Opinion > Commentary

Continuing to collectively bargain over teacher evaluation makes sense


Dean Vogel

Dean Vogel

As professionals, educators practice their vocation with seriousness and dedication with the single purpose of helping students. The California Teachers Association believes it is a primary part of our mission to improve the conditions of teaching and learning and to advance the cause of free, universal, and quality public education.

CTA supports pending legislation, AB 5 by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes, that has refocused attention on teacher evaluation. Some have expressed criticism that requiring school districts to bargain over this topic is an “expansion” of bargaining rights. This criticism is incorrect, unwarranted, and contrary to making meaningful changes to an evaluation system aimed at improving the quality of teaching and learning. To have a fair and comprehensive system you must include the professionals who are in California classrooms every day.

Current law, as well as administrative and court decisions interpreting it, already supports bargaining over evaluation procedures and matters relating to them, including the criteria for evaluations and providing assistance to educators who need it.

Mutual accountability and responsibility for the effectiveness and functioning of our education system require that managers and professional educators participate in the design, operation, and evaluation of that system. A successful example of this has existed in California since 1999. Assembly Bill 1X (Villaraigosa) established the California Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) Program for teachers and obliged local districts and unions to bargain over its implementation. This program was developed to assist teachers whose biannual personnel reviews were not satisfactory. Assistance and support are provided by exemplary teachers and include subject matter knowledge, teaching strategies, or both. Local school districts and teachers unions quickly embraced bargaining over this issue and incorporated PAR into their collective bargaining agreements.

A good evaluation system must reflect the complexity of teaching and learning and focus on teaching practices that best support student learning. Teachers are certainly important to the success of their students, but student learning is not influenced by just one teacher. There are many factors within and outside of the school walls that affect student learning.

Students learn at different paces and have different needs and learning modalities. Adequate resources, school climate, safety, and time are significant to a student’s learning. Schools also have unique cultural routines and learning environments that shape teaching and students’ learning opportunities in the classroom. What is best for students is providing them with opportunities to learn that are tied to high standards, rigorous curricula, and effective teaching strategies. All of these factors need to be considered in developing a useful and fair teacher evaluation system. Local collective bargaining will insure that this complexity is recognized and meaningfully incorporated into teacher evaluations.

A path to objectivity

The right to collectively bargain provides the means for both local districts and unions to advocate for and reach agreement over conditions that make the evaluation process more objective, including how to:

  • Keep the focus on professional practice;
  • Require that evaluations be based on valid and reliable data as well as observable evidence of practice in relation to standards, curriculum goals, and student needs;
  • Maintain referral of educators who do not meet standards to receive assistance to improve their teaching (and opportunities for students to learn);
  • Be smart about defining the terms that are used in the evaluation process, such as “expected pupil achievement,” “progress of pupils,” “student growth” or “student achievement”;
  • Require that evaluators be certified and go through annual “calibration” to assure objectivity and reliability;
  • Clearly state that all measures (including progress of pupils) may be used only in terms of how they reasonably relate to an employee’s performance;
  • Enforce the requirement that the evaluation must include recommendations for the improvement of performance. For an employee who is not performing satisfactorily, specific recommendations for improvement must be made and the district must assist the employee in improving performance.

The values and goals of a 21st-century education should transcend the transmission and repetition of basic knowledge and skills, and include collaborative decision making, innovation, and problem solving. Collective bargaining over how educators fulfill those values and goals is a means for adults to model behaviors to deal with challenges and differences through dialogue, reason, and agreement rather than the hierarchical exercise of authority. As such, it is an invaluable lesson that we should all be prepared to teach and learn.

A teacher and school counselor for 39 years at the elementary and high school education levels, Dean E. Vogel is president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. He has also taught extended education courses at California State University campuses in Sacramento, Sonoma, and Hayward, and at the University of California at Davis. He is a resident of Davis.

Filed under: Commentary, Evaluations, Teaching

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6 Responses to “Continuing to collectively bargain over teacher evaluation makes sense”

  1. Lucas Bruce said

    on September 4, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Teaching is a noble purpose, but teachers are also humans, so it is expected from them to to make mistakes.

  2. el said

    on August 30, 2012 at 7:08 am

    There are thousands and thousands of former teachers.

    As in business and other government service, often someone who isn’t working out and who is getting poor evaluations is strongly encouraged to resign, and does so, rather than go all the way through a formal firing process.

  3. Ann said

    on August 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    If PAR was effective there would have to be thousands of former teachers. Rather they remain in classrooms ruining 10s of thousands of children’s lives.
    “Collective bargaining over how educators fulfill those values and goals is a means for adults to model behaviors to deal with challenges and differences through dialogue, reason, and agreement rather than the hierarchical exercise of authority.”
    Yes and when these students experience the real world where if you are incapable of doing a job you are dismissed, it will be yet another failure of our public education system.
    “…the district must assist the employee in improving performance.” At what expense and for how long?

  4. Chris Reed said

    on August 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Educators have the “single purpose” of helping students? This is self-serving and dishonest garbage. The CTA is like any other union, dedicated to the “single purpose” of protecting its members and maximizing their pay and benefits.

    • Alice replied

      on August 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      Chris, what do you have against teachers? How many classrooms have you been in to make such a statement?

  5. sergio cuellar said

    on August 29, 2012 at 7:11 am

    This is really good insight into the framework of CTA’s support for AB 5. I would take it a bit further in saying in order to have a fair and comprehensive evaluation system not only should professionals who are in californias classrooms everyday be included, but so should the voices and experiences of students who are in those classrooms everyday. Who knows better of the effectiveness of a teacher than those that are being taught and are directly affected by the preparation, the content knowledge, the delivery and professionalism of the teacher they learn from everyday.

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