A leading official with the Washington Teachers Union said its president, George Parker, knew when he signed the new teachers contract that more teachers were in line for termination, and gave Chancellor Michelle Rhee free rein to hand out more pink slips.
“These firings are the result of the new contract,” WTU Vice President Nathan Saunders told the AFRO.” show the immense power Chancellor Rhee secured by signing the contract with the union; these will not be the only firings.”
According to Saunders, such terminations will become commonplace in the public schools – the direct result, he said, of a contract poorly written and rushed through at the last minute by Parker following three years of negotiations.
“There’s nothing he can do about what’s transpiring and any grievance after a teacher has been fired is irrelevant,” said Saunders.
Over the weekend, 241 teachers were fired in accordance with the new IMPACT evaluation system Rhee used to determine who stayed or got the boot. Currently, more than 700 teachers that barely missed termination will have one year to prove their mettle as effective educators.
However, union officials and members have been highly critical of the program, which scores teachers on a scale of 1 to 4, with the latter being the highest rating.
During a WTU-conducted survey in which 1,000 of the union’s 4,000 teachers participated, most indicated that IMPACT was an unfair system that offered them little support.
Meanwhile, Parker to some extent refuted Saunders’ assertion, explaining that while he had prior knowledge that some teachers might be fired, he was surprised to find out about the mass termination on July 23 like everyone else. “We requested that if they weren’t going to pilot the program this first year, then they should at least not terminate or take any adverse actions against the teachers,” Parker said, adding that IMPACT essentially was being built at the same time it was being implemented.
“And pretty much said they would not make a promise that they wouldn’t terminate anyone this year based on IMPACT,” said Parker, who is poised to challenge the 81 terminations that have taken place so far. “By the fact that they wouldn’t make a promise, we knew at some point that they might do that, but anything beyond that, I didn’t know.”
Parker said while he has no problem holding teachers accountable for their performance, in Tennessee for instance, where a similar process called Value-Added has been used since 1990, evaluations focus on just 10 percent of a teacher’s performance.
“It is evident from survey that our members agree IMPACT is a flawed instrument with many loopholes,” said Parker. “An effective system of teacher evaluation should provide educators with feedback and support that engenders and encourages excellence in teaching and learning for the benefit of students.”
According to Rhee, every child enrolled in a DCPS facility has the right to a highly effective teacher.
“That is our commitment,” she said in a statement to the AFRO. “With the release of the first year of results from IMPACT, we take another step toward making that commitment a reality.”
Rhee’s office confirmed that a total of 302 employees, including the 241, are subject to termination effective July 30 and Aug. 13. She added that 226 would be based on performance and 76 on licensure.