Putting Education Reform To The Test

Read the Emails Between Suspended Hillsborough Teacher and Union Officials

A Hillsborough County high school teacher suspended last week over his objection to a new evaluation has apparently posted his emails with school and union officials online.

Newsome High School teacher Joseph Thomas objected to a peer evaluator he believed did not have enough experience. The review is part of a new teacher evaluation system paid for with a $100 million Gates Foundation grant.

“I was informed during the EET (Evaluating Effective Teachers) orientation session last year that I would only be observed by a peer teacher that had experience in my level and field,” Thomas wrote in an email to evaluator Justin Youmans on October 7. “I thus refuse to be evaluated by any teacher who has no experience teaching Social Studies in a Hillsborough County High School.”

Under the Hillsborough County system, trained colleagues observe and grade teacher performance. Youmans, 29, has taught elementary and sixth grade, according to his district bio.

The peer review is one part of the evaluation — comprising 30 percent — of the overall score. A principal review comprises another 30 percent while student learning gains are the final 40 percent. Learning gains are determined by a statistical formula that considers testing and other data.

School officials disagreed with Thomas that Youmans was unqualified.

“Mr. Youmans is certified in Social Studies K-12 and has been trained and calibrated in high school social studies classes,” wrote Stephanie Woodford, a supervisor for the teacher evaluation program. “He has passed testing and has been granted certification. Therefore, he is qualified to observe your classroom.”

Union officials advised Thomas to continue through the evaluation process while discussing a new evaluator with the district.

“Your apparent refusal to allow the Peer, Mr. Youmans, has certainly garnered much attention,” Chuck Kiker with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association wrote.

“I feel compelled to suggest that you allow the current peer to complete his assignment with you while this issue is being discussed. I say that with the fervent hope that we can contain our discussions (CTA and the EET Office) to peer assignment at the sites versus peripheral issues that may arise.”

Thomas was unbowed, arguing it is unfair that he would be evaluated by someone who has never done his job.

“I am aware that I am putting my career at risk here, but at this point I acknowledge that my career is in jeopardy anyway. Especially if the county is going to use such arbitrary methods to professionally evaluate me. I would appreciate any help that the union could give me in this regard, but I am aware that to some degree your hands are also tied.” Thomas wrote.

“If the county does not want to treat me or my colleagues fairly than so be it. I am an 18 year veteran with a strong record of high student performance and outstanding evaluations. If the county wants to come after me then so be it. I will be glad to take this to the press.”

Union officials said there is little they can do because they agreed to the evaluation system. What do you think of the dispute?

Update: Suspended Hillsborough teacher Joseph Thomas is back on the job. Read about the compromise he made on the new evaluation system here. 


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