Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's the fault of the Big, Bad Teachers Unions!

Friday nights you can usually catch me watching "Real Time with Bill Maher." About two weeks ago as I watched Bill Maher, he started talking about teachers and teachers unions. It came quite as a shock to me when I heard him basically bash teachers unions, stating that it was the fault of these unions for allowing bad teachers to stay in the classroom.

Like I said, I was shocked. For me, I know what the reality is in my district when it comes to getting rid of bad teachers and I also know that my reality is the reality for a lot of teachers in their districts. Simply put, administrators are in charge of getting rid of bad teachers and they simply do not do it. I think that for some administrators in my district part of the problem is that it is not easy to get teachers to work in our district. The other part of the problem is administrators are overworked not underpaid and so following the procedures to get rid of a bad teacher is just one more thing for them to do.

The thing to keep in mind though is that it is the responsibility of administrators to get rid of ineffective and/or bad teachers. It is not the responsibility of the union or teachers. I've worked with bad teachers, some of whom were paid more than me, and yet they continue to work because the administrator won't do what it is necessary to get rid of them.

In California, administrators can get rid of any teacher for any reason within their first two years of teaching. This is what is called a non-reelect and for many teachers it is almost a kiss of death in terms of trying to find another teaching position. Within those first two years, the union cannot do anything to help the teachers receiving a non-reelect. (I've seen non-reelects given simply because the principal did not like a teacher.)

After that first two years is up, teacher are given tenure. In my district, teachers receive evaluations every other year under Process B. If teachers receive a satisfactory review, they are then not up for review for another year. However, if they receive an unsatisfactory review, then teachers fall under Process A (the review for new teachers w/in their first two years of teaching). This process requires the administrator to evaluate the teacher every year. Teachers who fall back under Process A are also required to work with a consulting teacher under our PAR program (Peer Assistance and Review). If a teacher fails to improve under Process A, the administrator can elect to "fire" the teacher. However, very few teachers in the state of California or even in my district are fired.

Some will point to this fact and state that is because of teachers unions. However, according to David Macaray, teachers in non-union states also have a very low rate of being fired by their administrators. It would seem that if unions were the problem, then those states without unions would have a higher rate of letting ineffective and/or bad teachers go. That is simply not the case.

The hard reality for administrators is that people are not beating down the door to be teachers, especially in a district such as mine where we are the lowest paid, yet work in the toughest district. They understand that getting a teacher to fill positions that are hard to fill is easier said than done. For some administrators and districts, they prefer a warm body to nobody.

I wrote about a teacher at my own school site that everybody knew was a horribly, bad teacher. Yet, year after year, he stayed teaching at my school site. It was only when he was arrested that the district fired him. He was still allowed to have due process as defined by our contract, however, we (as in the union) did not block the efforts of our district to get rid of this guy. In fact, if the proper protocols had been followed as defined under our evaluation process, I think it is safe for me to say that the union would not have blocked those efforts as well because we simply do not have that power.

The power to get rid of bad teachers lies at the feet of administrators. As a teacher and as a member of my union, I do not have that power. Bill Maher needs to understand these facts before he starts spouting off on something that in which he is clearly clueless.


musicteacher said...

Thank you for this post!!! I get upset every time I hear the talk shows on the radio blaming CA's budget problem on the teacher's unions.

Pissedoffteacher said...

I second the thank you.

institutrice said...

It has taken me a while to come around to realizing what you say is correct. One of my best friends is a principal, and she has shown me how hard it is to give a teacher an "unsatisfactory" rating (let alone get fired), especially a teacher with tenure. It requires so much documentation and proof of improvement plans that most principals (probably) can't be bothered. Or if a principal does it right, it looks like she is "targeting" that teacher. In any case, it requires principals to know what is going on in their buildings, and walking around to see what is actually being taught (and not just trusting fluff-piece lesson plans).

Anonymous said...

I really have a hard time buying into administrators' claims that there is too much paperwork to remove a teacher. The teacher is the most important person in your building. Poor administrators do not recognize this. The pay off for getting rid of a bad teacher far out weighs any time spent on paperwork. I have 180 students. Do you realize how much paperwork I do over the course of semester in order to determine their grades? Bad teachers need to feel targeted. They need to improve or leave. My district has revolving door of bad principals. They get fired and rehired with every changing of the guard. I wish school leardership would get more attention. Unions only force administators to follow due process.