Some D.C. teachers go back to work
In the next few days, District lawyers are expected to respond to the Washington Teachers' Union lawsuit, explaining why DCPS was within its rights to lay off 266 teachers and staff. At the same time, the school system has quietly reinstated 25 teachers terminated last summer under the so-called "90-day plan."
The plan--actually 90 school days spread across about five months--was supposed to be a regimen of remedial action for teachers who received "unsatisfactory" ratings in at least six of 17 performance categories from an administrator who observed a classroom lesson. Those still judged unsatisfactory in at least three categories at the end of the period could be fired.
The provision has been in the District's personnel regulations for years but was seldom invoked because principals had trouble finding time to meet its cumbersome, labor-intensive series of conferences and deadlines. Educators on the plan were also supposed to be teamed with "helping teachers" to work through problems, but that didn't always happen. Any procedural misstep could send a teacher's case back to square one.
But last fall Rhee, frustrated with the lack of progress in contract talks that she'd hoped would give her more latitude to fire poor-performing teachers, put the 90-day plan back in play. It was part of what she called "Plan B." Principals identified roughly 150 teachers for the program, and about 80 were ultimately fired.
Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson said the 25 dismissals were walked back because of "ambiguity" in the existing labor contract and language in the school system's old personnel evaluation plan, known as PPEP (Professional Performance Evaluation Process). PPEP, and the 90-day plan, have since been supplanted by a new, more streamlined system called IMPACT.
Without disappearing completely into the human resources weeds, it seems that a teacher could be deemed a 90-day-plan washout, but still receive a larger overall evaluation that said something more benign, such as "needs improvement." Under the contract, a teacher can be fired only after two consecutive years with the "needs improvement" tag.
"The union maintains one position, we maintain another," Henderson said in an e-mail Wednesday. "Rather than go to court over a clearly ambiguous issue, we decided to settle. Knowing that this type of discrepancy cannot occur through the IMPACT process, we are not concerned about this issue moving forward."
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