CTA prez foresees attacks on unionDean Vogel ready to lead teachers union
Like floods and tornadoes, the attacks on collective bargaining and the imposition of test-score-based teacher evaluations that have swept through states in the Midwest and South this year have not been seen in California. But the incoming president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association expects the state will not be immune for long.
“It’s only a matter of time before what I’ve been calling the ‘pseudo-reform movement’ that’s been sweeping the country is going to come right to us; because all the players are here, and the money’s here, and the argument has spread,” Dean Vogel said in a video interview (go here for transcript). “Both political parties are talking about the need for change.”
The CTA is ready for this, he said, and expects to be in the center of the debate over issues such as teacher evaluations. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Gov. Jerry Brown relied on the CTA’s support to get elected and that Democrats, traditionally allied with the CTA, are firmly in control of the Legislature.
Vogel, 64, the current CTA vice president and a 37-year elementary school teacher and counselor from Vacaville Unified, is politically astute and media savvy. Some young teachers I have spoken with are optimistic that he might be a flexible, different union leader, one who will listen to them and be open to change.
But if that’s to happen, they’ll have to become a lot more active themselves. In an interview last week,, preceding assuming his two-year term later this month, Vogel offered no distinction between his views and the current positions of the CTA. If there are differences, he’s not saying so. That’s not surprising, since Vogel will take his marching orders from the board of directors and the 800-member State Council of Education, which meets quarterly and takes positions on legislation.
Evaluations are an example. Vogel co-chaired a committee for the National Education Association that has proposed a seven-page policy on teacher evaluation and accountability that will be voted on by the NEA delegates at their convention this summer. It’s become controversial because it includes “valid, reliable high-quality standardized tests” among several indicators that could be used to measure student growth and learning.
To teachers in states like Illinois, where the Legislature imposed a policy of using standardized test scores as the predominant factor in judging teachers, the adoption of a nuanced NEA policy would be a victory. But a large portion of California delegates will likely oppose any inclusion of the use of standardized test scores in an evaluation.
Vogel reflected that perspective. Test scores should not be a criterion; what’s important instead is to measure how teachers use the test data to improve instruction. I pushed on this point for clarification. His response: “Let me be really clear. I want to assess the teacher’s use of the data, okay? So if the data’s there, and the teacher uses it appropriately, what it’s going to do is inform better practice.”
On other issues, Vogel:
- Defended the traditional step and column method of paying teachers by years taught and graduate credits accumulated. The current system “encourages people to stay in. It’s really to our advantage to have veteran teachers who can be the collegial support to young folks.”
- Called for no change to California’s granting of tenure after only two years. Most states award permanent status after three or four years: “Some places are saying three. Some are saying four. Right now, our position is – the ed code (states) here in California, it’s two years.”
- Called for considering changing Proposition 98, the 20-year-old formula that sets the minimal levels of funding for K-12 schools and community colleges. However, he restated CTA’s opposition to AB 18, this session’s major finance reform. It that would permanently give districts more flexibility in spending while creating the framework for a weighted student formula providing more money for low-income students and English learners. CTA says more time is needed to consider possible unintended consequences of the bill. “We’re nervous about what can happen when you move so quickly,” he said.