E-3... The Career Killer that no one will address
Chicago Public School teachers ignore the E3 at their peril. Once a teacher is served with an E3 Notice of Unsatisfactory Performance, her career is over. One would assume that a guaranteed career killer like the E3 could be instantly and perfectly explained by every teacher in the Chicago Public School system. Not only is this not the case, but a majority of teachers have never even heard of an E3. This oblivion can prove catastrophic since the special evil of the E3 is that not only is the teacher fired, but her entire career is labeled as unsatisfactory.
Illinois law (105 ILCS 5/24A-5f) states that "[w]henever, in the opinion of the principal, after personal observation in the classroom on at least two (2) different school days, unless the tenured teacher has no classroom duties, the service of a tenured teacher is considered unsatisfactory, the principal of the school shall notify the tenured teacher in writing, using the Form E3, Evaluation of Unsatisfactory Service of a Tenured Teacher." (CPS Teacher Evaluation Plan and Handbook Of Procedures – p. 16) Immediately, a 90 day remediation process locks into place. At this point the teacher has no rights. She has to comply with the process or she will be dismissed.
The principal simply needs to fill out some minimal paperwork and file it with Human Resources. His stated reasons for the E3 don’t have to make sense. No one will challenge his opinion. The Board of Education doesn’t care about teachers. The Illinois legislators on the Senate and House Education Committees don’t even respond when they are questioned about the efficacy of the law. The Chicago Teachers Union is toothless when it comes to defending against the E3.
Some years ago principals were mandated to read aloud at a faculty meeting early in the school year the Remediation Process for Unsatisfactory Tenured Teachers (Article 39-5). No one listens. No one listens! Young teachers assume that the E3 is targeted at older teachers and doesn’t apply to them. Superior and excellent teachers assume it is targeting some rare occasion where a satisfactory teacher might completely deteriorate and need to be removed for the good of the children.
The law was perhaps originally well-intentioned—designed to protect children from someone who might have experienced a mental or physical breakdown. The assumption has always been that such a situation is the result of aging and only a few older teachers might qualify for an E3. Much to the contrary, however, given the current high stress level at CPS, one doesn’t find many teachers hanging on past retirement age into their dotage. The E3 has morphed into a tool of reprisal and revenge, used by principals to rid themselves of unwanted teachers.
A great many factors have combined over the past several years to damage the reputation of American schools. Rather than address the problems honestly, politicians look around for a quick fix or, better yet, scapegoats. The E3 has yet to reach its full potential as a weapon of career destruction because it takes a particularly asocial and amoral principal to falsely label a superior or excellent teacher as unsatisfactory. That has the same earmark as lying under oath. Not all principals are ready to sink that low. The current mob of managers wouldn’t recognize good teaching if it bit them in their rigorous spreadsheets. What they do recognize, though, is the bottom line, so high-priced veteran teachers are targeted with E3s.
The "unsatisfactory teacher", once having received the E3 has no one to turn to for assistance. Board of Education members, Illinois Legislators, Chicago Aldermen, and Chicago journalists simply will not challenge the process. The Chicago Teachers Union sits back and waits for the process to roll over the teacher, planning to go to hearing once the teacher is declared finally and completely unsatisfactory. Through ignorance or ignominy, no one will stand for the teacher.
Should the "unsatisfactory teacher" remain through the 90th day in order to go to hearing and reclaim her reputation, justice is not readily available. According to CTU officials, once the principal declares her unsatisfactory on the 90th day, she must attend a Board of Education hearing where Board members will rubber stamp the principal’s opinion. The teacher is then suspended and must wait 8 to10 months WITHOUT PAY for a State hearing. Eight to ten months is a conservative estimate since the number of State hearing officers has been recently cut.
The only mystery involved in the whole E3 fiasco is who are the teachers in the Chicago Public School System who can afford to wait nearly a year without pay to clear their names? If a teacher does choose to make the sacrifice in order to see justice done, the consensus of both CTU officials and independent counsel is that no matter how strong a case the "unsatisfactory teacher" has, everyone must hope that one of the "good" hearing officers is assigned. Thus, banking on a crap shoot is the Chicago Way of defending teachers who have been grievously maligned.
The details of the E3 process have to be pried out of CTU representatives. No informative document that spells out what a teacher can expect to happen is immediately available from them. If such information were presented, no matter how righteous their case, teachers might decide to save themselves the accompanying stress of weeks of bogus negative evaluations by the principal and resign right away. A further revelation, concealed from "unsatisfactory teachers" for some unknown reason, but casually disclosed by independent counsel, is that if the teacher wins her case, she is placed in another school to get her away from the principal. Whoa!
A teacher who is blindsided by a principal with an agenda can have her reputation, career, and financial future placed at risk, but if she is fortunate enough to triumph over her nefarious attacker, she is moved? What alternate universe are public school teachers living in? Knowing how the Board of Education operates, several questions spring immediately to mind. Is the teacher guaranteed a similar position in a similar community in a similar geographical location? Is the teacher guaranteed professional treatment by the new principal who is forced to take her? If the Board offers a position which is extremely unlike her lost position does she have to accept it?
Teachers are not being assisted with or advised about the inimical law known as the E3. The Chicago Teachers Union should be leading a campaign to get this law repealed. They are not. A grass roots movement among teachers to protest Illinois law (105 ILCS 5/24A-5f) is going to have to evolve if teachers hope to escape future unjust attacks. The immediate measure that individual teachers must take in this battle is to arm themselves with awareness and knowledge about destructive tools at the disposal of principals. They must also remember that everything that’s wrong with public education does not rest on the backs of the teachers. It doesn’t even begin with teachers. Let’s hope that someone will soon take up the battle cry that the solution is not to get rid of teachers.