The Partnership for Educational Justice launched a new social media campaign in January 2015 intended to highlight issues they see in New York’s “failed” teacher tenure process and policies.
The campaign is disseminating stories of failed teaching practices and the lack of consequences implemented from those practices. It is being launched as oral arguments approach in a lawsuit against New York that seeks revisions to the tenure process, improvements in teaching methods and the tenure disciplinary proceedings.
The lawsuit was filed by an East New York man, John Keoni Wright, and six other parents in July 2014. Wright claims the academic achievements of his twin daughters was similar until they started attending separate schools. One daughter began to lag behind, while the other excelled at her studies.
One story in the PEJ media campaign describes a teacher sending in “bogus” English exam scores. The defense claims the teacher had an “otherwise clean record,” according to PEJ.
Another story tells of a teacher who managed to be absent 113 times throughout the course of three years. Her defense was the absences “had no influence on [the] students’ learning whatsoever.”
PEJ also cites an alleged incident where a teacher had a personal relationship with his student. The teacher and student texted late at night, with some messages saying “I love you.” The teacher was allegedly seen placing his hand on the student’s thigh and had him over to his apartment to watch pornography.
A recent study by Katharine Stevens, an American Enterprise Institute research fellow, reveals 61 percent of New York teachers found guilty of various complaints between 1997 and 2007 — including incompetent teaching — were returned to the classroom by their supervisors.
The media campaign is incorporating info graphics for the anecdotes describing these cases, which will be distributed via Facebook and Twitter.
New York State United Teachers, the largest teachers union in the state, is blasting PEJ’s media campaign and refuting the accusations.
NYSUT Spokesman Carl Korn called the campaign “an attack on teachers.”
Korn said the small minority of teachers whose actions have been called into question should not represent the commendable careers of the majority of tenured educators.
Like every citizen, the minority of tenured teachers who have made poor choices are still guaranteed due process, the union notes. It is the local board of education’s job to ask whether or not the accused offense will likely happen again and whether or not the teacher has been a great teacher so far. Tenure gives a teacher the room to make mistakes without immediately being fired for an incident that may never happen ever again, Korn said.
As for the credibility of the social media campaign, Korn said, “Just because [PEJ] prints something does not make it true,” later adding, “You have to look at who runs Partnership for Educational Justice. They are funded by billionaires with hedge funds who want to have control over public education.”
Korn said the union’s intentions are not to protect teachers who are harming children or the profession in general.
“Tenure is an essential safeguard to enable good teachers to effectively advocate for students…Tenure simply guarantees fairness and due process if allegations are logged against a teacher.” Korn said.