LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines wants to revise tenure rules

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Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines wants the district to get rid of ineffective teachers before they gain tenure, saying the nation's second-largest school system has largely failed to adequately evaluate teacher performance.

Under state law, teachers go through a two-year probationary period before they gain permanent status.

"This district can be rightly criticized for the promotion of ineffective teachers over the years. That is about to change," Cortines said Thursday in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times. "We do not owe poor performers a job."

AJ Duffy, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents the teachers, has concerns about the Cortines order. He says the evaluation system for teachers is flawed.

“Administrators are not properly trained," he said. "This is not a knock on administrators. One of the worst things that this district does is they don’t know how to train people, whether its administrators or teachers or anybody else.”

Cortines acknowledges the evaluation system needs to be fixed. But he says that won’t happen without changes in state law and union contracts.

Cortines’ action was apparently prompted by a Los Angeles Times investigation. The paper is set to report this Sunday that the district often fails to properly assess new teachers before they gain tenure.

Taking aim at weak probationary teachers now could spare the district from firing others who are more effective but have slightly less experience next summer, when there will probably be another round of layoffs. Teachers must be let go by seniority, according to state law, which has forced the Los Angeles Unified School District to ignore performance in its dismissals, officials told The Times.

Cortines' statement came a week after The Times presented L.A. Unified with the results of an investigation that found the district often does not meaningfully assess new teachers before they are granted tenure. The story is scheduled to appear in Sunday's paper.

Cortines urged district officials to scrutinize the 404 probationary teachers who received a ``needs improvement" on one or more criteria on their evaluations last year, The Times reported.

The superintendent also urged greater monitoring of 339 administrators who have not yet become permanent and 175 tenured teachers and other employees who received negative evaluations last year, according to The Times.

KPCC Wire Services contributed to this story