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NCLB Outrages

Teachers want protection from ‘No Child’ provision

Ohanian Comment: I am sympathetic with these teachers, but I wish they'd use this energy to fight NCLB, not to look for loopholes.

When and where are we going to find the group of teachers who band together to fight this--for the sake of the children?

By Katharine Mosher

Leadership of the Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA) wants protection for teachers from punitive actions that might occur if the district restructures an under-performing school under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

District officials have said they are not interested in the change, which could limit how they handle schools that need to improve.

The federal law prescribes progressive sanctions for schools that repeatedly do not meet standards for how well students perform.

Restructuring is one of the more severe reforms the federal law authorizes for under-performing schools, which could include replacing all or most of the staff relevant to student achievement.

Metro schools leaders have used that approach in the past as a means of assembling a team particularly equipped to help the school improve student learning.

But MNEA officials said they do not want to see No Child Left Behind legislation used as a tool for retaliation, according to MNEA President Jamye Merritt.

MNEA sought to insert in their employee contract a clause prohibiting district leaders from taking “actions against teachers using the provisions of NCLB.”

“It’s to reinforce the statute and to establish trust with the district in terms of enforcing the regulations of No Child Left Behind,” Merritt said.

The group cited a 2004 Tennessee Attorney General’s opinion stating NCLB does not supersede state law or educational agreements between teachers and their district.

It states “teachers in corrective action schools may not be removed without complying with all of the notice, hearing and other procedural rights afforded teachers by state law or collective bargaining agreements.”

However, replacing a teacher does not mean he/she is dismissed, according to Metro Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Dr. June Keel.

Unlike when a teacher is fired, removing a teacher from a school does not require a hearing.

“The director of schools has that authority by state law,” Keel said of reassigning teachers to another school.

Keel said Tennessee law in fact specifically forbids agreements that hinder the director of schools’ ability to conduct administrative transfers.

Tennessee Code Annotated states “ … no proposal may directly prevent the director of schools from transferring faculty and staff to address performance and accountability deficiencies as identified by state accountability standards.”

Keel told MNEA representatives that including their proposal in the employee contract would cloud the issue.

“We are going to comply with federal and state law and those give us the authority to make these moves,” Keel said. “We’re not going to put language in the agreement that we’re going to argue about.”

MNEA chief negotiator Eric Huth will not likely take no for an answer easily.

He promised district representatives that the topic will be discussed again.

The issue, he said, already exists in the federal language so it may not go away.

The two sides have found some common ground in negotiating the employee contract for next year, however salary will not be discussed until district leaders have a better idea of how much state and local funding they will receive.

Until then, district officials are estimating what the cuts will be to put together a draft operating budget for the 2006-07 year.

Those cuts and other budget discussions could come before the school board in early February.

— Katharine Mosher
Nashville City Paper


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