Monthly Archives: February 2011


February 18th Podcast – Teacher Employment and Collective Bargaining Laws in California: Structuring School District Discretion over Teacher Employment

A great deal of recent attention has been focused on policies that affect the employment relationship between school districts and teachers. Although there is broad agreement that teacher quality is related to student achievement, there is far less agreement about the degree to which school districts and administrators are constrained in making policies that affect the employment and working conditions of teachers. In this seminar, William S. Koski, Professor of Law and Director of the Youth and Education Law Project at Stanford University, discusses the extent to which California law and the collective bargaining agreements governed by state law, constrains or facilitates district-level discretion over teacher employment policies and practices. The speaker is introduced by David N. Plank, Executive Director of PACE.

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Teacher Employment and Collective Bargaining Laws in California: Structuring School District Discretion over Teacher Employment

A new PACE policy brief, by William S. Koski, Professor of Law and Director of the Youth and Education Law Project at Stanford University and Aaron Tang law student at Stanford Law School and former teacher in St. Louis, Missouri, examines teacher employment and collective bargaining laws in California.

There is broad agreement that teacher quality is related to student achievement, but there is far less agreement about the degree to which school districts and administrators are constrained in making policies to improve teacher quality that might also affect teacher employment and working conditions. Conventional wisdom holds that state law and the collective bargaining agreements governed by state law often hamper districts’ discretion over teacher hiring, firing, evaluation, compensation, and assignment. Although California collective bargaining agreements have received some attention from researchers we know far less about whether, and to what extent, California law constrains or facilitates district-level discretion over teacher employment policies and practices. This policy brief examines that issue.

Koski and Tang focus on California and examine the extent to which the legal structure governing the employment and collective bargaining relationship between school districts and teachers constrains administrative and school board decision-making. Their strategy is to classify various aspects of the teacher-school district employment relationship into one of four categories. These categories reflect the level of discretion that districts enjoy over any given employment-related condition. They then analyze the teacher employment and collective bargaining laws in four other large and diverse states using that same four-tiered analytic framework. The authors conclude that California statutory law regarding teacher employment and collective bargaining, although quite similar to the law in those states, is somewhat more constraining of administrative decision-making in teacher employment matters. Whether this is helpful or harmful to students, they conclude, is entirely another question.

Teacher Employment and Collective Bargaining Laws in California

Effective Basic Skills Instruction: The Case for Contextualized Developmental Math

A new PACE policy brief by W. Charles Wiseley, CTE Specialist at the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office,  examines both the scarcity and the effectiveness of contextualized developmental math in the 110 public California Community Colleges (CCC) during the 2006-2007 academic year.

Recent research on students entering California community colleges found that less than one in ten students who enter at the basic arithmetic or pre-algebra math level successfully complete college-level math. Students entering at the next higher level of math (elementary algebra) are only slightly more likely to succeed in college-level math. Yet, college-level math skills are required for success in nearly all college programs including most occupationally-focused certificate programs. Overall, fewer than 20 percent of remedial math students who do not complete a college level math course earn a certificate, degree, or transfer to a four-year university within six years. Beginning in 2006, California community colleges, through changes in regulations designed to strengthen the core curriculum for the associate degree began to eliminate many occupationally-focused and “contextualized” math courses such as “Business Math” and “Technical Math for Airframe Mechanics.” These integrated courses often focus on the mathematics required in specific occupations, starting with basic arithmetic or pre-algebra and progressing into intermediate algebra topics, and have significantly higher success rates than traditional math courses. Unfortunately, the pressure for traditional academic courses has eliminated many of these contextualized courses, as they no longer meet the requirements for the associate degree. But the low success rates that are common in remedial math courses in the academic model mean that few students will be able to acquire the occupational skills necessary to complete an advanced occupational course, certificate, or degree.

Effective Basic Skills Instruction

Deregulation of School Aid in California: Revenues and Expenditure in the First Year of Categorical Flexibility

California’s school finance system is notoriously complex. Its critics have long advocated for simplifying funding streams and returning authority to local school boards. In 2009 the state partially acquiesced, giving districts significant flexibility over the funds from 40 categorical programs.  This flexibility provides an opportunity to see how districts respond when released from categorical funds. However, Tier 3 flexibility was adopted during a severe budget crisis, and most districts have been trying simply to maintain core services. So it is difficult to isolate the discrete impact of this policy change.

In this report, Jennifer Imazeki, Professor of Economics at San Diego State University, highlights preliminary results from an ongoing study of district response to this increased categorical flexibility, generally referred to as Tier 3.

Diregulation of School Aid in California