New York City teachers sue to shield lessons from school leaders

August 25, 2014

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Bob Kellogg Bob Kellogg

Bob Kellogg is a freelance journalist. His work regularly appears on OneNewsNow.com.

NEW YORK – It’s the “principal” of the thing. New York public school teachers want to live by the principle that principals are not allowed when it comes to lesson plans.


SpyingIn an apparent power grab, NY teachers are declaring that they, and they alone, are in charge of what is taught in their classrooms. In a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers in the Manhattan Supreme Court last week, it is asking a judge to confirm that educators, and not their principals, are in charge of what goes into lesson plans.

The plaintiffs are basing their claim on an under-the-radar arbitrator’s decision from teacher negotiations last May. Though arbitrator Deborah Gaines acknowledged that written lesson plans are required of all teachers, she said “the specifics of the plan will be left to the professional judgment of the teacher.”

The UFT went so far as to demand that higher-ups not even be allowed to collect and review lesson plans, but Gaines denied that request. So now the UFT has gone to court.

Education analyst Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation told EAGNews, “In any other business, it would be considered par for the course for a supervisor to request to see an employee’s work product. This is no different.

Teachers, for their part, should have the confidence that they work in a flexible and supportive work environment, but that support is a two-way street,” she said. “Teachers should also be supportive of school leadership to help them advance the goals and mission of the school.”

The New York Post reports reformers are enraged by this latest litigation. New York City Parents Union President Monda Davids complains, “It’s outrageous that teachers believe they don’t need to share their lesson plans with the principal beforehand. How is a principal supposed to ensure students are receiving a high-quality education?”

“This lawsuit is union boss Mike Mulgrew’s latest attempt to gum up the works at the expense of our kids,” Jenny Selis, head of the nonprofit StudentsFirstNY, told the Post. “The only reason for this frivolous legal action is to protect the poorly performing teachers who don’t properly plan and aren’t serving out kids well.”

The Post reports that the union is pursuing this legal action to secure a favorable decision from a judge which would be stronger than an arbitrator’s ruling under any future challenge.

For now the principals’ union isn’t planning to challenge the move, apparently because they are still able to at least view lesson plans.

Even the Department of Education is denouncing the arbitrator’s decision. It contends a total lack of oversight “would, in fact, diminish the professionalism of teachers.” As an example, they pointed out the UFT was willing to defend a teacher who had compiled a list of song titles and called it a lesson plan.

According to Burke, “In states like New York – once infamous for its ‘rubber rooms’ that housed teachers that were severely underperforming but whose jobs couldn’t be terminated due to union protections – where it’s difficult for principals to have control over personnel decisions, those principals especially need to be able to have input into what is taught in school classrooms.”

Mulgrew stands behind the union’s case. He says teacher control over lesson plans “helps to reduce the amount of paperwork required of teachers.” But are parents to assume reducing paperwork is going to ensure their children are getting the best education possible?

Not in a New York minute.

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