What's appealing in Chicago

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When we heard that the new Chicago teachers' contract included an appeals process, we were uneasy. Most professionals don't get to appeal their evaluations as a matter of course, and appeals processes for teachers can often turn into bureaucratic bogs from which it is impossible to extricate meaningful evaluation.  

Having taken a closer look, we're guardedly optimistic. As appeals systems go, this one is better than most. But it will be critical that the timelines in the process don't become tripwires.  

Under the evaluation system, a teacher can get one of four ratings: excellent, proficient, developing and unsatisfactory. Only teachers who have received an unsatisfactory rating and a developing rating in the following year are eligible to appeal (teachers who receive two unsatisfactory ratings in a row cannot appeal). The four-person appeals committee will be made up of active or retired educators, not professional arbitrators. One member is chosen by CPS, another by the CTU, and the remaining two are chosen jointly.

The process places the burden of proof on the teacher to prove that the rating is wrong. The appeals committee can issue a ruling at any point in the process. The original rating can only be overturned by a vote of three members of the appeals committee. Nothing in the process delays required professional development or remediation. 

It gets muddy when you get to the timeline.  A complex series of steps must be followed, but the contract isn't clear about what happens if deadlines aren't met. In particular, the schedule for classroom observations seems virtually impossible to keep. If that's the case, the committee may exercise their right to opt out of this step all together, which surely can't be in the best interest of the teacher making the appeal.

The intention of making this a speedy process is laudable, but this timeline is unrealistic and could hurt teachers more than it helps.

-- Nancy Waymack and Arthur McKee