It's teacher hunting season!

Monday, March 23, 2009

NYC teachers: Beware of the new PIP+ !

New York City's Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers have established the Peer Intervention Program to assist teachers that have received two unsatisfactory, or “U” ratings in a row. (The principal wants the teachers out of the school and the profession.) The PIP observers observe the teachers for ten weeks.

The are several problems of grave concern to the teachers under review in the new version of the Peer Intervention Program. PIP has changed from the original program format. The new program is the “PIP+” program. In the new design of PIP+ there are aspects of secrecy, of non-transparency, that work against the teacher, and in favor of the principal.
The intent of the original PIP program was to provide teachers with an opportunity for growth. Experienced teachers could be trusted to work in confidence with teachers, and as aides with the teachers. Under the original PIP program teachers would be spared the risk of being observed by an administrator for the period of months that the teacher was being observed by the PIP observer.

In the new PIP+ program, the PIP+ observers do not show the observations to the teachers, instead, they only show their reports to the principals. The observations only are revealed to the teachers when they are charged at the 3020-a hearings (incompetency hearings, to strip teachers of their teaching license). These observations are used as ammunition against the teachers, as part of the charges against them in the 3020-a process. The teachers have been told that if they do not participate, this will be used against them as act of insubordination at the 3020-a proceedings.
The PIP+ observers write things about the teacher that might not even be true. The teacher will not have any defense. One PIP+ observer told a teacher that she was an ideal teacher, that she did not actually understand why the observed teacher was being subjected to the program. However, the observer wrote in her report that the teacher was incompetent in performing her lessons.
The observers have the appearance of being independent outside observers, but they are being hired by and paid by Department of Education. There is a known case in which a principal called a PIP observer, asking her to come in, to observe a teacher. The observer testified under oath that she had never been in the school before. However, the teacher in question hired a private-eye to find the truth. The investigator uncovered that the PIP observer had previously been in the school, that she had lead a professional development session at the school.

The conclusion that teachers and their advocates should draw from these details is that a teacher should not sign up with the PIP+ program. Teachers that are pressured to sign up with PIP+ should ideally say, “I don't want to say anything or participate in anything that could wrongly jeopardize an assessment of my performance. I need to know that what actually happened in the classroom is going into the observation report.”

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