The fencing over tenure has escalated over the last few weeks. The department, with the usual fanfare heralded the increase in the percent of teachers who were
denied tenure, actually the percent of teachers who were denied tenure
decreased, the percent of teachers who had their probation extended increased
Chancellor Walcott indicated that next year the number of denials would continue to increase. Guess they intend to hire less competent teachers.
The release of the probationary teacher data was followed by the release of teacher ratings and the trend upwards of unsatisfactory ratings continued.
Gotham Schools reports,
Last year, 2,118 teachers received unsatisfactory ratings, setting
them along a path that could lead to termination. That number, making up 2.7
percent of all teachers, was 16 percent higher than in 2010 and more than twice the number of U-ratings handed out five years ago.
In the 2005-2006 school year, just 981 teachers received unsatisfactory
The Mayor continued the attack on tenure calling for the abolition of tenure, well, sort of,
Bloomberg said today that civil service protections and the First
Amendment of the Constitution are sufficient to protect those teachers.
“I think the United States’ First Amendment protects people
generally,” he said.
Bloomberg, and most teachers, misunderstand the concept of tenure for public school teachers. Tenure is a “civil service protection,” it simply raises
the bar in the dismissal process from an administrative hearing for
probationary teachers to a hearing before an impartial arbitrator for tenured
The disciplinary procedures for tenured teachers are part of State Education Law – referred to by the section of the law – 3020a.
In New York City the process has expedited time limits established in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
In all cases, as delineated in Education Law §3020-a the final
hearing shall be completed no later than 60 days from the pre-hearing
conference and the written decision must be rendered within 30 days from the
final hearing date.
While over 2,000 teachers received U-ratings, and hundreds received consecutive U-ratings only a handful were charged under state law.
Clearly principals and the department legal staff did not feel that the U-ratings could be sustained as dismissal cases.
A core issue is the lack of a definition of incompetence. Satisfactory,
unsatisfactory, or anything in between is not defined in state or department
regulations or bylaws. The decision is within the discretion of each and every
principal. Through the decades arbitrators have struggled with deciding whether
or not the school district met the burden of proof without a clear definition
The full implementation of the teacher-principal evaluation law will change the
entire teacher evaluation/teacher discipline landscape.
The law requires school districts to negotiate with their collective bargaining
partners within the framework established by the law and state regulations, a
plan for their district. They must choose from a list of approved teacher
evaluation frameworks. The state has provided 49 pages of “guidance”
attempting to clarify the dense regulations.
Bloomberg’s harsh comments regarding probationary teachers and tenure resulted in a rapid response from UFT President Mulgrew; no discussions were possible in this climate. The law requires that the negotiations with the CBA fall under PERB rules, the predecessor agreement, namely the current rules, are in effect until the successor agreement, the sections of the new law that require negotiation are in place. There is no required time frame.
The new law, whenever it is negotiated will change the landscape. For the first
time agreed upon teacher evaluation frameworks will be in place. If a teacher
receives multiple ratings in the lowest category, and, if the appeal is denied
and the school district moves to dismissal under section 3020a the arbitrator
will be able to base his/her decision on an agreed upon set of rubrics.
The Mayor’s recalcitrance is delaying the implementation of the new law and ironically delaying the possible discharge of incompetent teachers.
In a few months, or a few years the new teacher evaluation law will be in place.
All teachers will receive a score from 1 to 100 based 20% on student
achievement data, 20% on a locally negotiated tool and 60% teacher
observations; teachers will be placed into four categories, the lowest
designated as unsatisfactory.
School districts, utilizing the teacher evaluation score, can move to discharge the
teacher under the provisions of section 3020a of state law.
If we speculate that one half of one percent of current tenured teachers in New York City are incompetent- 250 teachers – that is ten times the number who are currently charged for incompetence.
It would serve the department to assuage the union, refrain from saber rattling,
and sit down with the union and negotiate.
This will not happen because the Mayor is not interested in an agreement, he wants to “flaunt” the tenure issue and squeeze it for as much ink from the
Post, Daily News and the Wall Street Journal as possible, and, use the pressure
to extract something from the union.
For the Mayor it’s about peeing further into the street than the other kids.