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?