Monday, August 11, 2014

Teacher Tenure, Retention, and Evaluation

We are hearing a great deal about teachers and tenure; last-in, first-out (retention); APPR and so on. As if the politicization of Common Core hasn’t been contentious enough, we are now confronted by a new challenge: competent delivery of classroom instruction.  It is only natural that parents want assurance that the person spending upwards of 900 hours each school year with their child is qualified, competent and compassionate.  PTA has long recognized the vital role that teachers and administrators play in the lives of their students, not only in their academic development but also in their social, emotional and civic development.

In light of today’s challenges to the education profession exploring the relationship in context of who we are as an association is crucial for our mutual understanding and future advocacy. One of the objects of PTA is to bring into closer relation the home and the school. That parents and teachers may cooperate intelligently in the education of children and youth.

Parents and teachers are partners with a common mission: to ensure every child the opportunity to reach his/her potential. They are interdependent and deeply respectful of their individual and shared roles. For this reason, and to assist you with understanding our NYS PTA positions I would like to share the following talking points:

  • As far back as the early 1970’s, NYS PTA’s Legislative Program called for:  
    • NY’s tenure law to include periodic review of tenure and provisions to protect the integrity of teachers, i.e. teachers should be able to freely speak up on behalf of their students without fear of punishment
  • The teacher-student-family relationship is complex and can be emotionally charged and susceptible to conflict. There are also well-documented incidents of teacher-administrator conflict where an incompatibility exists leading to greater vulnerability to reprimand or dismissal based on bias or reactionary behavior. For this reason:

    • NYS PTA has long-supported measures, i.e. “due process”, to safeguard teachers and administrators from arbitrary or capricious employment decisions.

  • Abolishment and/or “excessing” of educator positions is often the consequence of tough economic times, reductions in school aid and imposed spending caps.
    • For more than 40 years, NYS PTA has urged the adoption of legislation allowing school boards to consider both certification and seniority in determining whose services should be terminated or retained upon abolishment of or excessing a teaching position in order to maintain quality education in the classroom.
    • NYS PTA supports, and with certain exceptions federal law requires, the placement of highly qualified (appropriately certified) personnel in ALL teaching positions.

  • NYS PTA believes well -executed evaluations lead directly to improvement of classroom instruction by teachers as well as improved supervisory skills by administrators.
    • NYS PTA long-advocated for the NYS Education Department to establish regulations to require a system of regular observation and annual evaluation for both teachers and administrators and observation and evaluation guidelines.
    • NYS PTA has encouraged requirements for local school boards to establish advisory committees (administrators, teachers, chairmen, parents and students) to define and refine the evaluation system appropriate to individual school district needs.
    • NYS PTA believes in a balanced teacher/principal accountability system that employs multiple measures to improve academic achievement for all students. The evolving policy of Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) is generally consistent with PTA positions. However, greater attention should be given to the 60% observation component -- with training for skillful use of rubrics, concerns regarding subjectivity can be minimized. Once fully and appropriately implemented, APPR coupled with fair and efficient safeguards through due process, will assure that our children’s teachers and teacher leaders are qualified, competent and effective partners for boosting student achievement.

As we look ahead to a new school year, lets’ keep in mind that effective instruction and family-school collaboration are essential components of student academic success and, most importantly, that in our shared mission we are all one community working  together to improve the lives of children.
Lana Ajemian, President
Reflect the past, Transform today, Inspire tomorrow!