CEA Responds To Anti-Union Group’s Smear Campaign

cea-logo_quarter.JPGThe recent campaign launched by the Center For Union Facts (CUF) has wrongly placed the highly qualified and hard-working teachers of the Columbus Education Association in its crosshairs with the release of its anti-teacher smear campaign.

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Not enough Columbus City teachers have been fired between the 2003-04 and 2006-07 school years to satisfy the Center For Union Facts. The anti-labor group posits that it is too easy for many Columbus City School teachers to obtain a continuing contract (known as tenure in other states) and they are therefore able to escape the accountability and scrutiny of the evaluation process. According to CUF documents, this makes it “nearly impossible to fire bad teachers”.

“Columbus prides itself in making sure that every child has a competent, caring, highly qualified teacher of quality,” states Columbus Education Association President Rhonda Johnson. “We police our own ranks through the PAR program.”

Indeed, the key to the quality of the teaching program in Columbus is the award-winning Peer Assistance and Review Program (PAR), in operation since 1985. Columbus was one of the first National Education Association locals to host such a program, winning a Saturn Award for the program and becoming a centerpiece in former NEA President Bob Chase’s concept of “New Unionism”.

The PAR program fulfills two roles; helping first year teachers (known as interns) become successful classroom teachers and providing intervention oversight and strategies for experienced teachers who are exhibiting signs of difficulty in the classroom.

Interns are automatically placed with a PAR Consulting Teacher (CT) once they have been hired by CCS. PAR CT’s are interviewed and selected by the PAR Panel, a joint management/ union committee which includes both the President of CEA and the Executive Director of Human Resources for the Columbus City Schools.

Teachers that are hired as CT’s have demonstrated outstanding classroom teaching ability, the ability to work effectively and cooperatively with other professional staff members and have an extensive knowledge of a variety of classroom management and instructional techniques.

PAR Interns are observed by their CT’s for a minimum of 20 separate sessions during the school year, for at least 45 minutes per session. After nine months of intensive hands-on training, conferences, evaluation and mentoring from their CT, interns are evaluated out of PAR with a successful or unsuccessful rating. Between the 1986-1987 and 2005-2006 school years, 89% (7,537 out of 8,932) first year interns were evaluated out successfully.

When teachers with five or more years of experience begin to exhibit difficulties in the classroom, another option in the PAR program is available to help them improve their performance: the intervention component. Teachers may enter the intervention component of the PAR program in one of three ways: self referral, a recommendation made by fellow teachers or a recommendation made by their administrator. In all cases except self-referral, the PAR Panel votes on whether or not to include a teacher in the intervention program.

Teachers who have entered into the intervention component of the PAR program are observed twice per week by their CT for at least 45 minutes per session. The PAR Panel receives regular reports on the status of the teacher in the intervention program. Between the 1986-1987 and 2005-2006 school years, only 40% of the teachers who entered the intervention component were released from the program in good standing.

The CUF maintains that “practically no teachers are ever fired….after they work for five years and thus acquire tenure (continuing contract)”. In contrast to the CUF misinformation, CCS teachers do not automatically earn a continuing contract after five years; in fact, teachers must apply in order to receive one from the Columbus Board of Education after three years of teaching in CCS.

“In order to obtain a continuing contract,” said President Johnson, “the teacher has to have successful ratings on their evaluations. The district has the right to deny a person a continuing contract even if they haven’t had any unsuccessful ratings—they can deny the contract based on any reason they choose.”

“I find it highly ironic, that on the day that this smear campaign begins,” continued Johnson, “the PAR panel is meeting to consider whether to make a recommendation to the Superintendent to non-renew 4 intern teachers and to receive reports on three experienced teachers whose PAR consulting teachers have grave concerns about their classroom performance.”

This is nothing more than an unwarranted attack from an anti-labor front group who wants to marginalize the credibility of over 4,000  honest, caring and hardworking teachers in Columbus for political gain.”