From Shut Up and Let the Lady Teach, by Emily Sachar, PoseidonPress, Chapter 19:~~
I spoke for several hours with representatives of the Board of Edand the UFT (teachers union) [about accountability of teachers andprincipals for job performance] ... The statistics were eye-opening.During the most recent school year, of 62,000 NYC teachers, only 606-- less than 1% -- were rated Unsatisfactory (U) by their principals."In a school system where more than 99% of teachers are ratedsatisfactory, there is no accountability and no need for a ratingsystem," said James Stein, Director of the Office of Appeals andReviews for the NYC Board of Education, whose office is responsiblefor helping principals get rid of bad teachers. "Nowhere in the world,in any workforce of which I am aware, does the percentage ofsatisfactory ratings come close to what we have at the Board of Ed. Sowe must conclude that the current system is meaningless."Randy Weingarten, counsel to United Federation of Teacherspresident Sandra Feldman, agreed....But principals were even less likely to receive unfavorablereviews. Of the more than 1,000 principals in the NYC school system,only one had received a U rating the prior year.."Is that because everyone's doing such a fine job?", I askedStein."No," he said. "It's because supervision and accountability arenonexistent in the NYC schools ... We will not solve our problemsuntil we resolve whether we are a keeper of the public trust or merelyan employment agency".The greatest impediment to giving U ratings to teachers is thatafter giving one to a teacher, the principal can not transfer theteacher out of the school for three years. Stein says, "Principalstell teachers: 'You deserve a U but I'll give you an S if you agree to teachsomewhere else'. It's like a game of Old Maid."Even when given, a U rating has little long-term effect on ateacher. If the teacher has not yet reached maximum salary, pay may befrozen for a short while. But at the maximum pay level, U-ratedteachers receive the same wage increases set for all by collectivebargaining, and do not lose their license or job, nor any benefits orjob rights. Some teachers have received U ratings year after year forperiods as long as nine years in a row.Tenured teachers are virtually impossible to dismiss. Over theprior 11 years the Board of Ed had dismissed only 19 teachersfor incompetence -- less that 2 per year from a work force of over60,000. "Once you've got tenure, you've got a suit of armor aroundyou", says Stein.Because of this, a principal's most potent weapon againstincompetence might be thought to be tenure review, which follows athree-year probation period. But in the prior year, of 7,000teachers reviewed, only 10 were denied tenure.Dismissals of teachers for incompetence became much rarer after1979, when decision making power in such cases was removed from theBoard of Ed and invested in a costly and time consuming arbitrationprocess. The typical case now takes 15 months to decide, and the Boardof Ed spends $33,000 per day on salaries for teachers suspended withpay while awaiting decisions.Arbitration panels are composed of three members -- one selectedby the teachers union, one by the Board of Ed, and one by the othertwo. Decisions are almost always compromises. Even in cases wherepanels find as a matter of fact that the most extreme abuses haveoccurred, discipline typically consists of job transfers and referralsto training programs -- virtually never dismissal.Records of cases where teachers are found innocent are sealed.But in cases where teachers are found to show incompetence or beguilty of an abuse, panel findings become part of the public record.Among these cases: A first grade teacher, enraged by her students, took off ahigh-heeled shoe and used it to strike a boy repeatedly in the head.She then stalked across the room and repeatedly hit anotherseven-year-old boy. Both boys needed hospital treatment and multiplestitches to close wounds.
The panel reported:
"First, Respondent did not intend to inflict harm, but wanted thestudents to refrain from disrupting the educational problem (sic) ...Second, while Respondent struck two students at the opposite ends ofthe room, these acts were only a single event ... It would be undulyharsh to discharge a ten-year teacher for having 'lost her cool' for afew moments on a single day"
She was returned to teaching. In the case of a teacher whom the Board attempted to dismissfor incompetence, the panel found:
"The Respondent needs work on organizing his thought processes.His analysis is foggy and leads him to teach in a disjointed anddisorganized manner. His lesson plans bear evidence of this -- forinstance, his use of a McDonald's franchise to illustrate colonialismwas incorrect. His refusal to acknowledge these weaknesses is indeeddisturbing..."
The teacher was allowed a fresh start at a new school. In another case of alleged incompetence, a teacher let studentsplay cards in class, required no notetaking, spent entire days onintroductory problems meant to be covered in five minutes, and hadincoherent lesson plans among many other failings. Observers foundclass attendance was often below 50% and those students in attendanceoften sleeping. Many parents had asked that their children betransferred out of the class.
The panel's finding:
"While the respondent has displayed incompetence on numerousoccasions, we are convinced he can be an effective teacher. He hasadequate subject matter knowledge and now knows he must follow therules."
The teacher was assigned to a new school. In the case of a teacher who refused to take lithiummedication, a panel found that he had committed 42 separate violentphysical and verbal attacks on fellow teachers, school supervisors andstudents. He had repeatedly called fellow teachers "wimp fucks" andother obscenities and had threatened to "bash their brains in" with astatue; had publicly called the principal and assistant principal"shitheads who stand with their hands in their pockets and wear ties";and told his students that they "had shit in their blood" and thathe, as their biology teacher, could prove it. The Board of Ed said theteacher continued to refuse to take his lithium even during thearbitration process.
The panel's ruling:
"We conclude that the Respondent's behavior, even if unusual andbizarre, should not prevent his return to teaching duties. It is clearthat these were isolated incidents."
The panel ordered the teacher to pay a fine. He is nowteaching in a High School in
Queens.Concerning these cases and others like them, Stein says the dismissalguillotine does not fall fast or often enough.
The UFT's Weingarten says, "We are simply better at defendingteachers than the Board is at prosecuting them. Is that the
Union'sfault? That's the least we owe our members."...~ end quote ~