Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No Fair Hearing for You!

Leo Casey has a new column criticizing the NY Principals who oppose the upcoming evaluation system. He makes some good points.

1. Unfettered power of principals can be a disaster, particularly with Bloomberg-indoctrinated Leadership Academy grads. Anyone who doubts that can follow the saga of Peter Lamphere, who appears to have received U ratings for the crime of leading his chapter. Peter had to go to court to have one rating overturned, and I believe he still has one outstanding.

2. The current appeal process is a total sham, rubber-stamping absolutely anything any principal says. What percentage of principals are crazy? I don't know, but the very first principal I ever worked for was a lunatic, and much of the staff bailed out around the very short time I was there. No one like that can really judge anyone fairly. 

3. The notion of rating an entire school on value-added is a poor one. It would pretty much give the mayor even more ammunition to close schools (not that he needs any whatsoever given mayoral control), and would further fail to address whatever core issues the failing kids have.

On the other hand, value-added is crap. It's not been shown to have worked anywhere for anything. There have been documented cases of teachers failing to get tenure, or indeed losing their jobs when pretty much everyone agreed they did quality work. If the current system is flawed, adding junk science to it does not represent improvement. While it's true good junk science ratings may make things a bit tougher for a crazy principal, negative ones could and would be used to rate teachers ineffective and fire them (regardless of how good they may be). And it would not be all that hard for a crazy principal to set up classes that would doom a targeted teacher.

Much ado is made over the fact that 13% of "ineffective" ratings will get a fair hearing, and it is indeed 13% more than now. Still, I can't get over the indisputable fact that 87% will not get a fair hearing, and with stakes as high as they will become under the proposed system, that's awful. I do not envy whoever it is in the UFT who will tell people, "I'm very sorry, but no fair hearing for you." I cannot even imagine the sorts of responses that will provoke. I can't think of anyone who doesn't feel they merit a fair hearing, or indeed any circumstance under which anyone would not merit one.

It's true that during year two these people will receive the services of a "validator," who will essentially determine whether or not they merit the "ineffective" ratings. However, it appears to me that these validators will essentially have the same power we're so eager to deny principals. In a 3020a hearing (the one that determines whether or not teachers are dismissed), the burden of proof is on the DOE to prove that teachers are incompetent. However, if this validator, after three classroom visits, determines a teacher is, in fact, ineffective, the burden will be on the teacher to prove he or she is not ineffective. I can't begin to imagine how someone would do such a thing.

The UFT insists the second 20% will not be testing, and I will take them at their word. Nonetheless, this 20% must be approved by Commissioner John King, and I'm not confident he will like anything that is not specifically designed to enable further firing of teachers.The most important factor here is that all this value-added "reform" nonsense does not emanate from teachers. It comes from folks like Bill Gates, who routinely spout nonsense about public schools and what we do. Their goals do not include fair hearings or due process for teachers.

I cannot think of any "reform" we've embraced that has done a whit of good for working teachers, communities, or students for that matter. But feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
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