July 24, 2010

Firings in DC

Andy Rotherham is correct that the termination notices in the DC public schools this week included about a third of the total who had not met licensure standards, and a greater number were rated in the highest classification in the annual evaluations. Nonetheless, what is newsworthy about the terminations is the public nature of outright firing of a chunk of teachers for nonperformance. It wasn't the firing of a third of the district teachers, but significantly less than 10%. Let's assume a similar number of those given notice of "underperformance" this year either quit or are fired next year. That would be the firing of around 13-16% of the teachers for nonperformance in two years. It's noticeable.

By itself, the number is neither good nor bad, though many will argue the point either way without additional information. I say we wait. First, we wait for the Washington Teachers Union to sort through the information to see if any teachers were fired without the five classroom observations required for the evaluations. The grievance mechanism that exists in the union contract is on procedural grounds, and here we'll see how careful Rhee's bureaucrats have been. Then, we wait to see if there are any examples of firings that don't meet a basic smell test--anyone who had won teaching awards and plaudits but were given low ratings for reasons of favoritism or obviously inappropriate application of student test scores. Either procedural errors or plausible miscarriages of justice are reasonable grounds on which the union will fight for members and has an ethical obligation.

Nor is that willingness to fight for individual members inconsistent with a union's willingness to try different methods of evaluation. My chapter can and does file grievances when we think an individual's procedural rights were violated in the tenure review process. That says nothing about the standards of review. It says that we'll fight for the integrity of the review process.

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Posted in Education policy on July 24, 2010 1:24 PM | Submit