Good News: Denver's Forced Teacher Placements into Poor Schools Declines

Ed News Colorado reported last Friday that a new Denver Public Schools policy has started to reap some small dividends:

Fewer Denver teachers unable to find jobs on their own were placed into the city’s highest-poverty and lowest-achieving schools for 2010-11, according to district figures.

That’s a reversal of what’s occurred for at least three years, when the poorest schools were more likely to be assigned teachers who either did not apply to be there or were not chosen for hiring by the principal.

Because of collective bargaining agreements and standard bureaucratic practices in most larger urban school districts (81 out of the nation’s 100 largest district, Education Week reports), the reality for some time has been that the unwanted teachers get shuffled around and force-placed in the poorest schools with the neediest students. A much bigger problem for Denver than the surrounding suburban districts, this “dance of the lemons” is not exactly a formula for closing the academic achievement gap.

The new Denver Public Schools policy makes it more difficult for forced placement of teachers into high-poverty schools and prohibits forced placement into low-performing schools. In addition to easing the effects on high-need schools, it looks like the policy may have helped curb the number of forced placements altogether: from 107 last year to 64 as of Friday’s report.

It’s not a huge number of teachers, and it’s not an earth-shattering policy change. But it’s a positive step. And with the help of the new tenure reform bill SB 191, DPS indeed has a better chance of meeting Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s stated goal of “zero direct placements.”

Onward and upward….