Head of American Federation of Teachers weighs in on Pittsburgh teacher ratings

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American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten today weighed in on the release of Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher ratings that show 96.9 percent of classroom teachers are proficient or distinguished.

She made her remarks in the context of a recent California case in which a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu declared laws governing teacher job security unconstitutional, including those that require furloughs to be by seniority rather than performance.

“On one side of the country, a judge in California wrongly ruled that the only way to ensure that kids — particularly kids who attend high-poverty schools — have good teachers is to take away teachers’ due process rights,” Ms. Weingarten said. On the other side of the country, the most recent teacher evaluation results in Pittsburgh proved this is absolutely not true. Due process not only goes hand-in-hand with this new evaluation system, having those rights helped to strengthen it."

She said she wasn't surprised by Pittsburgh's results, given the "dedication and talent" of the staff, but "there's a bigger story here that rejects the assertion made in California that due process rights hurt educational quality."

The evaluation system in Pittsburgh was developed by district officials and teachers who are members of the federation. A dispute arose over the scores required to meet certain performance levels. Teachers have said the city is requiring a higher score than is required for other teachers in the state.

In addition, Ms. Weingarten is not a fan of value-added growth measures, which make up part of the performance rating.

Of Pittsburgh's system, she said, "These results show what is possible when teachers, unions and the district — in a state with due process — work together on an evaluation system focused on helping teachers improve. While we may have some qualms about the construction of the evaluation system, the fact remains that far from impeding achievement due process and tenure, combined with an improvement-focused evaluation system, empower teachers and keep good teachers in the classroom, offer support to those who are struggling, and streamline the process for removing teachers who can't improve."

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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