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I really like my principal. When his office door is open it is almost always okay to just walk in and talk to him. He’s smart, generally fair, willing to listen to ideas and different opinions. He gives useful, timely feedback on formal observations and more frequent informal ones. He talks to you in private. Most of all, he is consistent. Our school has very little teacher turnover. Our school rating has been rising steadily.
I’m not trying to butter him up; I just want to show how very different he is from the first principal I worked for.
It was impossible to just walk into that first principal’s office because it was behind a thick Plexiglas barrier and she had to buzz you in even to approach her. She was not open to ideas and had no interest in what parents or people on her staff thought or had to say. She regularly yelled at teachers in front of their students. She’d love you one day or year but hate you the next.
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Feedback was rarely constructive and hardly timely; I’m still waiting for the results of her 2006 observation of my lesson.
On more than one occasion she changed the rating of a lesson observed by one of the assistant principals from satisfactory to unsatisfactory even though she was not present at the observation.
She once said in public, “I like my new white teachers better than my old white teachers.” I was a second year white teacher and turnover was so high it wasn’t clear whether I was new or old.
The first year that teachers could transfer without prior principal approval more than 70% of that school’s teachers moved on to other schools, including all of the fifteen or so first and second year teachers. The same thing happened the following year. That school’s rating declined consistently and now it is being closed.
I bring this all up because right now a 50-person state of New York task force is in a big hurry to develop a new teacher rating program. They want it written before the end of June so the regents can approve it and regulations can be developed to implement it in September.
You’d think that they’d want to test the never-before-tried plan before they broadly apply it, but no. Apparently teacher livelihoods are not so important that you’d want to make sure the system was fair, workable and accurate before using it to make decisions affecting the continuation of their careers.
Under the plan, teacher ratings as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective would be based 20% on student performance on state tests, 20% on school-district tests (that don’t now exist) or unspecified other measures, and 60% on classroom observations and other reviews. It is not at all clear what the basis for rating teachers in non-testing subjects — social studies, art, music, phys ed among others — or librarians would be.
Teachers rated as ineffective two years in a row will be subject to a hearing regarding the termination of their employment.
Governor Cuomo says, “We need a legitimate evaluation system to rely on.”
Absolutely, but this isn’t it.
The Journal News reports at least one educator on the panel creating the system, South Orangetown school superintendent Kenneth Mitchell, thinks the state is moving forward recklessly, “There’s a real potential for implosion…you need years to make these changes.”
One of the regents says he fears that forcing a new system on districts in such a short period of time could lead to unforeseen costs and worse.
“It’s gotten so far out of hand, but there’s nothing we can do at this point. If mistakes are made and the data is flawed, it would be terrible to make it public. People will say ‘I don’t want my kid in that person’s class.’”
Did you notice that not even the people worried about this program never mentioned the possible effect it could have on teacher livelihoods?
This is why teachers like me support unions.
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Without my union standing up for people like me principals like my first one could ruin careers on a whim.
Without my union standing up for me I would be leery of disagreeing with my principal no matter how much I thought he might be on the wrong track.
Without my union standing up for me I would not be able to say my chancellor, a very capable woman in the publishing field, is completely inexperienced, unqualified and unsuited to run a school system of any size, not to mention the biggest one in the country, and that by appointing her our mayor insulted the students, their parents, and everyone who works in the NYCDOE, no matter how true it is.
Without my union no teacher would be entitled to a fair hearing on disciplinary matters.
Without my union no parent would have any voice in the operation of their children’s schools.
Without my union the billionaires like Bill Gates.would not have anyone standing up to them as they privatized public education. Would anyone listen to him about anything to do with eduction if he didn’t have all that money?
Without my union the special education students would get lost in the shuffle and not get their mandated services.
Without my union standing up for people like me I would not have received the quality education I got from the NYC public schools.
Without my union standing up for me I’d be afraid to write this blog post.
That’s why teachers like me support unions.