Many of us warned the UFT leadership that we were going into uncharted territory with the new teacher evaluation system. Before the UFT agreed to allow former State Education Commissioner John King to arbitrate the matter, we tried to tell the union's leadership to fight as nothing would go forward without union negotiations. Now that we have finished two years under the new evaluation system and are again negotiating an even newer one that will probably not be an improvement, the Department of Education is setting dangerous precedents under the evaluation system that is euphemistically called Advance. I was surprised to find out recently, when a teacher called me to protest, that there are teachers being charged under State Education Law with incompetence after receiving two ratings of developing. I recall the UFT telling us that developing was equal to satisfactory.
Developing is not the lowest of the four possible ratings teachers can receive in Advance. The four ratings are highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective. Only an ineffective rating can be appealed. Developing couldn't be challenged because according to the union the only difference between a developing and an effective rating was that the developing teacher had to have a Teacher Improvement Plan.
A tenured teacher with two ineffective ratings in a row is presumed to be incompetent under the new system. The burden of proof is on that tenured teacher to prove they are not incompetent in order keep their job in a state dismissal hearing. To put it bluntly, that burden is next to impossible for teachers to meet, particularly if a Peer Validator agrees with the principal's judgement.
According to President Michael Mulgrew, speaking at last week's Delegate Assembly meeting, 30% of the teachers rated ineffective in 2013-2014 (year one) had Peer Validators say they were not ineffective when they observed them in 2014-2015 (year two). These lucky few will hold onto the rights they always had as tenured teachers, meaning the burden of proof will stay with the DOE in disciplinary hearings. The unlucky 70%, hundreds of tenured teachers, will now be presumed to be incompetent. Most will probably soon be terminated unless the new evaluation system doesn't hold up in court.
But what about teachers rated developing the last two years? The high school teacher who called me told me that the New York State United Teachers' attorney said that the DOE was violating the spirit of the State Education Law by charging someone with incompetence who never received an ineffective rating. The DOE is saying there is nothing in the law that says they can't charge a teacher rated developing with incompetence. Yes, the burden of proof stays with the DOE but they do not appear to be interested in justice as much as backing up principals no matter what and instilling fear in teachers.
It would seem to me the DOE is continuing the Bloomberg-Klein era policy of just throwing tons of charges at teachers to see what will stick. Since hearing officers are aware they will be thrown off the panel at the end of the year if they don't please the DOE, very few teachers are not found guilty of something. Usually teachers end up fined and/or suspended. Basically, the process, as some have relayed to me, is a legalized form of extortion. In addition, teachers found guilty of something, even something very minor, are usually removed from their school assignment and become Absent Teacher Reserves. Administrators can get rid of a teacher with two developing ratings if this disciplinary process is upheld.
Has anyone else heard of developing teachers ending up in disciplinary hearings charged with incompetence?