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A probation extension incident

April 30, 2011 pm30 12:54 pm
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A young friend, third year teacher, brought his portfolio in this week, so the administrators in his school could review it in making their tenure determination. He got the answer the same day – the same answer over a dozen colleagues, all who were up for tenure, got – extended. They did not review the portfolio. They did not come up with a real reason. “You will be better next year.” “There are just a few things you could work on.” “…classroom environment…” (peers consider that one of this teacher’s greatest strengths)  “TDR well above average, but inconsistent…”  (75th percentile with one group, 60th with another). More than a dozen teachers got the same. You see these people? They cheat. They lie.

How common has this become?

We suspect that principals are under orders to deny tenure more frequently. We believe that they have specific guidelines, not shared with us. These might include someone with a substantial number of absences, even though the sick days are provided by contract. These might include teachers who have transferred after two years. Principals might also have school-specific target numbers for denying or extending tenure.

New Action focuses on abusive administrators. And sure enough, these tenure denials and extensions are principals’ recommendations. And some of the principals are nasty and vindictive, and intentionally make teachers suffer. And some are just lousy principals – to be expected in these days, when Tweed promotes inexperienced administrators and rewards loyalty over competence.

But the villain in this story is not principals as a group (though some are, too many are, individually), but rather Tweed, which is promoting insecurity among the workforce, in order to cow us, in order to scare us into concessions, in order to intimidate us into not asserting our rights, in order to promote turnover, in order to make this a temporary job.

So again, how common has this become?  At how many schools is tenure being routinely extended, without cause?

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. Nancy C. permalink
    April 30, 2011 pm30 1:18 pm 1:18 pm

    I find your wording, the use of “tenure,” a little confusing. Do you mean that the probationary period was extended? In any case, boy, have they done a real 1801! It used to be that everyone, barring any egregious mistakes by the teacher, got tenure automatically. And now, they are playing hard to get? Reading this kind of stuff makes me want to pull my hair out and makes me thankful that I don’t have to deal with this crap any longer…

    • April 30, 2011 pm30 2:17 pm 2:17 pm

      Tenure was not granted; probation was extended. Sorry for the shorthand; I’ve adjusted the title.

      1801, huh? Tripoli declared war on the US. Jefferson and Burr tied. Toussaint L’Ouverture marched into Santo Domingo. And the NY Post was founded.

      • Nancy C. permalink
        May 1, 2011 am31 10:12 am 10:12 am

        lol. how did that extra 1 get in there…?

        • May 1, 2011 pm31 12:08 pm 12:08 pm

          I’ve been blaming my wireless keyboard for invreting letters and inserrting occasional extras… but the keyboard burned battery too fast (event he rechargeables were annoynig) os I’m back to a regular keyboard… but the typos still show up… Hmm?

  2. Zulma permalink
    April 30, 2011 pm30 1:23 pm 1:23 pm

    I would like to know how many teachers, who were up for tenure, got extentions this year. List the reasons for their extentions. How many teachers’ portfolios were actually looked at? If those portfolios weren’t read, would that be considered as time used for paperwork instead of time necessary for instruction. Secondly, I am more concerned about those teachers who received an extention last year and their extention was not based on a portfolio. Will those teachers receive tenure this year?

    • Anonymous permalink
      May 1, 2011 am31 9:19 am 9:19 am

      Unfortunately not. At my school last year, the excuse for 6 of us not receiving tenure was because our administration “had not observed us enough.” Although it was apparent to everyone that that reason had nothing to do with our competence in the classroom, the UFT agreed it would be in our best interest to sign the extension. A NYSUT Lawyer also informed me that, based on the extension contract, a decision to deny or approve tenure would have to be made this year.

      Which is apparently not the case. We were again denied tenure. We are a transformation school with a new principle who joined us in September. Because of this, I was informed Friday that because our Principle was new and had not observed me for TWO years (which is what the new rubric, established this year, stipulates) he could not grant me tenure.

      I have heard it is happening all over the city but, like ZULMA, would like the data to see exactly how many of us this is happening to.

  3. pbpcbs permalink
    April 30, 2011 pm30 1:30 pm 1:30 pm

    I always thought Bost and Blige were the leading edge of something…they figured out and did what Tweed wanted years before the rest of the principals began to catch on… . And since these teachers haven’t even been around long enough to be tenured, the UFT as an organization doesn’t give a damn (though a number of individual leaders do).

  4. April 30, 2011 pm30 1:39 pm 1:39 pm

    My principal is recommending all six of our eligible teachers for tenure. It will be interesting to see what comes down from the super, especially as we have numerous “red flags” (previous extension, new to our school, not enough formals)

    • April 30, 2011 pm30 2:19 pm 2:19 pm

      My guess is that superintendents are giving more latitude to higher-rated schools (on those ridiculous progress reports). Since, I believe, your school is A or B, I’d bet they are more likely to overlook the lack of Us and Ds.

      In my school, far end of the spectrum, we only expect one tenure decision over the next two years.

  5. Zulma permalink
    April 30, 2011 pm30 2:07 pm 2:07 pm

    Remember that the superintendents are name only. Their power was taken away as per Klein’s restructure of the re-restructed school system. They will be at the beckon call of those at Tweed. If there’s a supt. out there that’s daring enough to do the right thing and not follow the status quo of those at Tweed, then he/she should be commended for being a true education leader. Are there any out there?

    • April 30, 2011 pm30 2:20 pm 2:20 pm

      Which raises a question about the character of those who are willing to take such jobs.

  6. Justice needs to be served permalink
    April 30, 2011 pm30 2:09 pm 2:09 pm

    Thank you for this needed post. Our schools are no longer rooted in education; they are being run by a business model of the Mafia. Abuse, intimidation, number games, administrative cover ups, incompetency and lack of insight regarding relationships of collaborative nature to produce a higher level of academic success provide a highway to disaster and failure. One cannot demonize educators and expect a learning environment FEAR does not produce real success.
    There is shame to be had; it is not educators’ responsibility to carry out the weight of abuse.
    Will the POST follow up with articles of the many principals who abuse their positions?
    Will the Post follow up with the money spent on too many principals in small schools?
    Will the Post follow up with the money spent on too many consultants?
    Will the Post follow up with top heavy budgets in the DOE?
    Journalism has an obligation to give equity to all the demons.

  7. Eric permalink
    April 30, 2011 pm30 3:44 pm 3:44 pm

    I just found out today that an excellent teacher from my school was extended. Great educator, popular teacher, super-involved in outside-the-classroom and school-wide organizing. There seems to be now reason why. It’s bizarre and upsetting.

  8. Arjun Janah permalink
    April 30, 2011 pm30 5:26 pm 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the information.

    A division by zero occurred in the main program of our K-12 education system many years ago. Since then, all that has followed has been largely futile.

    Although individual students, teachers, administrators and others may have continued to work in a sincere and logical fashion, even they, by not being able or willing to challenge the basis of things such as the ideology behind methodological or other dogmas, have allowed the nonsense to reach absurd and criminal levels.

    Of course, there has been more than one such division by zero. Unfortunately, they have not resulted in a net cancellation of errors. The primary reason why each mistake was not quickly caught and corrected is that there is no provision for corrective feedback regarding educational policies from the classrooms where most of the actual work of education goes on.

    The lack of robust feedback structures in both the administrative and union hierarchies has left the teachers and other workers without a voice. Channels such as this and articles such your current one provide such a voice — but, unfortunately, not yet loud and public enough to affect the needed corrective resistance and meaningful change. But one can only try. Thanks.

  9. Anon permalink
    April 30, 2011 pm30 9:31 pm 9:31 pm

    I know someone who was recommended for tenure by the principal. Highly recommended.

    It was denied by those above. That school has generally been a C or D.

    Same thing happened to my friend’s co-worker. That school has generally been an A.

  10. pbpcbs permalink
    May 1, 2011 am31 8:39 am 8:39 am

    Denying tenure is a cheap way of laying off teachers. This is wide-spread behavior (I’ve seen it in Westchester and I have acquaintances that have seen it in California, Missouri, and Kansas). It would be an interesting study to see if the number of denials and extensions has increased over the last couple years.

    I suspect that between denials and tenure grants, the number of “new” employed teachers has shrunk by at least 40% while the number looking for work has symmetrically increased. Given the long lead times (2+ years) and a teacher-education system that needs bodies to continue itself (what will colleges do with excess capacity if the number of undergraduate/graduate education majors drops sharply?), there will be a large pool of unemployed but employable bodies available. Balancing supply and demand means employed-teacher leverage declines significantly.

    I suspect teacher unions will need to undergo a massive transformation to survive. Randy’s “talk nice macho/kiss the administration/stab the membership in the back” approach will destroy the union by its inability to respond to the survival level pressures it faces. Perhaps we need to go back and study the period when immigrants so flooded the employment marketplace that unions formed in response to employer cruelties.

    Just early morning stream of consciousness here…

  11. Just the Facts permalink
    May 1, 2011 am31 11:16 am 11:16 am

    I know a handful of teachers whose tenure was extended. I do not know them all personally. These teachers are from 3 different schools. All teach HS math and science which are still considered high needs areas.

    I know the assessments of all but one of the teachers. Those teachers all had satisfactory ratings for all 3 years. Based on all their assessments, they all expected to receive tenure. Several found out in January or February that their tenure was being extended; the rest heard in the last weeks.

    I am sure you can imagine how demoralizing this is, not only to the teachers, but to their colleagues.

    There is a rubric w/ 3 areas rated, and 4 levels of ability viz. Ineffective, Developing, Effective, and Highly Effective. To be rated Effective [the level you need to reach to gain tenure] you have to show evidence of that level of proficiency for 2 years. Since the rubric was introduced in December of 2010, teachers (and administration) were unaware of some of the areas, if they didn’t meet any area this year, they will not be able to meet them next year b/c they will only have 1 year under their belt at that point.

    There is an “Extension of Probation Agreement” you must sign. If you do not, your employment will be discontinued. I do not know how much time people were given to consider the implications of signing. I have heard [tho I cannot confirm] that some teachers are expected to sign on the spot. I do know of some who were given 2 evenings to consider signing. The union tells teachers to sign it, confirming that you will be discontinued if you don’t.

    Among other stipulations, the agreement says:
    – you waive any possible rights, claims or causes of action for tenure as a [fill in type of teacher, subject] arising on or prior to [the date of tenure to be awarded]

    – you waive any rights, claims or causes of action and agree not to commence any claims, motions, actions or proceedings of whatever kind against the Chancellor, the Superintendent, the Principal, or the Department of Education of the City of New York, or any of their agents or employees for any actions taken or not taken, or statements made or not made by them prior to the date of this agreement.

    – you agree that you entered into this agreement freely, knowingly, and openly, without coercion or duress.

    – you affirm that you had an opportunity to seek legal counsel throughout these proceedings.

    I don’t think I need to explain why the last 2 above are very problematic given the circumstances.

    There are 9 other points on the agreement.

    All the teachers signed the agreement. At least one is staying on, at least one is resigning. I do not know the plans of the others.

    Here, I will veer from just the facts to say: I agree that the onus is on the Tweed and not the principals. But it is also my opinion that the union should be doing something more than telling probationary teachers that they should sign, and keep a portfolio for next year, especially given that not every principal looked at portfolios even if offered and some did not even ask for them. Given that expectations changed in the middle of a school year, and in light of that, 2 year in a row of performance may not even be possible NEXT year, why is there there is no push back?

    I support my union, but too often it doesn’t seem to support us.

    JD: I thank you so much for bringing this to light. I have not seen it mentioned anywhere else. It is an important element in the storm attacking schools and teachers for exactly all the reasons you mention above.

    • Just the Facts permalink
      May 1, 2011 pm31 12:46 pm 12:46 pm

      Sorry. The first sentence should have read: I know a handful of teachers whose probation was extended.

  12. May 4, 2011 pm31 9:42 pm 9:42 pm

    I was told I would be “extended probation” for next year for “not being confident at staff meetings.” (I was on a committee and had to present a few times at staff meetigns….guess I wasn’t “confident” enough.) However, I didn’t sign any agreement to waive any rights.
    I am not from NY but my state statute does state that I would be a tenure teacher the 4th year. Since there was no agreement for me to sign, does that mean if I end this year, that technically I am a tenured teacher, since I didn’t sign a waiver or agreement? My union rep actually told me she had never heard of a teacher being put on an extra year of probation…..so wouldn’t the state statute that a teacher renewed for their 4th year is a tenured teacher trump the fact that they told me I was on probation with no waiving of rights or an agreement signed? Now I’m wondering if I should contact a lawyer to see if this “extended year of probation” even sticks…

  13. Anonymous permalink
    May 8, 2011 pm31 7:33 pm 7:33 pm

    About Me:
    -I have been teaching for more than eight years – all but the last three were in the State of Texas.
    -I currently teach at a school that received an A.
    -The TDI from my first year in the DOE called me a “Low Performing” teacher – I had 67 students, zero failed, one got a two, all the rest earned threes and fours. From my reading of that TDI report, the growth rate of my students was -.07 which seems to me to be just about a years worth of growth, on average, for my students.
    -The new TDI report calls me “Average”, and it doesn’t mention the rate of student growth. I read this article: http://www.edwize.org/burying-the-bias-in-the-teacher-data-reports#_ftn2 and theorized that that could have something to do with the reason, but I will admit that all of these numbers and the analysis of them confuse me.
    -As far as this year goes, with two CTT classes and one SETTS class, not one of my students failed the predictive assessment. I have every confidence that my students were amazing on the ELA that they took this past week.

    Dear ______________,

    Attached is the extension letter that I received from my principal this morning. I had previously been recommended, but due to pressure from the superintendent, my principal was forced to give me and the five other people up for tenure Letters of Extension (she told him that if he didn’t give us the extension letters that she would fire all of us). All of the other teachers were given extension letters weeks ago, and the principal decided at the last minute on Friday to recommend tenure for them, but I got my extension letter today.

    I do not intend to sign the extension letter for several reasons. One, I am a teacher deserving of tenure (according to the rubric I was given in December) at a school in which I am a vital part of the community. Two, this process was time consuming and I will not go through it again. I spent months creating my tenure portfolio with the assurance from Alfred Gonzalez that the superintendent has promised that tenure would be handled on a case-by-case basis. I am an excellent educator, and my time needs to be spent innovating my classroom and not constantly worrying about how to present information about my classroom to a person that doesn’t seem interested in looking at it anyway.

    This process has really made me question the effectiveness of the public school system. I teach at a school that I am completely in love with. I have a relationship with every single one of my 90+ students. My students’ test scores have shown more than a year’s worth of growth. I communicate with parents every week through email and provide and update a website with information. I have 51 glowing letter of recommendations in my tenure portfolio from parents, students, and colleagues. If the Department of Education is willing to communicate to me that they aren’t sure of me as a teacher, then I am prepared to find other ways to utilize my gifts as an educator.

    Sincerely yours,

    When my principal gave me the extension letter on Friday he told me that he didn’t agree that I needed/deserved to have my tenure extended. He added that, “If you don’t come back, I’m not coming back.”

    I am officially “recommended” by the principal because he says he can’t change it, but…

    Last Friday, at the last minute, he decided to recommend all of us for tenure because he felt it was the right thing to do.

    The Superintendent basically told him that if he wanted to remain the principal, she would support him, but that if he wanted to leave, she’d understand. She also either told him or hinted to him that the staying and supporting wouldn’t happen unless he gave us all letters of extension (I was the only one that didn’t get one initially). She also told him that if he didn’t do it she would fire all of us. So this was a blanket extension – the superintendent hasn’t even looked at the beautiful portfolio that shows who I am as a teacher outside of faulty TDI reports (the reason I know this is that it has been in my possession except for the three days that the Assisstant Principal had it in her filing cabinet this week), and the principal told me that the superintendent has not been to the school and has not looked at it. It is now in my possession again because I want to make sure that I know if and when she looks at it.

    All of this was told to me by the principal.

    Yesterday, he gave me a Letter of Extension that I refused to sign. I have been assured by the UFT and the principal’s hunch is that I will be denied. Apparently, if that happens, I will be immediately removed from the classroom to await a hearing that will take “months.” I am prepared for this possibility.

    I am also assured by the UFT that I will probably lose. They really, really pressured me to sign it. But I won’t do it.

    It is nothing short of cruelty to give teachers a four-pronged rubric to satisfy and then not even look at if or how they satisfied it, and I don’t want to let them get away with it. But it does mean that I am probably going to lose my job because as a probationary teacher, I have no protections and they can fire me for any non-discriminatory reason they want. I spent hours and months putting together a true picture of the teacher they would be rewarding with tenure, and I am furious that it wasn’t even considered in the decision to extend.

    I believe the main reason they are giving is that our principal has only been at the school for two years (even though the rubric says that two years is what is required). Ironically, both the principal and superintendent approved tenure for two teachers last year after he’d only been there for one year, but I’m guessing that was because the pressure to deny, deny, deny was less last year than this year.

    When and if I am removed from the classroom, I have a feeling that there will be a lot noise from the parents based on the fact that with one request, I got thirty-four amazing letters of recommendation from them.

    I think that my only hope is for the principal to convince the superintendent that it won’t be worth it to deny me because I won’t remain silent about any of this.

    But it also means that I need to start planning for how I’m going to pay my rent and feed myself.

    But I know this. The thing about which I am most confident in myself is my ability to teach and reach kids, and to learn and grow throughout my “tenure” as an educator. I did a pretty good job of showing that in my portfolio. And once I got started creating it, I didn’t even regret the process. It helped me know who I am. And if the DOE isn’t sure of me as a teacher, then I am certainly sure that I do not want to work for the DOE.

    The irony is, I actually agree that tenure as it has been in the past is a problem and making the process more of a reward for excellence is a good idea, but I am so confident in my abilities as a teacher that I know that that is not what is happening here.

    My questions are:
    -Who are the teachers that are being granted tenure this year? What schools are the in? What kinds of schools are they in? What districts are they in? Who are they friends with?
    -If my colleague who is also up for tenure is being honest (and I have no reason to think they’re not), why did the principal say “off the record” that the DOE is trying to get the tenure approval rate down to 50%? Isn’t that a quota and against any philosophy of tenure becoming a reward that you can earn?
    -Why do the 2011 up-for-tenure teachers have to be the ones to suffer while the DOE tries to passively eliminate tenure by just not granting it to anybody? That seems patently unfair and downright shady.
    -Why is bullying being used as a tactic in tenure decisions?
    -Why is a person who has very little idea who I am as a teacher able to override the person who does?

    I’m sure I have other questions about the injustice of this (for both teachers and students), but I can’t think of them right now.

    I know that I can just sign the letter and keep my job, but my conscience tells me not to, and I don’t think I could make my hand sign it anyway.

    • Matthew Azimi permalink
      June 10, 2013 pm30 1:51 pm 1:51 pm

      I was denied tenure as well after three years of service. It was extended. I honestly don’t want to pay the UFT a single penny from my paycheck unless they start looking into why there is such a push to extend or deny tenure. I felt the same way, it had nothing to do with the kind of teacher I am but everything to do with politics. I work in a district 75 school in the south Bronx. I am the sibling of a severely disabled older sister and I wanted to work with this population for that very reason. I began working under an internship certificate and my first two years I was in grad school full time. Part of this year I was also teaching at a YABC (night school) program. I worked my butt off and incurred 100,000 dollars of student loan debt to deal with this non-sense. Parents, Teachers and Principals should be working together to hold students more accountable and raise expectations. Instead we are all divided and fighting. Why Bloomberg thinks this is “winning” for our students, I will never know. NYC DOE is utterly broken and everyone is loosing as the result.

      • Matthew Azimi permalink
        June 10, 2013 pm30 1:57 pm 1:57 pm

        losing

  14. Zulma permalink
    May 8, 2011 pm31 9:06 pm 9:06 pm

    It is outright manipulative for the superintendent to undermine the principal’s decision of granting tenure. The Klein boasted that principals should be empowered and given the autonomy to make decisions that will move their schools forward. I don’t remember hearing Klein say unless… There is so much hypocrisy by those who call themselves education leaders (supts). Our colleagues are being used for statistical/political reasons. Now I am fighting mad what they (DoE) are doing to them. Enough with the BS from those in Tweed. We need to get the facts on how many teachers received extentions from all the schools and let’s start looking at the pattern of this shinanigan.

  15. ANONYMOUS permalink
    May 12, 2011 pm31 9:02 pm 9:02 pm

    No classroom teachers at my school were tenured this year. I was asked to sign a letter of extension, after having been told before spring break that I would receive tenure, because my portfolio was turned in an hour late. I asked if there was anything wrong with my portfolio and was told “No, it was perfect.” I was told that the superintendent, who has never met me, thinks my late portfolio must mean I cannot handle the organizational and professional responsibilities of teaching even though several letters of commendation I have received over the last few years, included in my portfolio, suggest otherwise. I don’t understand how the superintendent could have read my entire portfolio and every other portfolio of every teacher or guidance counselor up for tenure in her district when they were turned into her on Saturday and I was asked to sign a letter of extension on Monday. I respect my principal and I love my school. If my principal really thinks I’m not ready for the “professional and organizational responsibilities of teaching,” then I accept her decision and will try to improve. But I do not respect a system that puts my career and livelihood in the hands of someone (the superintendent) who has never even visited my classroom. I do not respect a system that informs me in March that I have to make a tenure portfolio due in April that documents my three years of teaching, including samples of student work (who saves student work from three years ago?). I don’t respect a system that fails to set clear expectations for said portfolio and is vague about the purpose and due date. Thank god I decided in September to have my students keep their own portfolios so I had samples of their writing from their first test to compare with their current work. Additionally, I am frustrated because my one hour lateness was in part due to the fact that I was kicked out of my building at 5:30 the night before because the chancellor was visiting for a town hall meeting and, apparently, having a masters degree, being certified, passing fingerprinting and a background check don’t offer the DOE enough assurance to allow me to be in the same building as the chancellor. The following morning, the teacher copy machine (the only machine we are allowed to use) broke down and jammed four times while I was trying to photocopy student work. I would never have left photocopies to the last minute, but I wasn’t informed of the official due date until 10:00 pm two days before. It’s frustrating to have sacrificed so much for a job and then to be systematically neglected by my employers. Perfect example: I work in a classroom every single day that is infested with bed bugs. BED BUGS.

  16. Un-tenured teacher permalink
    May 18, 2011 pm31 10:24 pm 10:24 pm

    I work in district 16 and the superintendent there is denying tenure without providing any reasons why. Mind you the people who are being denied are people who actually care about educating the students and who have achieved measurable gains with their students.

  17. Anonymous permalink
    August 27, 2011 am31 6:13 am 6:13 am

    Who cares about tenure these days anyway?

    • Arjun Janah permalink
      August 27, 2011 am31 10:48 am 10:48 am

      I do.

  18. Anonymous permalink
    February 24, 2014 am28 12:58 am 12:58 am

    What I don’t understand is when a principal says that a person is not being recommended for tenure, does that mean, that they are still going to re-hire them as probationary or not re-hire at all? The union told me that there was no such thing and that it meant I was a “non-re-elect”

  19. eva permalink
    May 22, 2015 pm31 10:03 pm 10:03 pm

    This is my 2nd time being rejected for tenure. Everyone knows that I am a great special ed teacher in my building. I met the DOE rubric criteria and the reason I was given for not getting tenure the second time around “is that my students scores on state/local assessments are too low.” My students are cognitive disabled by at least 2-3 years. I think I do a fabulous job with them. I get them to tell time, write in cursive, improve their reading by at least 2-3 levels, and I focus on providing them with a strong math foundation; To help them achieve. Yet, I’m not deserving of tenure. However, a teacher in my building who has no classroom management, can barely speak English, and cannot teach gets it. How is this fair for the teachers who are working hard.The worst part was that my principal made it seem like I was going to get tenure and I feel like she has stabbed me in the back. She met with me and went through my portfolio and was amazed at the work I had done. Told me she would write the recommendation letter. I think the message they are sending is that I should seek employment somewhere else.

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