Union says cameras OK in classroom, but not for teacher evaluations

November 13, 2012

Kyle Olson Kyle Olson

Kyle founded Education Action Group in 2007.
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By Ashleigh Costello
EAGnews.org

NEWARK, N.J.—The Newark teachers union has tentatively agreed to a new contract that includes the placement of video cameras in classrooms.

If the contract is approved, school administrators would be allowed to install cameras in classrooms to provide coaching and support for teachers,  according to NJ Spotlight. Unfortunately the contract explicitly states that video footage “shall not be used for any evaluative or disciplinary purposes.”

What a ridiculous provision. We can’t believe school district negotiators accepted it.

Security cameras have often been key tools in stopping child abuse. Many districts have cameras installed in classrooms, school hallways and buses. More often than not, the footage shows routine behavior. However, in rare cases, cameras can record instances of abuse, as was the case this week when a Broward County, Florida school bus attendant was caught allegedly choking an autistic child.

In such instances, it would be ridiculous and a disservice to the safety of students to disregard video footage.

It would also be a huge waste of a valuable resource to keep cameras out of the teacher evaluation process.

Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso said he was concerned the cameras could be used to record unsuspecting teachers, which was why he was opposed to using video footage as an evaluative tool.

“We didn’t want to go to the point of evaluation at this point in time,” said Del Grosso, reasoning that “Technology has its good side and its bad.”

But many are questioning what good teachers have to fear.

Currently, teachers know well in advanced when they will be evaluated and prepare accordingly.  The evaluation process would be far more meaningful if teachers knew they could be evaluated at any given moment by camera. Such a system would provide the most accurate assessment of how a teacher performs on a day-to-day basis.

So now the unions have told us we can’t measure teacher performance by measuring how much students learn, or by watching videotapes of the teacher in action.

Just how are we supposed to hold teachers accountable? Wait a minute. Maybe that’s the point. Their union doesn’t want them held accountable by all.

The proposed contract, made public on Oct. 18, will go to the union membership for a ratification vote Wednesday.

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