/ARL task force describes its plan as a “prospectus for an institutionally funded first-book subvention” that would shift the burden of payment to authors’ home institutions. That would “address the principal causes and effects of the market failure for monographs,” the prospectus says. It envisions that colleges and universities would agree to pay for an openly available “basic digital edition” of some faculty members’ first books; scholarly publishers could offer those titles for sale in other formats too.

“The plan also envisions that universities with a high level of research activity would offer subventions for three or four books a year, with an “annual subvention exposure” of roughly $68,000 to $73,000. Small colleges would pay for one or two books a year, and offer more modest subventions.  Continue reading “On paying for book publication”

California rejects teacher tenure

A California judge ruled Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprived students of their right to an education under the State Constitution and violated their civil rights. imgresThe decision hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case, one that could radically alter how California teachers are hired and fired and prompt challenges to tenure laws in other states.

“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

The decision, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, brings a close to the first chapter of the case, Vergara v. California, in which a group of student plaintiffs backed by a Silicon Valley millionaire argued that state tenure laws had deprived them of a decent education by leaving bad teachers in place.

Both sides expect the case to generate more like it in cities and states around the country. David Welch, a Silicon Valley technology magnate, spent several million dollars to create the organization that brought the Vergara case to court — Students Matter — and paid for a team of high-profile lawyers, including Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., who helped win a Supreme Court decision striking down California’s same-sex marriage ban. While the next move is still unclear, the group is considering filing lawsuits in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho and Kansas as well as other states with powerful unions where legislatures have defeated attempts to change teacher tenure laws.

More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/us/california-teacher-tenure-laws-ruled-unconstitutional.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0 Continue reading “California rejects teacher tenure”

Whither the dean?

An interesting dilemma lies ahead — where will all the academic administrators come from?images

Historically, most administrators in academic affairs, whether they be department chairs, program directors, deans, or provosts, have come out of the ranks of tenured faculty. However with faculty increasingly being contingent and off the tenure track (70 percent), there has not been much consideration of where administrators within academic affairs will come from.

Clearly very different opportunities  and constraints exist at different institutional types,  but the problem will occur across all institutions of higher education to a greater or lesser degree. Fewer tenure-track faculty at research-focused institutions could mean that those who do have tenure will be expected to continue to focus more on grant and research production over leadership.

Teaching-focused institutions, including liberal arts college and community colleges, may be more reluctant to transition faculty from classroom duty to campus leadership. Regardless of institutional mission, it seems as though little action is taken toward leadership succession planning. There are often reports of difficulty filling positions. It’s not unusual to hear of department chairs or deans being chosen because someone was the only individual willing (and able in terms of being tenured, not necessarily commitment or capability) to take the role rather than best suited for it.

An emphasis on related experience, if tenured, has become more relaxed. It is not unusual to hear of an internal dean moving into a provost role, or a chair moving into a dean role after just a year or two, not because the person is an undeniable choice, but because so few other individuals have the experience needed and an external candidate could not be identified. Continue reading “Whither the dean?”

Rethinking full-professor reviews

Post-tenure review is viewed by many professors with skepticism.As InsideHigherEd reports, “To some, itimgres seems like an attack on tenure; to others, a waste of time. And recentannouncements by two colleges, Ball State and Suffolk Universities, that they’re considering adopting post-tenure review policies that could in some cases lead to dismissal have brought out those skeptics.

“But at another college, administrators say they’re hoping to shore up an existing post-tenure review policy not in an attempt to weed out the bad professors, but to make the good ones better. So Westmont College’s newly mandatory, peer-led reviews for full professors raise the question: Can post-tenure review win faculty backing?

“One principle that I think is important in thinking about full professor reviews is to think of them as something that’s designed to be enriching for anyone who goes through it,” he said, “rather than something that’s designed to be a bureaucratic competency check for all faculty members.”Sargent said that means the process has to be faculty-driven. Luckily for him, even before his arrival at the college two years ago, Westmont had in its faculty handbook a periodic peer-review policy for “accountability of full professors.”

“The policy was formerly enforced on a voluntary basis. Sargent is making it mandatory, starting next year.The policy says that after a faculty member becomes a full professor, he or she will participate every six years in a “structured process of discussion, reflection, evaluation and future goals.” The purpose of the process, Westmont says, “is to encourage ongoing personal and professional development in all areas of service to the college.” The review process involves meeting with the provost and an individual written reflection component, but it hinges on work with a mutual mentoring group that meets on its own throughout the semester. This is not a system for getting rid of tenured professors. Continue reading “Rethinking full-professor reviews”

Adjunct and homeless

In the classroom, Mary-Faith Cerasoli, 53, an adjunct professor of Romance languages, usually tries to get her message across in lyrical Italian or Spanish.images-2

But on Wednesday, during spring break, she was using stencils and ink and abbreviated English to write her current message — “Homeless Prof.” — on a white ski vest she planned to wear on a solo trip to Albany two days later to protest working conditions for adjunct college professors.

Ms. Cerasoli has been an adjunct for several years at Mercy College in Westchester and several other places in and around New York City.She says she uses film, music, culture and food to shape her lessons and to tell students, “Worlds open up to you when you learn a foreign language.”But while encouraging students to major in foreign languages, she does not encourage them to follow her path into adjunct college teaching. The work is rewarding, she said, but not the pay: several thousand dollars per course, with no benefits.Ms. Cerasoli, a former New York City schoolteacher, currently teaches two Italian classes at Mercy, splitting time between its Westchester and Midtown Manhattan campuses. For her, the professorial lifestyle has meant spending some nights sleeping in her car, showering at college athletic centers and applying for food stamps and other government benefits.After being unable to keep several apartments, Ms. Cerasoli began couch-surfing a year ago, relying on friends. There was the unheated basement in Bronxville, and the room in the Bronx with no hot water. She is currently living in a small room in a Co-Op City apartment, also in the Bronx, courtesy of a friend — who is about to be evicted.

“We’re basically squatting here,” she said, while preparing for a trip to Albany for her one-woman demonstration in front of the state’s Education Department building. She planned to urge officials to improve conditions for adjuncts at public colleges as more universities save money by reducing their full-time teaching staffs.Until recently, Ms. Cerasoli taught at Nassau Community College on Long Island, but lacking seniority, she was not assigned any classes this year, she said.“They call us professors, but they’re paying us at poverty levels,” she said. “I just want to make a living from a skill I’ve spent 30 years developing.”Ms. Cerasoli cuts a cheerful figure riding her bicycle to class, and otherwise scraping by. Last year, a used-car dealer in Westchester who pitied her gave her a car and allowed her to keep her library of foreign language books in his office.Ms. Cerasoli regales people with stories from her years living in Rome, when she worked as a tour manager and interpreter for Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder and other stars performing in Italy. Continue reading “Adjunct and homeless”

Rethinking tenure

It’s no secret that tenured professors cause problems in universities.

As the New York times puts it: “Some choose to rest on their laurels, allowing their productivity to dwindle.

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 Others develop tunnel vision about research, inflicting misery on students who suffer through their classes.

“Despite these costs, tenure may be a necessary evil: It offers job security and intellectual freedom in exchange for lower pay than other occupations that require advanced degrees.

“Instead of abolishing tenure, what if we restructured it? The heart of the problem is that we’ve combined two separate skill sets into a single job. We ask researchers to teach, and teachers to do research, even though these two capabilities have surprisingly little to do with each other. In a comprehensive analysis of data on more than half a million professors, the education experts John Hattie and Herbert Marsh found that “the relationship between teaching and research is zero.” In all fields and all kinds of colleges, there was little connection between research productivity and teaching ratings by students and peers.

“Currently, research universities base tenure decisions primarily on research productivity and quality. Teaching matters only after you have cleared the research bar: It is a bonus to teach well. Continue reading “Rethinking tenure”

Tenure and incompetence

Want your colleagues to remain effective teachers and researchers after tenure?

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Then prioritize quality over quantity in publishing during the tenure process, avoid collegiality as a tenure criterion and make sure your administrators aren’t rubber-stamping faculty tenure recommendations.

As InsideHigherEd puts it, “That’s according to a new study out in this month’s PS: Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association.

“When Tenure Protects the Incompetent: Results from a Survey of Department Chairs” (an abstract of which is available here), is based on results of a survey of 361 responding political science chairs at doctoral, master’s and baccalaureate institutions regarding faculty incompetence and tenure. The author, John Rothgeb, a professor of political science at Miami University, in Ohio, said in an interview he was inspired to explore the topic in light of recent state-level debates, including in Ohio, about the value of tenure and whether or not it made faculty members less effective as researchers and educators. And most of those debates happen without empirical data to support arguments on either side, he said – partly because data are hard to come by.

“I was concerned about tenure because of the many claims you read about all the time [that] tenure is destroying higher education, and blah blah blah,” Rothgeb said in an interview. “And if you serve on tenure committees, as I do at Miami University, we’re always talking about what tenure means, but I wondered, do you really know what you’re talking about what you say all these kinds of things?” Continue reading “Tenure and incompetence”

Linking tenure to student success

An administrative law judge in Florida this week upheld new rules by the State Department of Education that require significantly more of state college faculty members — particularly in the areas of student success — for them to earn continuing contracts (the equivalent of tenure).

As InsiderHigher Ed reports, “The United Faculty of Florida, the faculty union in the state, had challenged the new rules as beyond the scope of the department’s powers. But the judge rejected that view and said that the board was within its rights. The rules affect faculty members at the state college system, which was formerly a community college system but no longer uses that label as many of the former community colleges have introduced some four-year programs. The system — with 28 colleges, nearly 25,000 faculty members and 879,000 students — is among the largest in the United States.

“Colleges and universities nationally have been under increasing pressure to demonstrate their success (as institutions) in student learning. And there has been a strong push in some K-12 districts to evaluate teachers in part based on student learning gains as measured by tests. But the movement is unpopular with educators, who say that such systems tend to punish instructors who — however talented and committed they are — teach poorly prepared or disadvantaged students.

The rules that have now been approved state that each district president, after consulting with faculty, should develop a system to evaluate faculty members, using “appropriate criteria to measure student success.” Those criteria “may include”:

  • Demonstrated or documented learning gains.
  • Course completion rates.
  • Graduation and/or certification rates.
  • Continued success in subsequent and additional courses or educational pursuits.
  • Job placements in the appropriate field.

“The criteria would be used not only for awarding new continuing contracts, but also for the equivalent of post-tenure reviews, which are also mandated by the new rules. The faculty challenge to the new rules said that the state board lacked the authority to make such specific changes in the way continuing contracts are awarded.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/27/judge-upholds-new-florida-rules-tenure-and-student-success#ixzz2ojrmytlt
Inside Higher Ed

Let us now praise the non-tenured

While many higher education experts — and parents — bemoan the fact that tenured professors are a shrinking presence,now making up less than a quarter of the academic work force, a study released Monday found, surprisingly, that students in introductory classes learned more from outside instructors than from tenured or tenure-track professors, reports today’s New York Times

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“Students taught by untenured faculty were more likely to take a second course in the discipline and more likely to earn a better grade in the next course than those whose first course was taught by a tenured or tenure-track instructor, the report said.

“The study, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, is based on data from more than 15,000 students who arrived at Northwestern University from 2001 to 2008.

“According to the authors — David N. Figlio, director of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research; Morton O. Schapiro, the university’s president; and Kevin B. Soter, a consultant — there was “strong and consistent evidence that Northwestern faculty outside of the tenure system outperform tenure track/tenured professors in introductory undergraduate classrooms.” The differences were present across a wide variety of subject areas, the study found, and were especially pronounced for average and less-qualified students.

“Our results provide evidence that the rise of full-time designated teachers at U.S. colleges and universities may be less of a cause for alarm than some people think, and indeed, may actually be educationally beneficial,” the report said. The fact that the study included only one university — and a selective, private research university at that — left its general applicability open to question. And, skeptics point out, there are many reasons a student might take a second class in a discipline apart from the teaching skills of the previous instructor. “I’m kind of dubious,” said Anita Levy, a senior program officer at the American Association of University Professors. “I’m not surprised that introductory classes might be better taught by contingent faculty members simply because most tenured faculty more often teach advanced courses. Continue reading “Let us now praise the non-tenured”

Academic jobs going unfilled

Much has been written about the plight of new Ph.D.s in search of tenure-track positions that are becoming increasingly scarce.

But according to InsideHigherEd, however, some schools can’t fill their job openings.

“Even as new academics across the country struggle to find permanent positions, often teaching at multiple campuses as adjuncts to pay their bills, tenure-track positions at some institutions are going unfilled. Faculty salaries at public universities in particular are failing to keep pace with those at private institutions and in other industries, making it hard for some campuses — especially regional universities in small-town America — to retain and attract talent.

“Experts say the trend could further erode the tenure-track system and educational quality.

“The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point isn’t alone in facing faculty turnover due to low salaries, but it may be among the most severe cases. Some 81 faculty members, out of an average of 340, have left during the past three years, about half from retirement and half from resignations – many more than in the years prior. And departures this year alone outnumber departures spanning the past three years. The College of Natural Resources alone has experienced a 25 percent turnover this year, although it is one of the university’s flagship programs. Continue reading “Academic jobs going unfilled”

The anti-tenure track

Tenure is getting more rare in the current academic world – and at some institutions much more difficult and inequitably awarded.

This recent article from USC’s Daily Trojan tells one horrific story, but also paints a broader picture of practices at that institution.images-1

“On April 3, Assistant Professor of International Relations Mai’a Keapuolani Davis Cross, who had traveled cross-country from her tenure track position at Colgate University to join USC in 2008, was told she would not be granted tenure.

“Her position at the university will be terminated following the current academic year. Continue reading “The anti-tenure track”

The myth of the tenured academic job

Who wouldn’t want a job where you only have to work five hours a week, you get summers off, your whole job is reading and talking about books, and you can never be fired? As Rebeca Schulman writes in this week’s Slate.com, “Such is the enviable life of the tenured college literature professor, and all you have to do to get it is earn a Ph.D. So perhaps you, literature lover, are considering pursuing this path.images

“Well, what if I told you that by “five hours” I mean “80 hours,” and by “summers off” I mean “two months of unpaid research sequestration and curriculum planning”? What if you’ll never have time to read books, and when you talk about them, you’ll mostly be using made-up words like “deterritorialization” and “Othering”—because, as Ron Rosenbaum pointed out recently, the “dusty seminar rooms” of academia have the chief aim of theorizing every great book to death? And I can’t even tell you what kind of ass you have to kiss these days to get tenure—largely because, like most professors, I’m not on the tenure track, so I don’t know. Continue reading “The myth of the tenured academic job”