Boston union says new evaluation system is unfair to black teachers

Apr 25, 2013 by

BOSTON – Teacher union leaders are raising concerns that Boston Public Schools’ new teacher evaluation system is unfairly identifying minority educators as subpar, and are asking district officials to arrange for an independent review of the situation.

The Boston Globe reports, “Union officials made the request after analyzing (district) data and finding that black teachers were three times more likely than white teachers to be placed on a ‘directed growth plan’ or an ‘improvement plan,’ a move that can lead to termination if an evaluator determines a teacher has failed to overcome shortcomings in the classroom.”

The union also discovered that Hispanic teachers are 1.5 times “more likely to be placed on one of those plans,” reports the Boston Globe.

Boston school officials have noticed the trends and are considering an outside review of the situation, but cautioned the union alarmists that the overall numbers could look different after the district has finished evaluating the other half of its 4,839 teachers.

The district only began using the more rigorous evaluation system last September, the Globe reports.

“We are concerned about it,” said BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson. “We want to make sure when we do evaluations they are fair and consistent.”

There are two possible explanations for the Boston Teachers Union’s complaint.

The most likely scenario is that the BTU doesn’t like the new teacher evaluation system and is looking for any excuse to have it thrown out.

Under the district’s previous evaluation plan, “teachers were only identified as meeting standards or being unsatisfactory, if schools bothered to do the evaluations at all,” the Globe reports.

That allowed irresponsible union members to coast through their workdays, unconcerned about being held accountable for student learning.

The new evaluation system subjects all educators to multiple evaluations over the school year and rates them as being exemplary, proficient, in need of improvement or unsatisfactory.

Boston’s teacher union leaders are not used to that kind of accountability – which could lead to dozens of union members being fired for ineffectiveness. There’s a strong possibility that they are raising the issue of racial bias as a way of discrediting a new system that’s upsetting their fantasy world of lifetime employment, no questions asked.

The other possibility is that the union has inadvertently hit upon a serious problem within Boston Public Schools, namely that district officials have become so eager to hire teachers of color that they’ve compromised their standards, a practice that is now being exposed by the rigorous new evaluation system.

The racial makeup of the BPS teaching staff has been a source of controversy for decades. Just last year, the district was criticized for not having enough black teachers, as determined by a federal court order issued when the school district was desegregated in the 1970s.

District leaders have been open about their desire to recruit more minority teachers.

Which scenario is correct may not be known until independent investigators are brought in to examine the situation.

If Boston school officials were wise, they’d get out ahead of this controversy and reframe the issue this way: Why is the local teachers union more concerned about protecting the jobs of ineffective educators than it is about ensuring that a predominantly minority student population is taught by the best educators available?

via Boston union says new evaluation system is unfair to black teachers – :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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