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.


Richard Skibins said...

For three years, even before this garbage contract, I have been telling some my colleagues who have been harassed and given trumped-up "U" ratings on observations to secretly videotape their observations. While some might say that this cannot be done without the permission of the parents, let me ask you this: Do you need the permission of the parents to videotape your lessons for Albany?

Chaz said...

A pity, a real pity. However, Randi & gang are clueless about the classroom and she could not have cared less on giving up the rights of the classroom teacher as long as she and her flunkies recieved the same 15%.

Anonymous said...

Right on Richard. I've been telling people the same. If the school administration won't allow it I would use that fact to claim they are afraid of having an independent agent see the tape so they can continue to make up stuff. If necessary, send home permission slips at the beginning of the year asking for blanket permission. If a parent says NO, position the child so he/she is not in the tape.

Anonymous said...

You are setting up a very dangerous precedent by asking for a video. It can also work against a teacher. However, all parents give or don't give their permission in the beginning of the year which would automatically include Albany.

Anonymous said...

We should secretly videotape our observations, then, if given a U, hire our own lawyers and sue the SOB's!

Anonymous said...

As usual this is unsubstantiated rumermongering. Clearly, the new number of U ratings aren't officially in yet, but to date there's no indication of an increase in U ratings. It may be summer time, but the folks in the ICE lair should start to do their homework.

Anonymous said...

Let's see. My old elementary school reports 7 U's out of a staff of about 35. Lafayette HS had 9 U's. Anecdotal evidence points to a vast increase in U's. You guys at central should have the figures. Why not report them school by school? I know all 800 + Unity people are in Boston for the AFT convention that we are paying for this week but maybe when you all get back.

Anonymous said...

Do your homework the same way Casey and Zahler did their UTP homework . They are experts, and highly paid experts, at rumermongering. Use their method, too: slander, first; lie, second.
Follow their lead, boys. You don't have to know what you're talking about: just say anything.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that no one has caught on to the reason for the attack on senior teachers. In the next contract negotiation Bloomie will, as he just did with the cops, demand PERB fact find. He will present this large number of senior 'U's as reason to find for a change in tenure and in seniority rules. He's building his case now and in the coming year to demand an end to all seniority protections and to ask the legislature to approve changes in tenure mandates.

Anonymous said...

Tenure is a non-issue for the DOE. They are happy that so many teachers leave after a few years - they just plug in another body. The whole plan is to make the system "teacher-proof." They never have to pay pensions and tenure is irrelevant for most people.

By attacking the older teachers and forcing out as many as they can they also make tenure less of a factor.

Their goal: haev all teachers turn over every 5 years.

It works well for the UFT too. New people will never organize an opposition to Unity. Both the DOE and the UFT can skim off enough newbies with offers of supervisor, lead teacher, union advancement, etc to keep their power.

Anonymous said...

To Jeff Zahler and all of our Unity Readers-

The article from the NY Post confirms what ICE has been saying about increases in U ratings.



NY Post

August 9, 2006 -- The number of city teachers who received failing
grades from their principals inched upward last school year - the
latest increase in a trend that has emerged since the Bloomberg
administration won control of the school system in 2002.
According to the Department of Education, 981 public school teachers
received an "unsatisfactory" rating in the 2005-06 school year - an
increase of 2.5 percent over the previous year and a whopping 70.6
percent spike since 2002-03.

Notably, tenured teachers have been increasingly making up a larger
percentage of unsatisfactory or "u-rated" teachers. Tenured teachers
comprised roughly 68 percent of the u-rated instructors last year,
compared to nearly 58 percent three years earlier.

That spike troubled the president of the United Federation of
Teachers, Randi Weingarten, who suggested a correlation between the
jump and a growing number of rookie principals, particularly those
trained at the city-run Leadership Academy.

"The anecdotes we hear from the field are that principals from [the
academy] do not respect experience," Weingarten said. "The moment a
teacher says, 'I know how to teach,' principals from the institute
will actually threaten them with a u-rating."

She added that while u-ratings stayed relatively flat last year,
there were spikes at schools with new principals.

The recent jump follows a significant change in the city's new UFT
contract - eliminating teachers' right to file a grievance seeking
that letters of reprimand from their principals be removed from their
work records.

Teachers may still appeal their u-ratings - and the union says it has
not seen a spike in disciplinary letters - but the change was viewed
by many rank-and-file instructors as an ominous sign that principals
were being given an unbridled authority to intimidate them.

"Principals have too much power," said Marsiste Adolphe, who has
taught health to special-education students at PS 811 in Brooklyn for
10 years and learned this week that he had received his first "u."

He said he believed his rating stemmed from a complaint he lodged
about corruption at his school. "They use u-ratings as a retaliatory
tool and it's gotten worse," he said.

Education Department spokesman Keith Kalb acknowledged that the
increase in u-ratings has coincided with the implementation of Mayor
Bloomberg school reforms, but added that the reforms "always focused
on accountability at all levels."

Anonymous said...

More evidence on why we need a stronger contract and not a weaker one. U ratings are up and the union printing its alert that they are not up is false.

New York Daily News
Why 981 bad-apple teachers is too few
Sunday, August 13th, 2006

This week, New York got good news and bad news about teachers in its public school system. They were hidden in one and the same fact: the number of teachers getting failing grades increased last year, to 981 systemwide.
Let's look at the positive interpretation of the numbers first. A system that's incapable of identifying incompetence is never going to inspire excellence. And 981 teachers being rated "U" (unsatisfactory) for the 2005-06 school year is, by New York standards, a high number. It represents a 70.6% jump over 2002-03. That means more principals are taking the critical first step of distinguishing between high- and low-quality performance.
The numbers are bad news, however, for two reasons. First, because common sense - and experience in other fields and industries - should tell us that 981 remains a very low number. There are some 80,000 teachers citywide. We know that the school system as a whole isn't educating kids satisfactorily. Only about half of students in grades three, five, six and seven test at grade level on citywide exams in English and math. Given this, it's basically impossible that almost 99% of teachers are making the grade.
Second, the numbers are bad news because the system only sought to remove 21 tenured instructors from their jobs last year. That means hundreds of teachers the system itself admits to being unsatisfactory continue teaching New York City schoolchildren.
Despite serious reforms to the teachers contract that make it easier to make "U" ratings stick - reforms for which Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein deserve real credit - it remains a serious burden on principals to actually remove teachers who can't do the job.
This mirrors what's happening around the country. In the entire state of Illinois, despite reforms that were supposed to make it easier to remove bad teachers, an average of just two per year are fired for poor performance. In Florida, a 2004 report revealed that more than half a million students sat in classrooms in front of teachers who failed the state's basic skills tests.
It is long past time we reinvented teaching in America. Some teachers, surely thousands in New York City, do a tremendous job and deserve recognition and rewards to match. Some do an adequate job and could use more support. And some are simply not cut out to teach.
Better public schools are the key to New York's, and the nation's, future success. First-rate teaching is the key to better public schools. What are we waiting for?
Gerstner, former chairman and CEO of IBM, founded The Teaching Commission.