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February 8, 2012

Union Leader: City principals also seeing PIP surge

On Wednesday, we ran a story about the stark increase in the number of Baltimore city teachers who received unsatisfactory ratings on their mid-year evaluations, and were consequently placed on Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs).

The plans have caused angst among educators, having historically been used as a precursor for dismissal, and many city educators said they believe the surge reflects that the district has signed onto a union contract it can't afford. 

While the story focused on teachers, I've also learned that this isn't just taking place among city teachers.

Jimmy Gittings, president of the administrators union, said that a large number of principals have also been placed on PIPs.  He said he believes this is part of district strategy to make up for past missteps, and this is a strategy to more easily fire administrators.

“The only reason people are on these PIPs is because since Alonso came, they’ve violated our contract and were firing people without them,” Gittings said. “So what they have done to cover their tracks is put everybody on a damn PIP.”

Gittings said he didn't believe that the rise in the plans reflect the number of principals who need to improve their performance. “It's that now," he said, "if they come across someone they want to fire, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

The district claims that it is now redefining PIPs in using them as a constructive feedback and professional development tool.

In the past, they have represented an agreement between teachers and principals (or principals and their evaluators) about areas of improvement. If a teacher didn't hold up their end of the bargain, the district can recommend for dismissal (though, that's not nearly the end of the process.) 

Though officials dispute there's no conspiracy, they also acknowledged that the system's teacher evaluation system is long broken, and that there to be a new focus on improving teacher quality under the new Baltimore Teachers Union contract.

Baltimore city schools CEO Andres Alonso has also told principals that they were not properly evaluating teachers. At the beginning of the school year, Alonso pointed to inconsistent evaluation data which he told principals illustrated "an unwillingness to do the right thing."

But, teachers said their biggest fears about the new union contract--that it would promise to pay teachers more but make them more vulnerable during evaluations--have been realized. And to make matters worse, they said, they didn't see this coming.

Experts are of the mind that, for better or worse, Baltimore is experiencing growing pains in its effort to improve teacher quality in a time when teachers are feeling attacked for the challenges facing public education.

I think one of our experts said is best when she said that at the end of the day,"this effort all falls on how well the district is able to communicate with teachers."

I heard district sent out a letter from city schools CEO Andres Alonso on Tuesday night explaining the new approach to PIPs, soon after The Sun had posted its story. 

So, what to make of the PIP situation? There's no doubt that the system needs to reform its evaluation system, but it this the way to do it?

Posted by Erica Green at 10:30 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City


AAA sent the letter where? To whom? not to teachers as of this minute.

The big issue for me is -what contract are we working under? What PBES plan? A little bit of this? A little bit of that?

No one knows! I have asked my administrators and gotten two different answers. We have had the union rep in and gotten mixed answers.

The contract is a mess on many levels-evaluations, AU's , model teacher track, and more. In usual BCPSS fashion, it was rolled out long before it was ready, causing communication issues, misunderstandings, and probably abuse.

Evaluations are not only a way to assess teacher effectiveness but a way to save money! Same for all the uncertified "consultants" now working as teachers, in postions formally held by certified art, music,library, physical education, foreign language and technology teachers. These consultants are paid to "teach" without a lesson plan, management plan, sometimes without a college degree, and for a low wage. Why is this allowed? Answer-money! And where is the union on this? They state that" it is going on all over the city, everyone knows,and the union can't do anything." Just for talk's sake, maybe I could accept this budget issue if the "consultants" could actually do a good job but very sadly this is not the case. Long term,sometimes all year,substitutes are another issue. Hightly qualified?

As far as principal PIPS, I would love to have the opportunity to do a 360 degree evaluation/feedback for my supervisors. I would like the opportunity to share what is working and what isn't regarding what trickles down from administrators, IST's , teacher mentors, and other out of the classrooom specialists. How is their work efffecting my work in both negetive and positive ways.

One last thing. A rumor is going around that unless test scores are on target, no teacher should be rated proficient. Has anyone heard this? What do you think about this? This includes staff not in tested areas. And yes, I know we are all part of the team. Just wondering how this philosophy could possible play out?

Okay so where do I start? First, anyone who says they did not see this coming is blind as a bat. It is totally and completely about the new evaluation system and holding teachers and administrators accountable for student learning. That is what the teachers and administrators agreed to. Second, for administrators to cry about being evaluated just like teachers is disrespectful and shows a double standard. How do you think all those teachers got on PIPs? The administrators evaluated them and placed them on PIPs, thats how. So then why is it such a problem if administrators are evaluated the same way? Double standard that's why. Get over it, do your job, get good evaluations or move out. But we cannot accept administrators crying (and cursing, mind you) about being evaluated just like the teachers.

Remember that time, like a while ago, when we were like "This contract will reward AU's for proficient and satisfactory evaluations, but evaluations are subjective and I bet principals will up the number of unsatisfactory evaluations to keep the cost of teachers down" ... and then the Sun and the Union and the Central Office were like "No way, bro, we wan't you guys to be rich and successful".

Also, at least these people GOT evaluated mid year. I didn't get any evaluation, and contrary to popular belief I (and other teachers) do like feedback on our performance so we can continue to get better.


Just as an update: I went on to self service and found (SURPRISE!) an evaluation posted for me. I never met with my principal, never signed anything, and was never told anything was posted.

The evaluation was posted Jan. 18th (which is after the due date), and put me on a PIP without letting me know! Apparently I was supposed to sense my PIP via the force and automatically improve.

So I'm being lectured on accountability at faculty meetings coming down from the central office, but my school leader can submit materials late, not do her job meeting with staff for evaluations, and place people on PIPs without signatures.

The area I was unsatisfactory in? Professional Responsibilities. Thank you, Irony.

Given that 75% of the principals in the system are brand spanking new, (or have arrived since Alonso arrived) I'm not sure how to take this. Gittings maybe right that "this is a strategy to more easily fire administrators" but it sounds like Alonso was doing just fine before.

Are they all on PIPs because they are all bad?

Are they on PIPs because they are inexperienced?

It seems a little illegitimate to me to get rid of 3/4 of your staff and then tell their replacements that they suck.
Funny how we have yet to meet the Model Teacher/Principal who is going to show us all how to do it right. Umm, maybe we really ARE waiting for Superman.

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