In the October 13th 2007 contract which everybody thought was a good contract for the teachers a voluntary teacher improvement program was quietly slipped into the contract (Article 21J pg 123). This voluntary program was called the Peer Intervention Program Plus otherwise known as PIP+. The PIP+ program is supposed to follow the union-supported PIP program in which a union member mentors a struggling teacher and tries to correct any flaws in the teacher’s classroom management ability. If after PIP the mentor is unable to improve the teacher’s ability to run a classroom, the mentor tries to consuls the teacher out of the profession if necessary. However, in many cases the Principal pressures the teacher to take the PIP+ program with out either the teacher being given PIP or had satisfactory passed the PIP program. On the other hand the PIP+ individual can be either an ex classroom teacher or Administrator who is paid by a vendor, hired and paid for by the DOE to evaluate the teacher. The PIP+ program is enthusiastically promoted by both the DOE and the UFT leadership as a way to get rid of teachers deemed incompetent. The PIP+ program is not a teacher improvement program but a teacher termination program!
Before PIP+ came about, teachers charged with incompetence by the Principal were usually found guilty by the 3020-a Arbitrator and were fined $5,000 and forced to take a course in Classroom Management. The reason very few were terminated by Arbitrators was because the Administrators who targeted the teacher with incompetence charges were not considered “master teachers” and many of them were “mediocre teachers” at best themselves. The teachers who were terminated usually had companion charges such as insubordination, corporal punishment, verbal abuse, time & attendance, etc. Consequently, the termination rate for incompetence was extremely low. Along came the 2007 contract and Randi Weingarten and her non-teacher flunkies agreed with the DOE that it should become easier for Arbitrators to terminate teachers charged with incompetence. Therefore, the establishment of the infamous PIP+ program in the 2007 contract. The PIP+ educator is now considered an “expert witness” and the Arbitrators are seeing them as such. Therefore, the termination rate for teachers charged with incompetence is at least 75%, based on a limited sample. This is a far cry from the approximately 10% termination rate before PIP+. You might ask how could our union agree to this? Simple, the UFT leadership, who have not been in the classroom in ages, if ever, believe that if a teacher is charged with incompetence, it must be true. Additionally, the DOE formed a 1.2 million dollar Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) known as the “gotcha squad” consisting of lawyers and retired principals to help terminate teachers charged with incompetence. Once, the NYSUT lawyers could fight hard for teachers charged with incompetence and if not win, at least make sure their client wasn’t terminated. Now the NYSUT attorneys believe that they are fighting an uneven battle as the burden of proof is shifted from the DOE to the teacher in these cases. One lawyer was quoted as saying “that it is like betting on a one legged man in a butt kicking contest when it comes to defending a PIP+ teacher". The sense of defeatism is evident as they are urging their clients who are charged with incompetence and had PIP+ to take a deal, any deal. What are the deals being offered? One year and resignation or two years and a $10,000 to $15,000 fine along with resignation. In all cases the PIP+ teacher must leave the system and never be hired back.
For the sake of clarity, let me explain how PIP+ works. The Principal targets a teacher for a variety of reasons and decides that the best way is to get the teacher out is through the incompetence procedure. The Principal will usually discourage the teacher from taking PIP, since the PIP teacher may tell the Principal that there is nothing wrong with the teacher and might help offset the PIP+ educator in the future 3020-a hearing. The Principal will then call in the teacher and Chapter Leader and inform the teacher that the teacher must take PIP+ or face charges of incompetence and removal from the classroom based upon the administrative observations. The Chapter Leader follows the guidance given by the District Representative who recommends taking PIP+ and this keeps the teacher in the classroom an extra six months. However, nine out of ten times the taking of PIP+ by the teacher is the death warrant for the teacher and termination is just a 3020-a hearing away. Let’s take a look at the limited statistics from the PIP+ program.
- 3 out of 4 teachers who had PIP+ were terminated by the Arbitrators.
Chapter Leaders are the first line of defense and they must understand what the consequences of PIP+ means to the targeted teachers and encourage these teachers from taking what is in essence a termination program. Remember, the PIP+ program is a voluntary program and teachers cannot be charged for refusing to take PIP+. It is better for the teacher to be removed from the classroom six months earlier if it means they will be able to keep their job down the road. Remember, without PIP+ the DOE has no “expert witnesses” to testify against the teacher in the 3020-a hearings. As the elected representative, Chapter Leaders must protect their staff and that means recommending to teachers that taking PIP is a good thing but agreeing to PIP+ is agreeing to be terminated in the 3020-a hearing.
More information about the PIP+ vender contracts and a similar take on the PIP+ termination process can be found on Betsy Combier’s rubber room reporter blog.