In another sign that antiquated and harmful education practices once thought sacrosanct are starting to fall, Denver’s “Dance of the Lemons” — the process by which the teachers no principal will hire are forcibly placed into a classroom somewhere in the public school system — may finally change.
Last year, the Denver Post noted:
Nearly three-quarters of unassigned veteran Denver Public Schools teachers who have not found jobs are forcibly placed into schools with the poorest students… Under union and district rules, these direct placements are made without regard to the desires of the teachers, school principals or parents.
On Friday, DPS superintendent Boasberg announced his intention that the District’s lowest performing schools — almost all with high poverty student demographics — become exempt from receiving any of these teachers.
This is a significant move by DPS, and also long overdue. Now the music still plays, and lemon dance is not over yet, as under the DCTA contract these teachers will have to be placed somewhere, but the seats are going to be a little harder to find, and far better illuminated. When higher-performing schools, which generally have a stronger culture and leadership, and more engaged parents, get stuck with lemons, you can bet the chance the system undergoes change increases, because the tolerance for bad teachers will be far lower. I’ve written about the power of affluent parenting previously — if some of Denver’s best schools suddenly face the forced hiring of several teachers, expect some parents and civic groups to finally take a stand on this deplorable practice.
There is increased agreement that education hiring should be by mutual consent (both the teacher and the principal agree to the hire), an approach that was embraced by the rest of the employed world, oh, just a few decades ago. Changing the lemon dance to a game of musical chairs is a good first step, but far better would be to turn the music off entirely.