The Baltimore Teachers Union and supporters rally in front of the Baltimore City Public Schools building to protest last-minute changes the administration made to their evaluation system without informing the union
ANGEL ELLIOTT, PRODUCER/CORRESPONDENT: I’m Angel Elliott with The Real News.
Teachers in Baltimore are up in arms over a year-end school system decision that decides whether or not they get a merit-based raise. The Baltimore Teachers Union is demanding that the issue be renegotiated immediately.
CARLA MCCOY, TEACHER, EDMONSON-WESTSIDE HIGH SCHOOL: It’s time for us to stand up and be counted, stand up and speak for ourselves, stand up and be our own advocate. We can no longer trust them to do what we need them to do.
ELLIOTT: The union held a protest in front of the Baltimore City Public Schools building on North Avenue, sending a message loud and clear to school administrators that they wouldn’t stand for the blindside.
NICK MCDANIELS, TEACHER, MERVO HIGH SCHOOL: So we’re out here because the Baltimore City public school system did a complete bait-and-switch on all of the teachers regarding the evaluation system. Three weeks ago, we were told we were going to be evaluated one way, and then all of a sudden, right before we were about to get our annual evaluations, which are tied to our paychecks because of our current contract, they changed the whole scheme on us.
CAMPBELL MCCLAIN, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: We all walnt schools that evaluate teachers rigorously and fairly. We know that when you move the cut scores in the middle of the year, it breeds distrust and instability. We will hold people accountable to a higher standard of transparency, open communication, and being honorable as a district.
ADINA WOMACK, RETIRED BALTIMORE CITY TEACHER: And so we as professionals cannot stand still. We have to let people see you can’t do anything you want to do to us. We are a union, and we will fight you, and we will stick together to do what we have to do [inaud.].
ELLIOTT: Baltimore City School refuted the allegations, releasing a statement. Quote:
“Lowering the standards by which teachers are evaluated would be a grave disservice to our best classroom teachers and our children and send the wrong message to the families and communities who support our schools.”
–Interim CEO Tisha Edwards
City officials didn’t inform the teachers of the changes to a teacher evaluation system before they were graded using the new systems criteria. The result? An almost across-the-board change to teachers’ classroom ratings.
TOM SMITH, TEACHER, PATTERSON HIGH SCHOOL: They didn’t staff these evaluation committees with nearly enough people to do the job like it needed to be done. How many people did not get a pre-observation comment? How many people didn’t have a full observation, the full hour, because they get pulled out for whatever reason? How many people never get a post-observation comment? I mean, is this a highly effective evaluation process? I don’t think so.
MCCOY: And people have been affected by it, because the evaluations have been shifted because of the shift in scoring. So that six points where you were once highly effective, you’re no longer highly effective. Where you once were effective, you’re no longer effective. When you were once developing, you’re no longer. And this is just a rippling effect. And it’s really unfortunate that this kind of thing happened, regardless as to whether it was a misunderstanding or not. Then let’s just fix it. If they said the scores had shifted when we came back in September, then we would not have had, you know, things happen.
ELLIOTT: The system required a teacher to get an 80 or above on a scale of 100 to achieve a, quote, highly effective rating. The year-end change saw that bar raised to 86 in order to achieve this rating. All who fell under that bar were suddenly labeled as developing or ineffective in the classroom. Teachers say they didn’t know all year they would be graded on the new scale.
MCDANIELS: I was one of three finalists for Baltimore City Teacher of the Year. You know what that makes me? Effective. Not highly effective–.
ELLIOTT: With already low wages, hopes of a pay increase were dashed for many, seeing as though performance evaluations are tied to a raise.
MCCOY: Sometimes it’s not always about the paycheck; it’s about dignity, ripping our dignity away from us when they think that this is okay when it is clearly not.
TODD REYNOLDS, POLITICAL COORDINATOR, AFT HEALTHCARE-MARYLAND: Every teacher really gets involved in this ’cause they really believe in trying to make at least America a more equal place. And I think when school boards kind of, you know, change the rules in the middle of the game, it kind of hurts that opportunity for equality.
MCDANIELS: North Avenue does not understand the struggle that, first and foremost, our kids go through in Baltimore City public schools, and also our teachers. And a move like this to devalue teachers by changing the evaluation structure completely undermines the work that teachers and kids are doing to try to overcome and succeed in that struggle.
ELLE JOHNSON, LIBRARIAN, HILTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: You can’t change the game, you can’t change the rules on our children, so why would you do that to the people who are on the front lines with those children each and every day?
MICHAEL MCNALLY, EXEC. DIR., AFT HEALTHCARE-MARYLAND: They should be engaging every professional in this district in a meaningful way with respect and coming out of it with an agreement that all sides can say, this is a good agreement and this is going to help our kids.
MCCOY: We want fairness, we want you to keep your word, we would like for you to do what you say you’re going to do, so that we can function.
ELLIOTT: Baltimore teachers and supporters at the rally believe that North Avenue is simply out of touch.
I’m Angel Elliott with The Real News.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.