Back in November 2010 Mayor Bloomberg and then Chancellor Klein announced "sweeping changes" to the tenure system in the New York City school system. They claimed that tenure was a "rubber stamp" process and needed to be overhauled to assure high quality teachers remained in the system.
Where was the UFT in all of this? Right behind Bloomberg and Klein. In fact Mulgrew "welcomed" the new, overhauled process and help bring in the new evaluation system that was made a part of it.
Then in December the principals were given general guidelines based on "Framework for Teaching" developed by Charlotte Danielson and a rubric. They were instructed to use these guidelines in making tenure decisions.
The UFT either supported the guidelines, as Weingarten signaled in February, or remained silent and complacent. In fact UFT borough offices began to hold information sessions where superintendents were invited to "explain" the new rules to probationers. These included a mandated portfolio, prepared by teachers up for tenure, in which they highlighted their probationary accomplishments within the rubric.
By May 1, the DOE imposed deadline for principals all recommendations and portfolios were to be submitted to superintendents for final review.
Then the surprise. Although it was common knowledge for almost two years that rates for extensions of probation and probationary terminations were geometrically increasing the UFT stood by and did nothing fearing that if they attacked the new rules they would somehow be perceived by the public that they were protecting incompetent teachers.
Reports from all over the city came in which proved that the "new rules" were a sham. Superintendents told teachers that if they worked in poorly rated schools they were not eligible for tenure. Teachers were told they did not have enough time with their last principal to be properly evaluated or their portfolios did not make the grade even though many of them were not even reviewed.
With all of the evidence in what does the UFT do? It makes a Freedom of Information Request to determine the number of teachers affected by irrelevant criteria in end of probation decisions. Mulgrew's letter demonstrates how fearful the UFT is of the DOE. The fact that the letter went out to Chapter Leaders instead of the entire membership and that they waited until the middle of the summer to start their feeble attack clearly indicates they have no real interest in changing the DOE tenure policy both in its design and in its implementation.
A note on tenure…
We have explained before, in this blog, what tenure is and what it isn't. Briefly stated the law defines tenure as that period of time, usually 3 years, where a teacher has performed satisfactorily. Tenure fundamentally changes the employment rights of a teacher from being an "at-will" employee while under probation and fired for any or no reason at all to one that is entitled to a due process hearing where the DOE must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the teacher should be fired before an arbitrator.
Education Law 3012 provides, in relevant part: "At the expiration of the probationary term…, the superintendent of schools shall make a written report to the board of education …recommending for appointment on tenure those persons who have been found competent, efficient and satisfactory, consistent with any applicable rules of the board of regents adopted pursuant to section three thousand twelve-b of this article. ...Each person who is not to be recommended for appointment on tenure, shall be so notified by the superintendent of schools in writing not later than sixty days immediately preceding the expiration of his probationary period."
The statute provides that tenure decisions must be made solely on a teacher's competence, efficiency and satisfactory service. The part of the statute which refers to State Regulations only refers to the new, 4 part, evaluation system, effective September 2011 which make no mention of probation or tenure at all.
So why is the UFT so conspicuously absent in the face of such a radical change in working conditions for so many teachers? Perhaps, their lawyers believe that since tenure is not a subject of bargaining there is legally little they can do. While, admittedly, legal avenues are limited although there are actions that can be brought if the Union knew or cared about its members.
Now, we must wait for a FOIL request to be filled (they can take months or even years) and teachers who have provided competent, efficient and satisfactory service must serve additional probation time or be terminated.