Day Late (And Millions Short?)

I’m a day late but great Washington Post editorial yesterday about the arbitration ruling in D.C. this week. It’s worth pointing out that the actual technicality this case turned on (the teachers were not told of the exact reason for this dismissal) isn’t a requirement of city law but rather a procedural step in the collective bargaining agreement.  Because of all the moving parts in D.C. (new collective bargaining agreement with different rules, new evaluation system, and interaction with city code) that’s the issue this ruling and any appeal will turn on.  Read the entire ruling, and you should, via this link (pdf).

Couple of bigger picture takeaways from this episode:

First, unfortunately, things have become so litigious (and not just in education) that supervisors are often told not to go into detail on reasons for termination.  This is obviously at odds with a the idea of a professional culture and does shortchange employees.  Though I’m a skeptic on the outcomes from many peer-review programs today, this feedback aspect is undoubtedly a plus for them.

In terms of DC, for those watching for the real signals about the direction of education policy in Washington, the city’s next move is key. This one should be appealed, millions in public dollars and the quality of teachers in front of students is at stake.

More generally, the next time you hear someone say how easy it is to remove low-performing teachers who are new, think again. This episode is exceptional in its scale but does illustrate the Verdun-like quality to interactions like these.   Finally, and perhaps most importantly given the national conversation, next time you hear teachers union leaders proclaiming that they, too, have no patience for low-performing teachers and don’t want them in front of classrooms either remember this episode. Almost no one is arguing this group of teachers should be in front of students (and be sure to read the excerpts about performance/conduct in the ruling) but the local teachers union is cheering this as a big victory.  And while it’s a chance for national leaders to stand up and be counted on a pretty easy call – yet instead silence.  Play ’em off Keyboard Cat…

15 Replies to “Day Late (And Millions Short?)”

  1. The United States has one of the strongest judicial systems in the world. If these teachers were indeed “ineffective,” their dismissal will probably stand. But if there was even one effective teacher among them, that person will have his job back, plus back pay. That’s what our system is about: defense of the individual. Am I the only one who believes that teachers were let go to make room for people from Rhee’s organization?

    I trust our system. Do you?

  2. If “things have become so litigious (and not just in education) that supervisors are often told not to go into detail on reasons for termination” then a competent chancellor would have made sure that principals would have had proper instructions.

    Rhee’s lack of competence is another argument for peer review. In such a system, the union would have helped lay down ground rules – the rules that Rhee ignored or did not know. Besides, in her type of culture of accountability, few administrators are likely to tell the boss what the boss needs to know.

    And given our litigious society, had Rhee’s account of firing 266 teachers in the Bee Eater been revealed earlier, would that have reopened their case? Whitmire’s account seems to document an abuse of due process bordering on fraud on the part of Rhee. Perhaps her Children’s First should be accountable, and foot the bill…

    Seriously, move forward on vams for evaluation in the hands of administrators getting their marching orders from people like Rhee, and you’ll really see a legal battle of Verdun.

    By the way, are you saying that the new agreement should be applied retroactively. Are you saying that the U.S. Constitution should protect everyone but teachers?

  3. I believe Linda was saying something funny before about how easy it really is to get rid of bad teachers, and about how unions represent teacher and student interests equally.

  4. Hi there.

    I am from a third world country and I’m a teacher. I would just like to know how you categorically consider a teacher a “bad” teacher or “low-performing” teacher in the states?

    What is your personal criteria for a good teacher? and what made the bad, bad teachers?


  5. It doesn’t surprise me to see you guys blame the union for the arrogant toxicity of Michelle Rhee’s actions, whose arbitrary and capricious deeds are the reasons the arbitrator struck down the decision to fire the teachers. But, then, teachers are supposed to roll over and take it anytime the urge strikes the oligarchs, no explanation required–right? As long as we labor law and unions, we will have certain due process guarantees under those laws. Blame Rhee or blame the Law if you don’t like the outcome, but I know, that’s not any fun when you have teachers to kick around.

  6. I hope that justice and fairness will prevail. Its just a pain my heart if those teacher same as me will experience injustice and the government and due process won’t do anything to fight for the rights and dignity of these teachers

  7. violation of collective bargaining agreements isn’t a “technicality”.

    here’s what the judge said:

    “The process used in this case was so devoid of due process as to be arbitrary and capricious. It nullified the right of the probationers to an effective use of the grievance and arbitration procedures.”

    Hardly a “technicality”.

  8. Right on hb.

    It is not surprising that Andrew calls the editorial “great.”
    It starts with 4 examples of bad teachers to denigrate the others. Like Rhee did with the 200+ teachers she riffed then described as abusers and having had sex with students.

    Who would want to keep them around?

    But its right out of the professional education reform book, as co-written by Mr. Rotherham.

  9. As we approach Presidents’ Day, let’s give thanks for living in a country where the autocrats are run out of town and each American is guaranteed due process, even if he is “just” a teacher. That said, it’s scary to think how the recession has caused the rich and powerful to push aside the little guy in a mad quest for the tax dollar. Thankfully, the press is catching on, and things are beginning to go back to normal.

    God bless America!

  10. The fear of being taken to court is resulting in a lack of transparency. People need to be told precisely why they are being dismissed , failure to do so might even result in more litigation.

  11. Why is so difficult for you to admit that your beloved Michelle Rhee did something wrong? If you are going to be gung-ho about terminating people, why not do it in the correct fashion so that decisions stick? Kaya will be cleaning up several similar messes like these, which ultimately undermines the mission, which is to serve kids. Your obvious bias for Michelle Rhee regardless of her missteps, makes it difficult to take you seriously. Regardless of whether she’s your friend, it should be ok for you to point out that these terminations were done incorrectly, and against a backdrop of racial and class tensions, did more to stifle education reform in DC than continue it. Now the district is on the hook for several millions of dollars, all because M Rhee did not respect the people she fired enough as humans to tell them WHY they were getting fired.

  12. Kaya will be cleaning up several similar messes like these,…
    She already is.
    Look at Dunbar High and Hardy Middle.

    all because M Rhee did not respect the people she fired enough as humans to tell them WHY they were getting fired.
    What else to be expected when one is slippery with the truth?

    Andrew would like to talk about ideas like honesty, truthfulness, fidelity, except when they get in the way.

  13. Regardless of what these teachers did to be let go, any adult deserves to know why they are losing a job. It just raises questions and causes people to start guessing at the truth which only complicates situations further. I think Aurora put it well with the lack of respect issue. The world lacks respect in general and this whole situation is disheartening. I hope justice is served and the kids are not forgotten.

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