Bogus Teacher Reviews-How to Keep Going?
December 20, 2017 12:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm a pre-professional status teacher (this is the year where tenure will be given) with two years of outstanding reviews. I recently received a very negative (and completely ridiculous and inaccurate) review and it looks like I won't be offered tenure. How do I proceed?

The district has a union and the president has made it clear that essentially, the district does not have to actually give any real reason to deny tenure. In the first 3 years, supervisors don't have to put teachers on improvement plans; just at the end of the academic year they can say I'm not being given professional status.

For my first 2 years, I had exemplary reviews. This year, I was totally stitched up about events that did not happen. I was allowed to respond to this (for all the good it does) and my evaluator and I had to meet where they gave me 2 suggestions to improve.

The suggestions were things I already do and are already documented that I do. I am documenting every single thing I am doing to demonstrate competence in my work. I mean, EVERYTHING.

The department supervisor is also pre-tenure and a union official suggested that they're doing this to me because they need to look like they're actively evaluating their teachers and not just giving everyone tenure. By giving me a negative review and knowing I'm capable of documenting "improvement," they're saving their own job--I don't know how accurate this.

Union advised to keep documenting that I'm doing my job and they're trying to work with admins at a higher level to not let this keep happening to Year 3 teachers in this district. Apparently, this is A Thing and the district Superintendent is aware of the problem, but now it's happening to ME and I'm not sure what to do.

Complicating factors: I have THREE YEARS to retirement (in my state, people over 50 can retire after teaching for 10 years) and I love my district and school in general and really want to continue my work where I am.

My question: what can I do about all of this? Is my denial of tenure a done deal? Should I start looking now? Do I take all of this and go directly to my evaluator's boss with whom I have a positive working relationship to get advice or help?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
School districts (and states and countries) vary a lot in how they handle evaluation and tenure, so it's unlikely anyone here can give you a definitive answer on whether this is a done deal (I totally understand why you don't want to identify the district though).

Does not getting tenure mean you won't have a job there next year, or does it just mean that you stay pre-tenure for another year? If the former, then it might be worth going over the evaluator's head, as you have nothing to lose. If the latter, and if it doesn't materially affect your pay and pension, it might be better to just suck it up and hope things work out next year.

If you do approach the evaluator's boss, I'd do it in the spirit of "Can you help me understand how I can be better, given I'm already following their suggestions to improve?" rather than as a complaint about the evaluator. Ideally you want the boss to come to their own conclusion about the inaccuracy of the review. You also want to make sure you have a very clearly understandable explanation of your side of the story (for example, in your question above you say you're in your third year teaching, but you have three years to retirement because teachers can retire after 10 years - I don't understand how this can be the case).
posted by une_heure_pleine at 3:31 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


"(for example, in your question above you say you're in your third year teaching, but you have three years to retirement because teachers can retire after 10 years - I don't understand how this can be the case)."

I assume it's her third year in that district and she has more years in another district.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:57 AM on December 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


Hey, this sounds hard and stressful. I hope it gets better soon. Keep on documenting, keep on doing your best.

The department supervisor is also pre-tenure and a union official suggested that they're doing this to me because they need to look like they're actively evaluating their teachers and not just giving everyone tenure. By giving me a negative review and knowing I'm capable of documenting "improvement," they're saving their own job--I don't know how accurate this.

It's hard to know what's really going on, but in my district this and all others I have worked for this would be weird. Nobody has quotas, if folks are a legit problem they work on helping them be better if it's at all salvageable and/or put them on plans and eventually they don't have jobs it's not but if you are genuinely outstanding there is no benefit to saying you are not if it means they'd be risking losing someone excellent. I'm not saying that this *isn't* happening but I think instead of focusing on scenarios like this the best thing to do is to realize the motivation is immaterial; what is happening is you have a bad evaluation and you need to deal with it.

I know of more than a few educators in my district that are on or have been plans of improvement (or the equivalent for non-tenured people). The ones who succeed and get tenure or move off the plans:

1) actively seek help, mentorship and coaching. Since you are a union shop, there are likely a lot of resources available to you. In my district, you would have access to a confidential and compensated union instructional coach, a district content/grade level supervisor who could pop in if you asked, other administrators at your school besides your evaluator and informal peer assistance from people in your content area, grade level etc.

Invite as many people into your classroom as possible on normal days when you are doing a normal lesson, not a dog and pony show; this is the kind of day your evaluator will drop in on. Ask a friend to pop in during their planning period. Tell them you want to improve your teaching- you want to do this regardless of your evaluation status, right? This is the context in which I would ask the evaluator's boss for help; not "Whoa wtf this other dude is off base yeah?" but "Hey, I want to understand what is going on in my classroom- can you help me?" The boss can draw his own conclusions.

You can also invite your evaluator in regularly if you are confident about what is going on in your classroom; if they actually do believe they have a real concern and aren't just saving their own butt this will make it look like you are trying hard and not avoiding them. It is so, so much harder to write a bad evaluation of someone who really really is pleasant and genuinely seems to be working their butt off to improve and is open to implementing your suggestions and is acting like they are taking your opinion seriously. Attempt to be sincere even though it may be difficult.

2) actively self-assess

Videotape yourself regularly. Watch it even though it is inevitably painful to do so. Take notes. Ask people you know who are excellent teachers to watch it with you. Try new things. I have been teaching for a billion years, coach other teachers and still do this regularly when things in my classroom seem too loose or I am feeling like things with my kids are weird. When I coach other teachers and can't get to their classrooms I ask them do do this, and we watch it together. Often I see things that they do not and can help them refine procedures, setup, curriculum and delivery. These videotapes can also serve as documentation in the event that things escalate and you need it.

3) actively seek professional development

There is an enormous Facebook group for public school teachers in my content area. Is there one for your grade/area? A listserv? Are there conferences? Books you could read in the area of the evaluator's (alleged) concern? These may give you even more strategies you can tell your evaluator you are trying. Reference these resources when you are interacting with the evaluator.

4) actively seek student feedback

I give a student survey every semester and learn surprising things from it, some of which I can use to immediately improve my teaching or relationship with a student. It's ungraded, simple, open-ended and can be anonymous.

1) Each day in subject we ___________.
2) In subject we ALWAYS ____________.
3) In subject we NEVER ____________.
4) The best thing about subject is ___________.
5) The worst thing about subject is _________.
6) Mrs. Charmedimsure ALWAYS ______________.
7) Mrs. Charmedimsure NEVER _______________.
8) subject is ___________________.

Anyway- I am really sorry this is happening. If this is as much of a bum deal as it seems to be to you, taking positive, proactive steps to make sure that what is going on in your classroom is really what you think is going on may help you feel better about it, make you more confident in your interactions with your administration and will definitely not hurt the situation.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:21 PM on December 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


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