Wednesday, July 12, 2006
It’s the New Contract Stupid: “Insider” Hints at Reason For Increased “U” Ratings
While the numbers are not officially in, it is abundantly clear that the number of “U” ratings has substantially increased. Reports from schools around the City indicate that large numbers of senior and beginning teachers are being targeted for discipline. A person close to the Office of Appeals and Review (the office handling appeals of U-ratings) has confirmed this trend and stated that the number of U-ratings appears to be the highest in recent memory.
We all know how this trend started. It is no secret that as part of the changes in our contract the principals received an increase in the ability to select and remove their staff. We can no longer grieve letters to the file which, in the past, could tie up a U-rating for years and subject negative letters to arbitrators who might destroy the underpinnings of the unsatisfactory evaluation in their award.
Principals who, in the past, might have been reluctant to write letters to the file now order their Assistant Principals to write observations that can only be challenged at an appeal before a Chancellor’s representative, not an independent hearing officer.
No one could seriously argue that there are no unsatisfactory teachers in our system. The issue becomes, as we have said since the new contract was proposed, who decides. When a principal decides to target a teacher our new procedure makes it extremely difficult to prevent disciplinary action and eventual dismissal.
With this increase in U-ratings where does our Union stand?
I have received a large number of emails and telephone calls from recently U-rated teachers. By and large the Union’s advice to these teachers is, “Don’t worry; we’ll take care of it.”
Amazingly this advice is also given to probationers (many Teaching Fellows) who are dismissed after receiving U-ratings. Waiting can only deprive you of your day in court as the statute of limitations to challenge a dismissal in court is only 120 days after notice that you have been dismissed. You are still entitled to a U-rating appeal but winning the appeal will not get you your job back.
Is there an effective strategy to combat negative observation reports? Can you tape your own observed lesson? Can your performance be assessed by a qualified supervisor?
I hope our Union can answer these questions and provide the kind of guidance and advocacy we need. We should demand no less.