From L.A. Weekly by Hillel Aron:
The day after the L.A. school board election, which some said was about Superintendent John Deasy although he wasn't even on the ballot, he appeared at a UCLA event with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The wiry superintendent didn't mill about he doesn't really mill, gab or make small talk. He buzzes, darting past people, in and out of doors, like a man with a medical condition that won't let him stay still.

The speed with which Deasy moves and speaks is well documented. He brings an uncomfortable impatience to the LAUSD supe's job as he moves to increase the types of schools available to students (known as School Choice), raise achievement on test scores and graduation rates, and require accountability from L.A.'s more than 20,000 tenured-for-life teachers.

Without fanfare, the school district famous for its unacknowledged Dance of the Lemons a policy of repeatedly transferring the worst teachers to unsuspecting new schools has started to fire its bad teachers.

"We have a moral obligation to students to have them in front of a highly competent teacher," Deasy says. "That's the most important decision I make who gets to be in front of kids." Deasy believes the vast majority of teachers in L.A. are capable people. But, as in any profession, a small minority is thoroughly incompetent. Their control of classrooms can set large numbers of students back for years.

Bad teachers are rarely fired. In the 2005-06 school year, according to LAUSD's human resources division, just six of L.A.'s army of 34,000 teachers were dismissed, and 10 were convinced to resign. In 2006-07, those numbers were three and 15.

In the United States, across all jobs and professions, about 2 to 6 percent of employees are fired annually. For L.A. teachers, the firing rate was roughly 1/100th of 1 percent.

United Teachers Los Angeles and the California Teachers Association, with their enormous political influence at the state and district level, had fixed things so that even the worst teacher could tap a multistep appeals process that on average took more than a year and cost schools hundreds of thousands of dollars per case. Terrible teachers often were reinstated, so for decades, principals quietly transferred them to other L.A. schools the "dance" that, when finally detailed by L.A. Weekly and other media, spawned intense criticism.

Deasy was hired in 2010 as deputy to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who groomed Deasy to take over his job in 2011. Under Deasy during the 2011-12 school year, LAUSD fired 99 tenured teachers a 30-fold increase from five years earlier and convinced 122 to resign.

Many were fired for misconduct say, for sleeping in class, showing movies every day or touching a child inappropriately. Many others were let go for incompetence. Deasy, in his clipped way, calls it "dismissals for unsatisfactory performance."

Vivian Ekchian, head of LAUSD's human resources division, has worked under four superintendents Deasy, Cortines, David Brewer and Roy Romer. She says they all cared about holding teachers to competency standards, but Deasy's sheer intensity and willingness to put money behind it moved the ball forward for the first time.

LAUSD's general counsel, David Holm*quist, says the drive to fire bad teachers predated Deasy, but "he accelerated it with conversations about evaluations and performance management. He's raised expectations through a variety of ways, very publicly."

Teachers still get tenure after just two years. Then, every two years, tenured teachers are evaluated by the principal. But that evaluation called a Stull was toothless for years. Tenured teachers who got "unsatisfactory" ratings were placed under "peer assistance and review" PAR for help and retraining. But those who showed no signs of life could remain on review forever.

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