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When All Else Fails – Blame Teachers!

[Editor’s note: Peter Goodman blogs at Ed in the Apple, where this post originally appeared.]

Yesterday’s big education news story: the lackluster NAEP scores in New York City … right?

Not according to the Tweed folk … who mumbled and tried to spin the story.

Klein’s reaction: On the eve of the NAEP scores story release, with great fanfare, he announces a new DoE initiative to fire tenured teachers! The UFT is vigorously protesting.

In the letter, he [Klein] urged principals to help teachers improve but added, “When action must be taken, the disciplinary system for tenured teachers is so time-consuming and burdensome that what is already a stressful task becomes so onerous that relatively few principals are willing to tackle it. As a result, in a typical year only about one-hundredth of 1 percent of tenured teachers are removed for ineffective performance.”

Hundreds of teachers are sitting in rubber rooms around the City, awaiting the dismissal process to begin, or to be returned to school. Why?

Because over thirty years of case law has established clear standards in teacher dismissal cases, and the many teachers in the rubber rooms have not committed dismissible offenses. In too many cases the removal is simply vindictive on the part of the Principal.

Leadership by threat and intimidation.

The State Education Law and the Teacher Collective Bargaining Agreement have streamlined the teacher dismissal process – a process that Tweed negotiated, and ignores.

The law, which applies to all tenured teacher in New York State, sets forth specific rules and timelines. The New York City Bargaining Agreement also contains provisions to further speed up the process.

In addition, the Department and the Union jointly established a Peer Intervention Program that assists tenured teachers who have received an unsatisfactory rating.

Klein avers the tenured teacher dismissal system is “time consuming and burdensome.” Should it be quick and easy!?!

A Superintendent once yelled at me, “How can you defend this teacher!”

I responded, “You hired him, you rated him satisfactory for years …”

We are talking about tenured teachers, teachers who have at least three years of satisfactory evaluations. If the teacher is truly inadequate, shouldn’t the Department move to dismiss the Principal who rated the teacher satisfactory?

If the teacher was satisfactory, and is now unsatisfactory: what changed?

In my experience, frequently, the teacher is in the midst of a personal crisis – relationship issues, financial troubles, problem with their children, psychological crises – issues that should be addressed by the employer through a employee assistance program … which does not exist in the DoE.

The dismissal of a tenured teacher due to unsatisfactory performance should be the end result of a program to assist and support the teacher.

Shouldn’t a principal be engaged in instructional issues each and every day? Teaching demonstration lessons themselves, arranging for teachers to observe each other, meeting with colleagues, establishing a climate of self-criticism and self-improvement …

In one of the highest achieving schools in the system, the International High School at La Guardia Community College, teachers “select, support and evaluate” colleagues.

Some principals either can’t, or won’t, do their jobs!

If  principals do their jobs, and, at the end of the process, a teacher is unfortunately still failing, then the dismissal procedures should flow from the process – all the instructional interventions that occurred over the months or years that preceded the final decision.

Bullying is a serious problem in our schools. Unfortunately, in New York City, the bully is the Chancellor.


1 Comment:

  • 1 sadsack
    · Nov 16, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Does the DOE ever suspect that the methods that they adopted to change learning do not work? The WORKSHOP model is a total failure, especially when it is implemented everyday. When there is no freedom to be creative and teachers are persecuted by a spin city administration, what results would you expect? The Mayor’s business approach may be good in a cut throat business, but the product here are children. Why doesn’t he fire them? They are the ones who apparantly are not performing?
    Or maybe according to the NAEP he should quit according to his promise to improve the schools?