Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, August 17, 2015

Being A Teacher These Days Means Walking A Tightrope Without A Safety Net

There's this myth perpetuated by education reformers, politicians and the media that "bad teachers" can't be fired, that once you become a tenured teacher, all you have to do to remain in the job is breathe and not get convicted of a felony.

The truth is far from the myth as this commenter at Perdido Street School blog writes:

Who'd want to become a teacher anywhere? I don't teach in a struggling school (though its close) and the decision to come in to teaching ranks as the biggest mistake of my life. Financially, psychologically, etc. A toll is taken on the psyche when your profession is labeled as the reason for almost all the negative issues going on in our society, relentlessly, no matter how ridiculous. The volume of it and the incessant nature makes one a bit twitchy. It was a stupid call. At least working at Amazon, you are probably paid well for the few years you survive....and then you can go get another job.

The thing that isn't talked about so much, and should be, is that when a teacher is drummed out, for any reason really, they will never teach again in public school. It's an established, formalized, institutionalized, fully-legal blacklisting. So a public school teacher falling under the hatchet of reform faces a much steeper slope out of unemployment than does, say, a corporate person who gets fired. As always, the "accountability" and "disruption" on the corporate side is always somehow lighter than they want to impose on the public side.

A fired teacher is DONE....the one thing they have prepared and trained for is no longer something they can tap on in their job search. (Unless they go to work at a desperate private school that will pay them like $19k a year.) Even admin....they leave or get booted somewhere, they get to become admin somewhere else (see Elia). No deep institutional, legal blacklisting for them! Even principals, AP's, Directors, etc in my district who have been let go for deep incompetence always get another job in Admin by the next school year in another district.

So that's a thing and it matters. For teachers, our options become way way way limited after being fired. We are the ultimate tightrope safety nets.

That's right - as I posted this morning, get the "I" rating smeared on your head and you're pretty much done - administrators will look to drum you out (especially if you're a senior teacher higher up on the salary step ladder), the system will look to drum you out (and with two "ineffective" ratings in a row, that can be done in an expedited manner), and no one will look to hire you.

I am in my fifteenth year as a public school teacher, before that I was in grad school and working as both a per diem substitute teacher and an SAT tutor.

I haven't had a job outside education since 1999.

Let's say I get dinged two years running under the new iteration of Andrew Cuomo's APPR teacher evaluation system and get an expedited trip out of my NYCDOE teaching job by 2017.

What would I do for work then?

As the commenter above noted, my experience and my resume is stuffed to the gills with education-related credentials and work.

Good luck to me trying to get a job doing something outside education with that kind of resume, but good luck to me trying to get a job inside education with the "ineffective" scarlet letter.

Walmart greeter here I come.

Welcome to Walmart, welcome to Walmart, welcome to Walmart...

It's time to dispense with the media myth that tenure is a lifetime appointment to a teaching gig.

The truth is, tenure no longer exists and it doesn't take a whole hell of a lot to have your career taken from you in an expedited (and rigged) process.

Think I'm engaging in hyperbole?

Head on over to a receivership school and see where you are in two to three years.


  1. RBE,
    I have to call you out on this one buddy. Your recent posts are very informative but you are misleading your audience with mathematical terms. In order to receive a rating of Ineffective, one must get a total score of 64 or less. This is really difficult to do, not impossible, but very, very difficult. Do you know how insane it is to score a 64 or less? On the MOSL measures for Stare & Local, I have never seen or heard of a score less than 13. I don't think you can get lower than 13. I know plenty of teachers in plenty of districts and even the number 13 is rare BUT let's go with it.
    If you score 13's on your Stare & Local measures, you're obviously at 26 (out of 40). At this point you'd only need 39 points to get to a 65 for a rating of Developing. I've never heard of a score below 40 up until this point.
    I believe the readers are not grasping the scoring matrix. If your school is terrible and the MOSL scores are low, you can still get higher than a 40 on your MOTP rating.
    Honestly, if your in a terrible school AND your a terrible teacher who somehow manages to get below a 40 on the MOTP and low scores on the MOSL, then indeed there's a problem.
    But seriously, this is really very rare. If you can teach and do what you have to do during observations while keeping in mind the 8 domains within the Danielson framework, you'll be fine. How the hell can someone's overall score be less than 65? Is there any readers on here who scored below 65 when the results came out last Fall?
    I received a total of 88. There's people scoring 24 points less than me, or more? I find this hard to believe. RBE, I think the numbers will not be lower at 64 for Ineffectives. It can't be. This is not adding up right. Give me a school that got below 13's. It's not out there. I received a 52 on the MOTP with a 18 and a 18for State & Local.

    1. If your certain its difficult to get nailed on APPR, take your talents and head on over to a receivership school then, let me know how it goes.

      But also remember, going forward, test scores are 50% of your rating.

      Might make much of what you wrote in your comment about the old MOSL inoperative, to use one of those great Ron Ziegler words, you know?

      I understand under the old system very few got "i" ratings.

      That's why Cuomo shoved through the new system and tied it to district funding, no?

    2. I work in a receivership school. I know some sped teachers who scored 6 on the MOSL.

  2. 6? What?? I can't believe it. This is certainly an interesting conversation though.

  3. 13/14 = Ineffevtive
    15/16 = Developing
    17/18 = Effective
    19/20 = Highly Effective
    There aren't any other scores you can get. Stop it with the "6". Lowest is 13. If you get an overall score below 65, you actually deserve to be canned. You have to be a total moron on so many levels to receive a 64 or below.

    1. Really? What reason do I have to lie? Your numbers are 100% wrong. See the chart in the link below for NYC scoring bands. From my own experience, I can say that I scored 15 on the state and local measures and was effective in both, not developing as your little chart claims.

      Whether you believe it or not, several teachers in my school did score "6.". I even know of one who scored "0." BTW, they're not the "morons" that you suggest they are. They're good teachers who had the misfortune of teaching students who chose not to learn. The fact that you can't envision a situation like that suggests that you think VAM is valid. If that's the case, then you're part of the problem.

      I'm not going to call you a pretentious asshole. Your words have already done it for me.


    2. Most of us in our phasing out school got below 13 on both portions of the MOSL in 2013-14. Nobody was ineffective on the observations but we ended up needing all those points to make it to developing or effective overall. 13 is developing. I don't think the first person who commented researched this thoroughly. Being in a different school with kids who were a bit different compared to the phasing out school made a huge difference in 2014-15. As soon as the final ratings are out, I will blog on it over at ICE.

  4. Had I known my post from earlier today would get reposted by RBE, I would have tried to sharpen it up a bit!

    Anyhow, all this discussion about the liklihood/probability of a low score misses the point entirely: we should all be aghast, angered to the point of real action, activated politically, and screaming until we are out of breath at the one basic reality--a mechanism is on the table by which our careers could be destroyed. Period. Knowing that a murderer broke into my house but probably won't kill me gives me NO ease! All we should be focused on is that it is POSSIBLE to have our careers ruined over these politically derived, pseudo-everything evaluations. The probability of them biting me is no comfort, nor should it be. What is possible will fast become probable.

    This is one of the things I find myself at a loss with with my colleagues. So many are focused on the liklihood that they forget that it is an abomination to have a bloody axe placed in the center of the table you are eating at. I fear that we are losing our perspective....that labor perspective....that sees such things as evil. We are collectively forgetting what we have lost. We have lost the right to sit around a professional table WITHOUT a bloody axe sitting in the middle of it. That's what we have to fight over. Not the short-sighted band aids of making the hatchet less likely to get implanted in our foreheads. This is the central juicy middle of what I see as the problems with our union leadership. They aren't even realizing what they are giving up.

    The point I was trying to make earlier, which RBE got (to his credit, as navigation my language usage can be troubling), was that there is a HUGE difference between losing your job in the corporate world and losing your job as a teacher. Corporate folks can bounce around with their "skillsets" (whatever those may be....I tend to think ALOT of time is spent on the corporate side creatively inventing ones skills). Teachers are straight-up drummed out of the profession. Even short of a successful 3020A proceeding (getting your license yanked), there is no chance of getting another teaching job even if you left "on your own accord" while facing a circumstance for getting fired. It's right on applications, first thing in our district: "have you ever left a teaching position in lieu of facing a performance or disciplinary inquiry?" We all know that the application goes no further after answering yes to that lovely question!

    Us public school teachers are in a bad way. There are mechanisms IN PLACE to end our careers. Unlike almost all other professions, getting fired as a teacher has a blacklisting associated with it that ignores completely circumstance, is fully legal, always practiced, and is formalized to the extent that it is baked into the system. Nobody else in education has this: admin folk can and usually do land on their feet back in an admin job, etc. We need to really sharpen up and focus on the real evil in the room....that the implements of our demise are being assembled all around us in full view, and yet the object of those implements (us), for the most part, are squabbling about how likely we will be to be slaughtered.

    1. Your point is well taken, however this madness cannot be stopped. This is what it is right now and it's only going to get worse as the eval goes up to 50% based on whatever school your in. I'm a music teacher who gets graded from however the science department does at my school with kids I don't even know. Can you imagine this? 50% of my livelihood is based on another subject and kids I don't even know, every single year. If this madness wasn't realized and corrected, our union just doesn't care. The union is to blame for this. Don't get me wrong, being in a union is a much safer feeling and there has been great moments as I've been teaching over 20 years. Now it's a diff story. The union has failed. The union can protect and it has failed. A music teacher's livelihood is based on 50% she can't control.
      Pure disgusting!