Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 | San Diego Unified has used the same process to evaluate its teachers for decades. It rarely pegs teachers with negative ratings, gives them years to improve, and seldom forces their dismissal. No tenured teachers were fired for poor performance last year.
The school district wants to change that process. The teachers union does not. It is a delicate issue that looms in the halting contract negotiations between the union and the district: How to improve decent teachers and boot bad ones without unfairly persecuting teachers who simply differ with principals or work with students who are harder to reach.
And it is no surprise that after a turbulent year marked by budget cuts, teacher layoffs and a bruising school board election fueled with union dollars, San Diego Unified and the teachers union are at odds on that controversial issue. But it is unclear if a new school board sympathetic to the union will continue the push by the previous board to use data more aggressively in teacher evaluation.
“Whether or not this new board continues down that road is something they have to choose,” said Superintendent Terry Grier.
Though San Diego Unified staffers and school board members are tightlipped as union bargaining continues behind closed doors, their proposal and internal reports reveal general dissatisfaction with the existing way that teachers are evaluated, particularly the lack of hard data used to judge their work. The union counters that the process works and has proposed less frequent evaluations for veteran teachers with good records to save time.
The process has changed little over the decades. Teachers and principals typically agree to three objectives to judge their work, such as ensuring that most of their first graders know the sounds of consonant letters or showing that students have improved their spelling. Principals also rate teachers as “effective,” “requires improvement,” or “unsatisfactory” on broad criteria such as “adherence to curricular objectives.”