EdNews Parent Backgrounder: Direct Placement

Q. What is direct placement and why should I care about it?

A. Direct placement refers to the administrative practice of shuffling teachers who lose their posts and fail to get snapped up by other principals into new teaching assignments – even if the teacher and the new principal are against the move.

Up until recent policy changes, the practice has been much more common in Denver Public Schools than it has been in other metro area school districts. A spring 2010 analysis by Education News Colorado found that DPS placed 377 teachers over three years while Douglas County, the district with the next-highest rate, placed 97. Jefferson County, the state’s largest school district, placed 63 teachers over three years while Adams Five-Star placed 42, Aurora Public Schools placed 22 and the Cherry Creek School District placed seven.

Statistics show that 79 percent of DPS direct-placed teachers were assigned to high-poverty schools in 2009. In addition, 49 DPS teachers were direct-placed at least twice in the past three years. Those statistics, in part, led Superintendent Tom Boasberg in February 2010 to begin curtailing the practice in the district’s lowest-performing and highest-poverty schools.

The practice is also known as forced placement or involuntary transfer. It happens because Colorado law guarantees a job to any teacher with non-probationary status or more than three years of experience.

Under Senate Bill 191, the so-called teacher effectiveness legislation that was signed into law in spring 2010, a teacher may be placed in a school only with the consent of the principal and the advice of at least two teachers who work at that school. A non-probationary teacher who doesn’t find another job within 12 months or two hiring cycles will be placed on unpaid leave. But the law won’t be fully implemented until the 2014-2015 school year.

Teachers land on the direct-placement list in most large districts because their school enrollment drops or there’s a change in academic program – not because of performance problems. But there is still a stigma attached to direct placement and questions about how and why it’s really used.

For more information about the practice and to see a list of direct placed teachers in Denver schools, click here.

To find out how many direct placement teachers are at your child’s school, ask your child’s principal. The information is public because it’s not a disciplinary measure. If you don’t get an answer from your principal, ask the superintendent or a district-level official. If you still fail to get an answer, you may request a list of direct placement teachers under the Colorado Open Records Act.