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Weingarten offers more concessions

February 25, 2011 pm28 2:22 pm

In Wisconsin we see collective bargaining rights under direct attack. Furloughs, and other financial givebacks are becoming more common across the country. In New York City the mayor and the chancellor and the anti-seniority reformers (many carrying Gates-cash) are pushing to use layoffs as firings, and dismantle any sense of basic fairness.

And against this backdrop American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten offers a new, ‘improved’ teacher evaluation system (using kids’ test scores) and a fast-track to firing teachers. It is very hard not to say something.

The Us won’t be fairer. The draft of the evaluation system for the transformation schools may well be the blueprint for our eventual agreement with the City, and it is nothing more than the current system + subscores + test scores. Principals who go after teachers will not find it more difficult to give arbitrary Us. Today, when Us are given unfairly, we still lose on appeal. The new evaluation will not change that. The new evaluation will not be fairer or more rational, it will just have subscores and test scores and arbitrary numbers attached.

The Us given to union activists, and especially to chapter leaders, are especially troublesome in this regard. No one wants to talk about Chapter Leaders with Us, or Chapter Leaders facing charges. Maybe we should make a list (and no, it would not be short).

There is more impact nationally. The ability of a local to say “No” is greatly diminished when the national union does not have their back. These ‘improved’ evaluation systems are already in place in some districts, often shepherded by the national AFT. Tenure is weaker in other states. This is the backdrop against which Weingarten offered up a quick-fire process. Locals should not adopt her proposals.

The New York Times article is below the fold (with my highlighting – jd)

Leader of Teachers’ Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul

By TRIP GABRIEL
Published: February 24, 2011

Responding to criticism that tenure gives even poor teachers a job for life, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, announced a plan Thursday to overhaul how teachers are evaluated and dismissed.

In her plan, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, addresses criticism of tenure.

It would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one school year to improve. If they did not, they could be fired within 100 days.

Teacher evaluations, long an obscure detail in an educator’s career, have moved front and center as school systems try to identify which teachers are best at improving student achievement, and to remove ineffective ones.

The issue has erupted recently, with many districts anticipating layoffs because of slashed budgets. Mayors including Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Cory A. Booker of Newark have attacked seniority laws, which require that teacher dismissals be based on length of experience rather than on competency.

Ms. Weingarten has sought to play a major role in changing evaluations and tenure, lest the issue be used against unions to strip their influence over work life in schools — just as Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Ohio are trying to do this week.

Critics say that removing teachers is nearly impossible because of the obstructions that unions have put up. Administrators also bear some blame. Most evaluations are perfunctory — a drive-by classroom observation by a vice principal — and hearings to prove incompetence can be long and costly.

In Ms. Weingarten’s proposal, which she presented at a meeting of union leaders and researchers in Washington on Thursday night, teachers would be evaluated using multiple yardsticks, including classroom visits, appraisal of lesson plans and student improvement on tests.

Teachers rated unsatisfactory would be given a detailed “improvement plan” jointly devised by school administrators and experienced master teachers.

Some improvement plans — like maintaining better classroom order — could last a month. Others would take a full school year. The results would be considered separately by administrators and the peer experts, whose judgments would be sent to a neutral arbitrator.

The arbitrator would be required to decide within 100 days whether to keep or fire the teacher.

Ms. Weingarten said the process represented a major advance over current systems, which do not include detailed improvement plans and often end up in tortured hearings “litigating the teacher’s competency.”

“We have figured out an operational blueprint so people can’t use tenure as an excuse anymore not to engage in legitimate evaluations of teachers,” she said in an interview.

Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, which seeks to narrow the achievement gap for poor students in part by raising teacher quality, said, “The overall proposal is a big step forward.”

But, she added, only school administrators should create improvement plans for a poorly rated teacher; otherwise, unions might use the process to obstruct their removal.

Michael J. Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy group, agreed. “In any other field,” he said, “this would be considered completely nuts that a manager would not have rights and responsibilities to evaluate their employees and take action.”

He added that the proposal did not address the most pressing issue: how to lay off thousands of teachers because of budget cutbacks without losing promising newer teachers.

“Her strategy of making sure all teachers who get a negative review will get a year and 100 days, it strikes me as a delaying tactic,” he said.

Ms. Weingarten responded that if a rational evaluation process were in place, ineffective teachers would be weeded out naturally.

“All these folks now really concerned about layoffs of newer teachers never spent a minute talking about how to keep good teachers in our profession,” she said.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Zulma Villalba permalink
    February 25, 2011 pm28 5:09 pm 5:09 pm

    How many corporate-type principals do we have in the system? How many of those types of principals have more than 10 years of full-time teaching experience? Evaluating teachers and a having a school leader with teaching experience and who moved up the ranks in the tradition way go hand in hand. These principals/CEOs would not hesitate to u-rate a pro-union teacher.

    We need to remind ourselves that there were teachers sent to the RR based on trumped up charges. Case in point, there’s Iris Blige who was notorious in abusing her power. Chapter leaders’ responsibilities are to uphold the constitution rights of having and participating in union activities, to inform the members of their rights, and to work with administration on behalf of the members so that essential programs are in place to educate every child in the school. Unfortunately, these concessions may affect the relation between a chapter leader and the principal where the need for the chapter leader to stay by the wayside maybe necessary out of fear of receiving a u-rating.

    Another important point is the number of appeals won based on these unfair u-ratings. None of the u-ratings have been overturned especially when the u-ratings were based on a member’s union involvement.

    If Randi wants concessions, then she should make them when the Mayor Bloomber is out of office, there’s a chancellor with an extensive education background and the necessary credentials to lead the NYC school system, principals move up the ranks and have at least 15 + years of teaching experience, the Open Market is eliminated or a new hiring practice is implemented, Deputy Chancellors should have at least 20+ years of teaching of which 5 years as a principal and the Leadership Academy is dismantled. Then and only then it would make sense to have concessions. In the meantime, the present system is flawed with too many power-hunger principals who will use intimidation instead of collaboration.

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