Monday, October 19, 2015

IS DEVELOPING THE NEW UNSATISFACTORY?

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?


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is sickening. What is even worse is that if the Friedrich case goes through there will be no union and there sure as Hell will not be any union lawyers to help these teachers rated developing. Private practice education lawyers are gonna be in short supply soon.

Michael Fiorillo said...

By any possible metric - negotiating skills, honesty, compassion and respect for the rank and file, classy behavior, take your pick - Michael Mulgrew is Ineffective.

Anonymous said...

Union lawyers helping teachers? Never heard of such a thing. At least not UFT lawyers.

Anonymous said...

NYSUT does indeed provide teachers a lawyer for 3020A hearings for free. (Free in the sense that your dues pay for the lawyer) Now, just how good those lawyers are is a different story. As mentioned above, if the Friedrich case is approved, any teacher who chooses not to join a teacher union will have that chance. However, those who choose not to join thier local teachers union will not have a lawyer to provide any services to them in the event of a 3020A hearing. I believe that plenty of teachers will choose not to join their local union but will have a lawyer that specializes in labor law on retainer.

Anonymous said...

Cost of union due: 100 per month approx...the uft covers prescription, vision and dental. I would leave the UFT in a second except for the fact that it would be hard to find this coverage for the same amount. any thoughts.... Open market closes soon... does anyone know what the GHI rider covers --- outside of drug rehab/mental health benefits

Bronx ATR said...

Our UFT dues do not pay any part of prescriptions, dental or vision. The city pays 100% of it via the UFT.
That shouldn't be your reason to remain a union member. Just talk to a charter school teacher for a half hour. The one I talked to worked 6 days a week from 8-5. She contributed 30% into her medical coverage and she could be terminated for any reason whatsoever. She just moved back out West.

Anonymous said...

A lot has changed in the last two years for United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
Two years ago, he was shepherding the city teachers union through the waning days of the Bloomberg administration and fending off threats to teachers’ job protections. Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio has proven a faithful partner for the union, supporting its agenda on improving struggling schools and schools’ role in addressing poverty.
The union’s improved relationship with City Hall has come with ample benefits, Mulgrew said in an interview with Chalkbeat Tuesday. But he said it has also stripped the union of a useful organizing strategy — a built-in opponent to rally members around.
“As a union leader, it’s always great to have a foe,” Mulgrew said. “But as a teacher, it’s better that you can concentrate on what you know is going to make the profession better, and therefore your members’ lives and the fulfillment of what they’re trying to do, better. How do you marry the two is really the question.”
Mulgrew has so far seemed to answer that question by focusing the union’s sharpest criticism on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and charter-school operator Eva Moskowitz, while holding back on some issues that he would have used as opportunities to attack City Hall under Bloomberg. He celebrated a decline in the city’s class sizes this week, but last year declined to criticize de Blasio even even though classes had grown, for example.
And while tensions are at a low in New York City, Mulgrew said he still has a responsibility to participate in national debates about teaching. “There’s still a fight for the profession,” he said, alluding to the growth of charter schools, which tend not to have unionized teachers, and debates about using test scores to evaluate teachers.
“It is an interesting dynamic as it shifts,” he said. “Relishing the fight is great, but I think what I’m doing right now is more important in terms of building a workforce that will move the profession and education to a much better place.”

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Chalkbeat. Is there worse educational "journalism" out there? Why didn't the author ask teachers if they agreed with Mulgrew's opinions? Mulgrew is not the UFT. Just because things are better for him doesn't mean things are better for teachers. Mulgrew needs to go.

eshetchayil said...

Methinks your Emperor is naked.

Anonymous said...

Re comment by Anonymous Oct 21 @12:45pm: Mulgrew knows he's known as weak on fighting for teachers so what does he do? He simply rejects the premise that there's anything to fight NYC over. This is not grounded in fact. Teachers on the frontlines of the classrooms know that there’s plenty to challenge DeBlasio and Farina on so Mulgrew’s disingenuous claim that “Relishing the fight is great, but I think what I’m doing right now is more important in terms of building a workforce that will move the profession and education to a much better place” is nothing more than a political maneuver. It’s just another false claim of “victory” on Unity’s part. Class size is higher in NYC than in suburban districts. Thirty-two first graders is still the cap---RIDICULOUS! Windowless closets are still used as classrooms. DOE legal is still tasked with enabling the DOE to harass and unfairly target teachers (example: ATR’s being forced to teach outside their license area and then observed and rated poorly). NYC claims that retro payment on October 1st really means October 15th and Unity backs that claim. There’s plenty left to fight NYC on and if I gave this more than 5 minutes of thought I could produce a laundry list of NYC failures that hurt students and teachers—all of which Mulgrew is too afraid to challenge. Mulgrew and Unity are trying to paint those who do actually fight the good fight as people who just relish fighting for fighting sakes---fools pointing their swords at windmills. Nothing could be further from the truth. MORE, ICE, New Action, UFT Solidarity are all caucuses within the UFT that recognize Mulgrew and Unity Leadership have failed us. They are comprised of people who recognize that Mulgrew and Unity are more concerned with protecting DeBlasio and Farina than protecting their own membership and now Unity is trying to sell us a load of horse manure by claiming there are no more “foes” in the NYC DOE. It’s nothing more than a Unity political strategy to make themselves look good and their opponents look bad. I’m not buying it and neither are the teachers I work with. I support the MORE Caucus because they have steadfastly fought the good and very necessary fight. To suggest that the good people of MORE or any other caucus challenging the Unity status quo are people who just like to fight for fighting’s sake is a baseless characterization. It was MORE Caucus Member Jia Lee who tried to put forth a resolution to help members on approved leave who were denied retro. It was Unity who voted the resolution down. Nothing left to fight the NYC DOE on? Mulgrew and Unity are full of crap! Roseanne McCosh PS 8x

Anonymous said...

Yes Rosanne.

Anonymous said...

I do know of a teacher who has been brought up on 3020a charges after having two Advance ratings of developing. The teacher is currently preparing his case. The UFT has enabled principals to target teachers by using the new observation as a punitive measure. Instead of assisting teachers the UFT has allowed for the abuse of teachers by inexperience and retaliatory principals and their staff. Many good teachers are being harassed daily by inept principals and their AP's. If we don't fight for our rights lot of good teachers will continue to leave the system.

SquadFor Life36 said...

Yes. My husband is currently going through this. Yet he never had a peer validator assess his teaching skills.