The Providence Teachers Union (PTU) opposes the administration’s Criterion-Based Hiring (CBH) system, not because we are opposed to criteria, but because there are no criteria. As a result, teachers have experienced numerous inequities and injustices while seeking employment under CBH:
In one instance, a National Board certified teacher with 19 years of experience in Providence and excellent evaluations was deemed less suitable for a position than another candidate, a teacher without any experience who had only recently graduated from college. Under CBH, highly qualified middle-school teachers were denied the opportunity to interview for positions at the new Bishop Middle School and Perry Middle School. The interview system is flawed and inconsistent, allowing some candidates to interview by phone, while others are asked to give 40-minute PowerPoint presentations. These are just a few examples highlighting the flaws of CBH.
CBH was supposed to provide stability within the district. This has not been the case. There are currently over 70 positions with temporarily assigned teachers. Most of these positions have been posted numerous times. The Providence School District simply cannot handle the volume for six schools. What will happen next year, when this program is expanded to all 50 schools?
Teacher interviews and participation in school reform are not new to the Providence school system. We have an opportunity to build on the progress made under former Supt. Melody Johnson, who was able to bring staff stability and effective reforms to several low-performing schools — Hope High School, Perry Middle School, and Textron and Times2 charter schools. We created site-based schools where teachers had to be interviewed and played an active role in designing programs to improve student achievement. Dr. Johnson recognized that the best way to fix a school is to work with the classroom teachers who ultimately would have to implement the education-reform ideas. The proof is in the pudding — all of the schools made significant gains in student attendance and test scores.
A problem with the Klein-Ouchi model is the chimera, the illusion of the “bad, old centralized” bureaucracy versus the sleek, new decentralized school system. By my calculation, under the “old” system, 85-90% of teachers were hired by principals or school-based SBO committees, not assigned by the bureaucracy or by the union transfer plan. The thirty-two school districts varied greatly as far as central office controls over curricula. As far as budgets are concerned principals have “controlled their budgets” for as long as I can remember. There aren’t too many choices!! Over 90% of a school’s budget is used to pay teachers.
In reality Ouchi has been used as “cover” for a school management system that is more controlling then any in memory.