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Boston Teacher Ratings discriminate

January 5, 2014 pm31 9:08 pm

I missed this article in the Boston Globe – The Boston Teachers Union is grieving the evaluation process – claims pattern of discrimination against Black teachers, against men, and against older teachers.

They are asking for adverse consequences to be rescinded. Notice that this includes both dismissals, and teacher improvement plans. I believe in NYC we have not preserved the right to challenge a D rating that would lead to improvement plan type consequences for the following year.

Also note, the BTU is not waiting for statistical proof. They are moving on the first indications that there is discrimination. Also note, every anti-public school reform of the last dozen years, anywhere in the country, has hit Black kids and Black teachers the hardest. And many have hit older teachers disproportionately.

Boston Teachers Union contests ratings

By James Vaznis  GLOBE STAFF     DECEMBER 11, 2013

The Boston Teachers Union has filed a grievance with the School Department over its teacher evaluation system, asking school officials to rescind the “offending evaluations and improvement plans” and to stop discriminating against employees on the basis of race, gender, or age.

The union announced the grievance Tuesday morning in its weekly newsletter. The School Department fired back in the afternoon, issuing a press release and posting tweets that called the grievance an attempt to “block reform.”

The clash came months after the union first raised concerns that teachers who were African-American, Latino, male, or older were more likely to be rated “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory.” Those ratings are the lowest of four possible marks under the evaluation system, which was implemented during the last school year.

The union was swayed in the last few weeks to take formal action after the School Department released an analysis of teacher evaluations that revealed patterns of potential bias based on race, gender, or age.

“The Boston Teachers Union expects and wants great teachers in each classroom,” Richard Stutman, the teachers union president, said. The union “also expects that the School Department will not punish teachers on the basis of race, sex, or age.”

“We are not arguing against good performance evaluation; in fact, we welcome healthy and constructive feedback,” Stutman added. “But the evaluation process must be done in a way that does not discriminate.”

In all, 272 teachers regardless of race, gender, or age received a “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” rating last school year, representing 7 percent of teachers. About 30 are no longer in the classroom.

Interim Superintendent John McDonough said it was too soon to determine whether bias or discrimination exists, given that there is only one year of data. He said the School Department, in response to the concerns raised, is devoting more attention to bias prevention.

But McDonough said the union has taken the issue too far, demanding jobs back for poorly performing teachers.

“That is totally unacceptable,” he said. “Under no circumstance are we going to rehire poor-performing teachers.”

Under the grievance, which is dated Dec. 2, the union in its request to rescind the offending evaluations and improvement plans demanded that “affected teachers be made whole.”

Stutman said in an interview that the union has not decided which members would be covered under the “class-action” grievance. But he emphasized that the union is not seeking return of poorly performing teachers, but trying to ensure fair treatment for all.

The disparity in ratings among teachers of different backgrounds was quite wide in many cases. For instance, 9.7 percent of all black teachers received a needs-improvement rating, compared with 4.1 percent of white teachers; male teachers were almost twice as likely to receive that rating as female teachers; and 11.3 percent of teachers 60 and over were deemed needs improvement, compared with 5.6 percent of those in their 20s.

Tension over teacher evaluation is one of two simmering issues between the School Department and the union. The two sides also have been clashing over a School Department proposal to give principals more autonomy in hiring teachers, prompting the union to file a separate grievance.

James Vaznis can be reached at

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ed Reseach Forum permalink
    January 5, 2014 pm31 9:51 pm 9:51 pm

    Remember,UFT files grievances on systemic problems with the new teacher evaluation process. The Boston Teachers Union did it after us and to a great extent the scope of the grievances filed by the UFT which is related to the new teacher evaluation is more comprehensive than the BTU complaint. Here is the UFT press release then:

    From (

    News stories

    Guiding you through the system

    Evaluation problems ‘worse than imagined’

    UFT files grievances on systemic problems with teacher evaluation process

    by Maia Davis | November 14, 2013 New York Teacher issue

    The UFT has filed 17 union-initiated grievances over implementation of the new teacher evaluation system based on problems brought to the unions attention by teachers, chapter leaders and district representatives around the city.

    The grievances are over such issues as multiple evaluators coming into one classroom at the same time to observe a teacher and principals requiring teachers to submit written goals during the initial planning conference. The union believes neither of these is allowed under the evaluation system set up by state Education Commissioner John Kings order.

    We have been concerned since this order was handed down in June that the Department of Education would be unable to implement the evaluation system fairly, President Michael Mulgrew said. But the problems have been even worse than we had imagined.

    The city has 20 school days to respond to the grievances. After that, the UFT will begin to schedule the grievances for arbitration.

    Unlike grievances over treatment of an individual member, union-initiated grievances reflect systemic issues.

    The problem of principals demanding that teachers hand in written goals at the initial conference is, for example, widespread even though there is nothing in the commissioners order supporting such a mandate. At the initial planning conference, teachers are supposed to choose which observation option they want to use. While discussion of goals at this meeting is encouraged by the commissioners order, teachers cannot be ordered to provide written goals.

    Another grievance concerns principals usurping the authority of each schools committee on Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) to recommend assessments for use in teachers evaluations at that school. Principals arent supposed to make such decisions on assessments without first receiving the school committees recommendation. Each committee consists of members selected by the UFT chapter leader and the principal.

    The union has also filed a grievance contending that some schools have failed to schedule the minimum number of hours required each month for staff to work on administering and grading baseline assessments.

    Source URL:



    Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2014 01:08:26 +0000 To:

  2. suevanhattum permalink
    January 6, 2014 pm31 2:11 pm 2:11 pm

    Finally! What can we do to support them? Are they part of the NEA? WIll the NEA support them?

    (I wish the teachers’ unions had started fighting all the reform garbage a dozen years ago.)

  3. Zulma, retired math teacher permalink
    January 7, 2014 pm31 4:36 pm 4:36 pm

    I think BTU’s national union affiliation is with AFT. If that’s the case, what’s Randi’s take on Boston teacher’s evaluation that seems more discriminatory than evaluative. I can’t find an article on her say on it. Please post article. Just curious.

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