The Bully in the Playground: When All Else Fails – Blame Teachers!!

 Yesterday’s big education news story: the lackluster NAEP scores in New York City … right?

Not according to the Tweed folk … who mumbled tried to spin the story .

Klein’s reaction: On the eve of the NAEP scores story release, with great fanfare, he announces their new initiative to fire tenured teachers! The Teacher Union is vigorously protesting.

In the letter, he (Klein) urged principals to help teachers improve but added, “When action must be taken, the disciplinary system for tenured teachers is so time-consuming and burdensome that what is already a stressful task becomes so onerous that relatively few principals are willing to tackle it. As a result, in a typical year only about one-hundredth of 1 percent of tenured teachers are removed for ineffective performance.

Hundreds of teachers are sitting in rubber rooms around the City, awaiting the dismissal process to begin, or be returned to school. Why?

Because over thirty years case law has established clear standards in teacher dismissal cases and the many teachers in the rubber rooms have not committed dismissible offenses. In too many cases the removal is simply vindictive on the part of the Principal.

Leadership by threat and intimidation.

The State Education Law and the Teacher Collective Bargaining Agreement have streamlined the teacher dismissal process – a process that Tweed negotiated, and, ignores.

The Law, which applies to all tenured teacher in New York State  sets forth specific rules and timelines. The New York City Bargaining Agreement also contains provisions to further speed up the process.

In addition the Department and the Union jointly established a Peer Intervention Program that assists tenured teachers who have received an unsatisfactory rating.

Klein avers the tenured teacher dismissal system is “time consuming and burdensome:” should it quick and easy!!!

A Superintendent once yelled at me, “How can you defend this teacher!”

I responded, “You hired him, you rated him satisfactory for years …”

We are talking about tenured teachers, teachers who have at least three years of satisfactory evaluations. If the teacher is truly inadequate shouldn’t the Department move to dismiss the Principal who rated the teacher satisfactory?

If the teacher was satisfactory, and is now unsatisfactory: why?

In my experience, frequently, the teacher is in the midst of a personal crisis: relationship issues, financial, substance abuse, problem with their children, psychological crises: issues that should be addressed by the employer through a employee assistance program … which does not exist in the Department.

The dismissal of a tenured teacher due to unsatisfactory performance should the end result of a program to assist and support the teacher.

Shouldn’t a principal be engaged in instructional issues each and every day.  Teaching demonstration lessons themselves, arranging for teachers to observe each other, meeting with colleagues, establishing a climate of self criticism and self improvement?

In one of the highest achieving schools in the system, the International High School at La Guardia Community College, teachers “select, support and evaluate” colleagues.

Some principals either can’t, or won’t do their jobs!

If  principals do their jobs, and unfortunately a teacher, at the end of a process, is still failing the dismissal procedures should flow from the process – all the instructional interventions that occurred over the months or years that preceded the final decision.

A serious problem in our schools is “bullying,” unfortunately in New York City the bully is the Chancellor.


4 responses to “The Bully in the Playground: When All Else Fails – Blame Teachers!!

  1. One of the things that glared at me from the Times’ article on the euphemistically named “Teacher Performance Unit” was the reference to those assigned to the “rubber rooms”. Following, as it did, references to how many teachers leave after being charged with incompetence, I thought it quite an ommision that the Times failed to note that very few, if any, of those sent there are there for reasons connected with alleged incompetence.

    Not to mention the Times’ all too accepting attitude to the whining of (incompetent a/o lazy) administrators about the difficulties of pressing charges.


  2. Pingback: When All Else Fails - Blame Teachers! | Edwize

  3. You’re absolutely right, of course.

    But I wonder why you’re surprised by this. This is the MO of Bloomberg and Klein, as it was of Giuliani. Now it’s true Mayor Mike doesn’t froth at the mouth quite like Rudy did, and he’s a master at handling PR, but in the end, he’s just another teacher/union basher.

    It’s high time we stop appeasing the monster, which just becomes hungrier with every scrap of meat we throw it.


  4. sally muravchik

    Excellent piece, short but substantive!


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