The Los Angeles Times did a fascinating investigation on the process for firing California teachers this weekend. They reviewed 159 recorded firings of teachers statewide in the past 15 years, along with court and school district records, and did scores of interviews.

It included these anecdotes and statistics from San Diego:

  • Firings are very rare. San Diego Unified fires about two teachers per 1,000, the Times reported. Long Beach fires 6 per 1,000 and Los Angeles Unified fires less than one per 1,000. You might also remember that earlier this year we reported that no tenured teachers were fired in San Diego Unified last year.
  • One anecdote in the story came from San Diego Unified:

    Outspoken teachers can be victimized, union leaders say, and principals and parents sometimes take aim at people they simply don’t like. Teachers, they say, are entitled to a presumption of innocence.

    Cynthia Acerno was a last-minute hire at an elementary magnet school in the San Diego Unified School District, according to a summary of her case by a review commission. Though known for being strict, the district veteran had had no previous problems.

    But “vocal, politically well-connected” parents accused her of being a “menace,” and started unfounded rumors that she was screaming at children, drinking and using drugs, the panel found. Some pulled their children from her class.

    “The case against her was a cocktail of hearsay on hearsay with an ill-will chaser,” the panel commented in its ruling in favor of Acerno, who could not be reached for comment. “… Many of these scurrilous and damaging things were said in front of the children of this class by parents. This was shameful.”

  • The Times wrote that review panels for teacher firings sometimes “found officials to be too harsh, or determined that their firings weren’t supported by ‘the preponderance of evidence’ — a standard also used in most civil cases. San Diego Unified administrators tried and failed to fire an elementary school reading teacher who one district evaluator said could not follow a lesson plan. ‘It was evident … that the teacher was likely not the most gifted or skilled,’ the commission said in reversing the dismissal. ‘However, her performance was not ‘unsatisfactory’ simply because she was not the most capable or the quickest study.’”

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