Jake Turney 
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Re: “Berkeley's Unequal Punishment of Teachers

Hold Teachers Accountable

The subtitle of the April article "Berkeley's Unequal Punishment of Teachers," by Sam Levin, asks the question: "Are students paying the price?"

We believe the answer to the question is yes, but for reasons different than the ones Mr. Levin suggests. While the article does make the case that the Berkeley Peer Assistance and Review process has been inconsistently implemented, the fact remains that there must be a formal process in place by which teachers can be held accountable by the school district or, in the case of Berkeley High, by the six learning communities, for the commonly agreed upon curriculum and skills teachers are expected to deliver in their classrooms. The article simply doesn't tell the whole story about the inclusive ways in which teachers work together to create optimal learning environments for our students.

Academic Choice, the largest of Berkeley High's six Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), has an established process to decide and agree upon the curriculum, skills, courses, and texts that work to provide all students with an exemplary education. Most of these decisions occur during our professional development meetings every Monday morning — meetings that all Berkeley High teachers are contractually obligated to attend.

During our Monday professional development meetings we delve into issues of student equity, achievement, and develop curriculum. As colleagues, we expect that one another attend and actively participate in this context, because we see a direct correlation between teacher involvement and quality instruction.

It should be noted that, over the years, the history teacher who is the focus of your article has rarely come to these meetings. Therefore he largely did not participate in discussions about curriculum, skills, courses, or textbooks. This leads us to wonder: How can he then criticize those decisions that were commonly agreed-upon, or claim that important decisions were not being made at all?

For too long, some teachers have exploited at perceived "unfairness" in the BPAR process itself, in order to avoid taking responsibility for their teaching practices. This needs to end.

As educators, we are proud of our profession and the work that we do on behalf of our students. Therefore, we write in support of an effective evaluation process. This process must provide the support and incentives that all teachers need — from those recognized for their excellence to those who need to display the most improvement. This process would hold teachers accountable to the young lives that they impact.

Indeed, if our teachers cannot be held accountable for the curriculum, skills, courses, or textbooks their community has agreed to, then the answer to Mr. Levin's question is yes. Students are paying the price.

This letter was signed by a majority of teachers in the Academic Choice Humanities Program.

Ben Sanoff, Timothy Zolezzi, Matt Laurel, Kate Rosen, Leslie Tebbe, Matthew Carton, David Borrelli, Alex Angell, Jose Colon, Madalyn Theodore, Anne Busacca-Ryan, Amanda Green, Berkeley

11 likes, 182 dislikes
Posted by Jake Turney on 04/23/2014 at 5:55 PM

Re: “Berkeley's Unequal Punishment of Teachers

I encourage all readers to look at the student feedback posted on ratemyteacher.com (http://www.ratemyteachers.com/berkeley-high-school/2352-s) about each of the teachers mentioned in this article. This website is a much better judge of each of these teachers strengths and weaknesses than this article is.

Also, I too believe that PAR is used to get rid of teachers, but it is not the root of the problem. We should all be questioning the efficacy of teacher tenure, a system where people have secured jobs based on nothing other than making it past the two year mark. What other job has such little oversight?

Let's not be naive in thinking that all 100+ teachers at BHS are still worthy of their jobs. How frequently are people let go in other professions due to incompetency? It doesn't happen in teaching as the result of tenure.

I am a local veteran teacher for the record.

17 likes, 146 dislikes
Posted by Jake Turney on 04/04/2014 at 12:13 PM

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