DPS lawsuit: Meet teachers who reject claim district is getting rid of good educators
Last week, we introduced you to the teachers behind a lawsuit against Denver Public Schools. The teachers claim that DPS is using a provision of the state's landmark 2010 teacher-effectiveness law to get rid of good teachers -- which they say isn't the law's intention. Furthermore, the teacher-plaintiffs claim that what DPS is doing is unconstitutional.
DPS teacher Zachary Rowe.
But not all teachers agree with them. We spoke with three teachers -- two from DPS, one from Jefferson County -- who disagree with the lawsuit.
Zachary Rowe is a North High School teacher. Now in his fifth year with DPS, Rowe has served on North's personnel hiring committee, which works with the principal to decide which teachers to hire. Having the ability to choose who North hires has been a critical part of the school's recent success, Rowe says. "When we've had openings, we've been able to go out and find teachers who work within our team and have the chops that we think are necessary to get results," he says. "My main complaint against the lawsuit is that it would strip schools of the autonomy that personnel committees have in vetting, going out and observing, interviewing and ultimately hiring teachers."
Here's a video featuring Rowe.
Rowe is opposed to a practice called "direct placement," sometimes referred to as "forced placement." Before the 2010 teacher-effectiveness law, widely known as Senate Bill 191, was passed, teachers who were "reduced in building" because of a drop in enrollment, for example, and who couldn't find another teaching assignment on their own were direct-placed into an unfilled position. Historically, the schools that received the most placed teachers had the lowest test scores and the most open jobs.
Now, under Senate Bill 191, a teacher who's been "reduced in building," or RIBed, has one year or two hiring cycles, whichever is longer, to find a "mutual consent position," meaning that both the principal and the teacher agree that she's a good fit for the job. If she can't find such a position, the teacher is put on indefinite unpaid leave.
That's the part that the teacher-plaintiffs and the Denver teachers union believe is unconstitutional. They feel DPS is using Senate Bill 191 to get rid of good teachers without the due process they're entitled to. In addition, the teacher-plaintiffs argue that some RIBed teachers -- especially those who are older and higher up on the pay scale -- have been effectively blacklisted from getting a job. Even though they have good evaluations, older RIBed teachers struggle to get mutual consent, they say.
Rowe doesn't believe it. "I was interested in the 'Scarlet R' argument: that when a teacher is RIBed, they're put on a blacklist. But that wasn't my experience having participated in the process," Rowe says. When he was on North's personnel committee, Rowe says he was never explicitly told whether an applicant had been RIBed before.
"It's never been, 'We are now interviewing a RIBed teacher,'" Rowe says. Instead, he says the committee would look for several things, including whether candidates had classroom teaching experience and whether their colleagues spoke highly of them.
Plus, Rowe says, "the data suggests that most of these teachers are hired elsewhere." That's true: According to DPS, 1,240 nonprobationary teachers (which means teachers who've had three years or more of positive evaluations) have been RIBed since Senate Bill 191 went into effect. Of those, 825 have found mutual consent positions.
Continue for more on teachers who disagree with the lawsuit.