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Ineffective Teachers?

                                                                                                                 December 11, 2008

To All CHTU Members:
Ineffective Teachers- The Role of the Union
The recent articles and editorial in the Plain Dealer on “bad teachers” and interest in teacher “pay for performance” or merit based compensation systems are once again prominent topics among educators and the community at large. I mention “once again” as these so-called reform ideas have resurfaced from time to time when teacher bashing is in vogue (a perennial project of the Plain Dealer). Many Local 795 members have expressed their views via e mails in response as well.
In confronting the issue of ineffective teachers, the Union is frequently, if not always portrayed as the protector of the incompetent, especially when it comes to tenured teachers who are deemed to be ineffective via evaluation systems that are flawed and subjective. Non-tenured teachers have virtually no rights when it comes to job protection or being non-renewed based on observations and evaluations. Unlike other professions, teachers are not evaluated by those who are practitioners. 
Consider the following:
  • The Union, which is the collective voice of teachers, does not hire, evaluate, or grant tenure. Nonetheless, the Union’s duty of fair representation is mandated by law. Thus a teacher deemed ineffective and recommended for dismissal, regardless of his/her level of competence is entitled to due diligence by the Union.
  • Teachers complete a minimum of three years in the classroom and need to have earned a masters degree or equivalent before tenure is granted by the Board of Education. Thus the district has an extensive and ample opportunity to determine a teacher’s effectiveness during this three year probationary period. Moreover, tenure provides layoff protection and due process dismissal rights; it is not a guarantee of lifetime employment.
  • The Plain Dealer quoted former Superintendent Delisle as stating that the last time the CH-UH district tried to terminate a tenured teacher, the cost was $200,000. This is totally inaccurate as the case referenced involved a teacher that the Union and the District were trying keep employed by providing mentoring, co-teaching, and coaching supports. The supports continued for two school years, and the teacher ended up resigning.
  • In many instances when a teacher is recommended for contract non-renewal, the Union has advised the teacher to resign. This happens only after a careful review of the issues and evaluations that led to the non-renewal. There are some cases that must be fought, but there are many more where we have found that a resignation and pursuit of a different line of work is in everyone’s best interest. 
  • Student test scores are not markers of teacher quality or instructional competence. There are too many variables that can influence scores or that create a “tilted” playing field when comparing schools and teachers using only test scores.      
It must be stated that as a Union of professionals, it is in our best interests to see to it that our students receive quality instruction from the very best teachers we can attract and retain. To that end, we have supported strong entry year/mentorship programs, and opportunities for teachers to assume leadership positions to improve instruction. Some local Unions have negotiated and implemented Union operated peer assistance and review programs (Toledo and Cleveland are two prominent examples). These programs typically build in extensive supports and assistance to struggling teachers before a dismissal occurs. This is an approach we are considering in the ARC Committee (Appraisal Review Committee). However it will be unlikely that we can agree to such a program until there is marked improvement in the competence and quality of those assigned to evaluate teachers, and until our members are willing to place trust in peer assistance and/or some form of peer review.
Your thoughts?
Tom Schmida, President

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