On November 26, 2007, I attended a candlelight vigil organized by the United Federation of Teachers held outside the Department of Education headquarters at 52 Chambers Street. Despite a steady drizzle (the UFT provided candles and rain ponchos), hundreds of New York City public school teachers turned out, as did the police and the local media. At issue is the status of tenure for K-12 teachers.
The UFT website cites a November 15, 2007 New York Times article which “revealed that the city has hired a team of lawyers and former principals to help principals build cases against tenured teachers who they believe are incompetent. The centerpiece of the effort is the Teacher Performance Unit of five lawyers, headed by a former prosecutor. A separate team of five consultants, including former principals, will work with principals to improve struggling teachers’ performance and in those cases where teachers fail to improve the consultants will help the teacher prepare the documentation necessary to remove them. The effort will cost $1 million a year.”
UFT President Randi Weingarten responded as follows: “There comes a point in time that recycling old arguments no longer works. School reform is tough. It takes a lot of different initiatives working in tandem to get results. It takes qualified teachers; it takes working conditions that foster real progress; it takes an accountability system that’s fair and accurate; it takes engaged parents; and above all it takes collaboration between teachers and principals. It is unfortunate, that at the first sign of bad news — today’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, which in three out of four categories showed no progress between 2003 and 2007 – the preemptive response by this administration was to blame the teachers. The blame game should stop and people should be rolling up their sleeves and working together. The mayor should apologize to the teachers and use the $1 million this unit will cost elsewhere. It’s time to shift the responsibility back to the school system. This union is not against accountability. We are against ‘gotcha’ and scapegoating and shifting blame to teachers who are working as hard as they can."