Good Teacher Bill of Rights

Let’s leave aside the thorny question of whether bad teachers exist and what rights they should have in being evaluated. And forget about money. Imagine there were only good teachers. What “rights” should good teachers have?

My Top Ten in the comments below.

– Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

6 Replies to “Good Teacher Bill of Rights”

  1. As a good teacher, I am entitled to:

    1. Help with low-end tasks

    Grading papers, photocopying, hanging stuff on bulletin board, etc.
    Can my school give me 8, 5, even 3 hours a week of help to do these
    menial tasks?

    2. Help with tutoring kids with very low skills

    As a middle or high school teacher in particular, I can’t concurrently
    remediate 20 to 40 of my 100+ kids. Just can’t.

    3. Fairly easy access to stuff

    Books, pens, paper, photocopying. I want to order stuff from a
    catalog and get it the next day. I want wide latitude here so long as
    I’m not a hog. And I want cabinets full of this stuff that I can
    simply walk up to and grab stuff.

    4. Immediate response to any physical classroom needs

    Heat, air-conditioning, furniture, internet or email down, etc. I
    realize sometimes it can’t be fixed right away, but in that case, I
    need daily updates.

    5. Opportunity to evaluate all meetings, professional development, etc
    on a 1 to 10 scale — and have the average score sent to me and all

    Remember, this is the Good Teacher Bill of Rights — I’m not trying
    “to get out” stuff that will help me drive gains in achievement. I
    just need to make sure the principal knows when our time is being

    6. Roughly 20 hours per week with kids

    Assume I’ll give you another 40 minimum so that those 20 hours go
    well. But when you give me 5 classes a day, plus advisory, plus lunch
    duty, plus some sort of oversight of a club, my performance plummets.

    7. Least restrictive teaching environment…

    As a good teacher, I’m cool with certain schoolwide procedures and
    consequences: all kids need to sit up, dress code, take notes in
    class. I’m cool with schoolwide protocols like a silent Do-Now, clear
    Aim on the board, ticket to leave which measures if kids learned the
    Aim. After that, hold me accountable for whether kids actually
    achieve the Aims, but give me latitude on room set-up, pacing, kids
    working alone or in pairs or groups, choice of novels and plays, etc.

    8. Paperwork Reduction Act; Open, Honest Conversation About Hours

    I want from school leaders a good faith estimate of how long it will
    take to get everything done — planning, grading, analyzing data,
    calling parents, writing college recs, etc, etc. I promise not to
    say woe-is-me when that number is way over 40 hours, I just want

    9. Good Teaching Colleagues

    If I wanted to be the one to fire bad teachers, I’d be a principal.
    I’m not. You do it. Support people until they prove to be un-
    coachable, or, after enough intervention without success, they simply
    aren’t on track to be good enough.

    10. Paraprofessional-Teacher Mutual Clarity, Choice, Accountability

    Please don’t plop some random lady in my room. If a para will be in
    my class, I need clarity. Ideally I choose that person (and that
    person chooses me), I’m the boss, we write out a mutually agreed upon
    and detailed contract and evaluation process, I show a lot of
    appreciation, but if things are going poorly, I can get rid of that

  2. Doesn’t have the guts to recommend that a peer go, but wants authority to fire a para… hmmn… I think there’s a contradiction between #9 and #10.

  3. Sherman, why is that a contradiction? Unless you think that paras and teachers are peers, that there should be no hierarchy?

  4. A good teacher needs
    1) A data system that works well for her to record academic results, so that they can be easily analyzed.
    2) A school with high expectations for teachers, students, and their families, and clear consequences (positive and negative) following when these expectations are met and not met.
    3) A principal and other teachers that observe frequently, share resources, and provide critical feedback so that each classroom is continuously improving.
    4) Some one else in the classroom, either to make copies, work individually with students as I work individually with others in small groups, to provide feeback, share in the load of planning, etc. A built in collaborative partner.
    5) Parents with high expectations for their students, also seeking to continuously improve parenting their child through school.
    6) A/C and running water would be nice, but I didn’t have this in my years of teaching in the inner city, so it’s not critical.
    7) Time. To reflect on data and plan engaging units and lessons. To watch other quality teachers. To collaborate and group plan if needed. In general, time for professional development.
    8) A curriculum would have also been nice, one that can be added to and subtracted from as the needs of the class change.

  5. The principle of teacher autonomy being one of the most valued ideals in public education, intrusion into the professional judgement of teachers must be considered a very serious matter. Though, parents, visitors, administrations, and above all former and current students are always welcome in the classroom for purposes of collaboration, conversation, evaluation, or to just say “hi,” outsiders who seek to alter or correct the the modes of instruction chosen by the teacher must realize that the burden of proof is on them. Above all, no policy advocates, reformers, administrators or outsiders may seek to impose curiculum alignment or pacing mandates over-riding the professional experience of teachers except when they have a preponderance of evidence of the effectivenss of proposed changes in instruction. Although a teacher must be held accountable for knowing and explaining diagnostic data and state of the art research, no teacher or no teacher’s pedagogy may be evaluated by test scores alone, by comparing data from one type of classroom or school to another, or statistical models designed for other purposes.

    All quantitative assessments must be complemented by qualitative assessments. Although teachers are accountable for following all reasonable regulations and procedures in assessing disciplinary consequences, no teacher may be evaluated by disciplinary data. There must never be a predetermined opinion of the proper number of disciplinary actions are required, but an assessment of whether the proper number of actions are taken in a caring and professsional manner for the best purposes of the child, knowing that no human beings has the wisdom to make those judgments accurately.

    Care must be taken to not overdo the use of insipid cliches such as “High Expectations!” No Excuses! or “Whatever it Takes!” Due diligence must be made by older educators to keep younger teachers from burning themselves out. Veteran educators must be willing to “widen their strike zones” and addressing behavioral challenges outside their purview. “No rookies on rookies” meaning no rookie teacher in a high-poverty neighborhood school should be assigned to freshmen.

    at no time, not even for thee most righteous of reasons, must educators forget that they not only serve students, parents, and the community; but also the timeless values of teaching and learning; reverance for the liberals arts and fine arts; democracy, the rule of law, including the integrity of Collective Bargaining Agreements; and the “Great Chain” of learning the “seamless web” of learning. Primitive efforts to break up learning into measuable pieces must be condemned. Long-term education values must never be subordinated for a one-time boost in performance. No policy wonk or adminstrator may impose reductionistic mandates that disrespect the whole of students’ dignity or reduce their learning to a test score.

    Of course, i’m kidding – mostly.

    But seriously, I’ve been wondering about this. Where did we get the idea that it is the role of central offices to do much more that conduct administrative duties, pay the light bills, and do paperwork? Where did we get the dea that non-teachers were qualified to guide reform efforts? We sure don’t think that states have that capacity and of course the federal government doesn’t.

    But back to the Bill of Rights, I’d say that cruel and unusual punishments like drawing and quartering be prohibitted except for the inventors or Criterion Reference Tests, VAMs for evaluation purposes, and whoever had the crazy idea that “output measurements” could drive educational reform. And central offices that impose those measures on the classroom as opposed to imposing them on the central office must then by consigned to the deepest circle of Hell.

  6. 11. Access to IEP data at in a reasonable time-frame: If a student needs accommodation or has a chronic issue, and there is documentation of that need. I want to know about it from the teachers who have worked with that need in September, not December.

    12. Protection of classroom time: Principals agree to help establish a school culture where PA announcements are rare during class, guidance does not pull students out of class at anytime, and any necessary changes to the day schedule are announced in advance, whenever possible.

    13. Honesty of expectations: If you as a principal expect a certain behavior from me, I have the right to know about it. I should not have to read between the lines to judge what you desire for your school as a whole.

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