AFT president Randi Weingarten on Feb. 24 proposed a new way to align teacher development and evaluation to due process for tenured teachers. Weingarten laid out a three-step process consisting of clear standards for what teachers should know and be able to do, a time-limited improvement and support plan for teachers deemed to be unsatisfactory according to the evaluation standards, and a hearing process that can take no longer than 100 days, which in many cases would be even more expedient.
Speaking before educators—teams of school administrators and their union partners at a conference on teacher development and evaluation convened by the AFT, Weingarten detailed the work the AFT has done over the past year to strengthen teacher quality—developing a continuous improvement model for teacher development and evaluation, which is now influencing such work in hundreds of school systems; a fast, fair protocol for allegations of teacher misconduct; and, now, an alignment of teacher evaluation with due process procedures.
"Our aim is to have a comprehensive, fair, transparent and expedient process to identify, improve, and—if necessary—remove ineffective teachers," Weingarten said, noting that "neither drive-by nor test-score-driven evaluations" do so. These supposed "quick fixes" can lead to "long, long disputes," Weingarten continued.
"The reason that due process can be so long and cumbersome in performance cases is because there has been no real evaluation system, no support when performance falls short, no consensus about the steps toward either improvement or removal, and no accountability when administrators fail to fulfill their responsibilities," Weingarten said. "What happens is that the competency of the teacher gets litigated before the arbitrator—that's like asking an accountant to be an art critic."
Weingarten said that the AFT's proposal was in keeping with the collaborative school reform efforts highlighted at the national collaboration conference sponsored last week in Denver by the U.S. Department of Education, the AFT and other education groups. (See earlier story.) Weingarten announced that one of the leaders who attended the conference—Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators—had agreed to co-convene a group of leaders from management, labor and the research field to look at the AFT's proposal for aligning due process with teacher development and evaluation and consider ways to adjust, improve—and, ultimately—implement it. The meeting is set to take place March 23-24 in Washington, D.C.
"As important as evaluations are to assessing teacher performance, what passes for evaluation in many districts frankly isn't up to this important task," she said. "Way too often, they're superficial. They're subjective. They miss a prime opportunity to improve teacher practice—and, therefore, to increase student learning, which is what it's all about."
Teachers unions and school administrators can end the polarization that has surrounded this issue, Weingarten said.
"None of this works if management and the union don't work together," she said. "Do we want to continue to point fingers and say these problems are your fault? Or try to solve problems—management and labor working together?"
"We are prepared to work with any district willing to work with us to develop and implement a real teacher development and evaluation system and a due process system aligned to it," Weingarten offered.
Weingarten's complete remarks are available online. [AFT press release/video by Matthew Jones and Brett Sherman]
February 24, 2011