Shouting Fire In A Crowded Labor Negotiation

It’s on in DC….

Box Canyon? Doesn’t the Washington Teachers’ Union have something of a dilemma here? If they contest every firing of a veteran teacher, as is the general practice, that will illustrate Michelle Rhee’s point that the tenure policy in Washington D.C. is an obstacle to teacher quality. And if they don’t contest all of them doesn’t it make her point that there are some tenured teachers in the system who shouldn’t be teaching?

10 Replies to “Shouting Fire In A Crowded Labor Negotiation”

  1. Fortunately for them, there are *never* any unqualified tenured teachers in their union.

  2. Aside from the 80 fired under the 90 day plans, does anyone know the backstory on those fired for failing to obtain proper licenses? Is the license issue itself actually of major concern for Rhee, or were these teachers with negative track records?

  3. A few questions worth exploring: Are ineffective teachers in DC (and elsewhere) not fired because of archaic tenure rules or because of incompetent or ill-trained administrators who do not have the skill or time to evaluate teachers effectively? How many ineffective teachers teach poorly because they were ill-prepared in the first place (think lousy teacher education or short-cut alternative certification programs) and or forced to teach out of field? How many opportunities do we give our best teachers to assess their colleagues? Evidence suggests that in peer review school districts far more teachers are removed than in locales where only administrators in charge of teacher evaluation.

  4. I’m with Matthew Brown on his question regarding uncertified teachers. I am REALLY excited to see that someone is finally brave enough to fire teachers with bad evaluations. But are the uncertified teachers actually bad, or are we arbitrarily axing people who failed to jump through a hoop which was never that meaningful in the first place. Is Rhee really invested in the certification issue, or just in the performance issue?

  5. Some evaluators lie. Principals, occupiers of the most political position in any school, are not above lying or making stuff up to get a teacher fired. Teachers have no recourse either (aside from writing an addendum to the evaluation claiming the evaluation is erroneous). It’s Us v Them.

    Those evaluations consist of 15 minutes, 3 times a year, maybe every other year. No evaluator can make a careful evaluation in that short amount of time, unless the teacher is obviously terrible, or fabulous.

    Evaluations should be done by fellow teachers, not principals, many of whom have not been in a classroom for years and years.

  6. TFT,

    Do you think that perhaps the problem is that principals are only in the classrooms for 15 minutes, 3 times a year. Despite complaints of interference (NCLB), most teachers are still operate pretty independently, don’t they? Most still work in self-contained classrooms, I think.

    Letting teacher’s evaluate each other is essentially what happens in higher education with regard to tenure. It has it’s problems too.

  7. TFT: I agree with you that principals cannot always be trusted to give fair and impartial evaluations of teachers. As a former teacher, I agree with you on both points: (1) Principals spend almost no time in any one teacher’s classroom, and (2) Principals are not always acting impartially with sound, objective criteria.

    With regard to the first issue (very short observations), I personally never taught in a school where I was observed more than 1 or 2 hours. Per year. Sometimes this evaluation didn’t take place until the second semester (even as a new teacher).

    With regard to the second issue (objectivity of principals), in my teaching career I had better principals and worse principals. Even the good principals often had a difficult time evaluating teachers appropriately based on just a few minutes observation. One principal (who did not get along well with me) wrote an extremely negative evaluation of my class, at the same time another observer wrote a very positive evaluation. Principals are not all-knowing and are not without their own biases and emotions.

  8. Everyone brings up some interesting questions about teacher dismissal. I’m inclined to agree with Barnett Berry: peer evaluations strike me as both more rigorous and more fair.

    Stepping back from this discussion, however, I am struck by our focus here. In a large urban district, rife with problems, 100 or so teachers were identified as underperforming and soon thereafter fired. Granted, these firings may or may not have been on the up and up, but if we as a community of educators can’t handle such an action, we’ve got a very long way to go.

    On the other hand, there were those fired not for poor performance but rather bureaucratic missteps in their certification paperwork, and this is something I find unacceptable…

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