Teachers helped to create a system their union now is criticizing

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Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers treasurer Jeremiah Dugan’s letter “Teachers Deserve Transparent Evaluations” (Feb. 11) is misleading at best. Mr. Dugan knows that the PFT created the evaluation system with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and signed a letter to the state Department of Education asking for its approval as an alternative to the state tool.

Mr. Dugan also knows that more than 400 teachers participated in creating this evaluation. Members of the PFT participate in a VAM (value-added measure) task force, where the calculation was developed. Rather than poking holes in something they helped to create, I’d urge PFT leadership to support their members in understanding how student growth measures work.

Further, Mr. Dugan knows that his criticisms about administrator observations are bogus. The PFT’s own president has touted the value of the Research-based Inclusive System of Evaluation (RISE) on numerous occasions both in public and print. PPS has invested significant resources to train principals and teacher leaders to increase the reliability of classroom observations to minimize subjectivity.

Finally, Mr. Dugan and the PFT leadership also know that Pittsburgh’s system is one of the most transparent systems in the state, if not the country. Teachers are actively involved in the RISE process, providing evidence to support their case and have the ability to challenge ratings. Teachers still benefit from the union’s grievance process if they feel their evaluations are unfair.

I urge the PFT to be honest with the public and its members about this evaluation system. This campaign of misinformation does not serve the interest of PFT members and, more important, is a disservice to our city’s students. Pittsburgh’s model of teacher evaluation is one of the best in the world, and with the support of teachers and the PFT, it will continue to get better.

Point Breeze

The writer served on the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Public Schools from 2009 to 2013, including two years as first vice president and one year as president.

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