Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Veteran Teachers Should Do to Protect Themselves From Being Driven out of the Profession

The more I talk to teachers around the country, the more I am convinced that School Reformers and Government Officials are making a systematic effort to drive the best veteran teachers out of the profession, both to save money and destroy the historic memory of a time when teachers had real autonomy and input into decisions about pedagogy and curriculum. The harassment and micromanagement such teachers experience is sometimes subtle, sometimes vicious, explicit and direct, but it is taking place in almost every school district in the country. If you are such a teacher, and the harassment has not yet reached intolerable proportions, I have two pieces of advice for you: 1. Start identifying lawyers in your area who handle employment issues, in case you need to retain one and 2. Start cultivating a political base among your former students ( if you teach in high school) and parents of former students ( if you teach in elementary school or middle school) who can get involved in putting pressure on the principal, the school district, and the press should you come under attack. The latter strategy is one I have followed in my University ever since I began teaching there in a field ( African American Studies) which administrators didn't respect and it has helped protect me, and my Department in very difficult moments. Of course universities are not directly comparable to public schools, but having a team of supporters ready to come to your defense is something that I think teachers have to do in this toxic political climate. Many great teachers already have these connections so I am not asking you to reinvent the wheel- just prepare to use your networks to prevent cynical administrators from driving you out of a job you love.


Hannah13 said...

Great advice!!!

Laura h. Chapman said...

Universities are not directly comparable to public schools. Probably should track the outcome of this case in Florida where the National Education Association affiliates filed a federal lawsuit to protest Florida’s policy of linking job ratings to the test scores of students. One of the teachers was rated on the test scores of students in grades and subjects she never taught (Rich, 2013). James Popham, a critic of current policies, and Margaret DeSander, a lawyer, remind teachers that legal protections for K-12 teachers are limited, especially if the policies are uniformly applied to all teachers (2013). They recommend that teachers research these issues and then enlist advocacy groups to change policies. Teachers alone have little voice in changing the conditions under which they were hired and work. In a fairly recent case, one federal judge characterized K-12 teachers as “hired speech.” Teachers are thus required to follow the rules made by school boards on all sorts of matters (Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education of Tipp City, 2010). Citations follow.
Rich, M. (2013, April 17). Florida: Teachers sue over evaluation system. New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2013 from
Popham, W. J. & DeSander, M. K. (2013, September 18). Unfairly fired teachers deserve court protection,” Education Week, 33(4), 26-27.
Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education of Tipp City Exempted Village School District, No. 09-3775 (6th Cir. Oct. 21, 2010).