Friday, November 17, 2006

Ed Notes Query Response: Grieving U observations

As more responses come in, they will be added. If you have more info add it to the comments.

Original Query From a high school:

This may come as a surprise and tremendous shock, but in speaking with
teachers at two different high schools, one a small new school, one a
traditional large and phasing out school, teachers are very confused whether they can grieve a "U" observation on a lesson. Even one chapter chair was not clear.
Since it takes the form of a letter, some people think they cannot grieve,
not until the end of the yr if they get a U on final evaluation document.
I know someone here will clarify and I will spread the message.....thanks in advance...


Elem CL

Hi Norm, You know that I have had experience with this one--here goes:

An observation report is considered a letter for file, so technically you cannot grieve it, BUT make sure the teacher writes and attaches a response to the write up. This way if it is used for a U Rating at the end of the year, (which rarely get overturned), the teacher has some back up as to what actually happened with the lesson. If the teacher did not have a pre- or a post observation conference before and after the lesson, then they can grieve the report under article 8J. Article 8J is the article to look at for grievences about observations. But like I said before, they are considered letters for file, so unfortunately, we no longer have the right to grieve them unless there's a technically like the conferences before the lesson was executed.
Good luck.

similar situation occurred in my school
here is what the union told me.

Probationers and U rated people should have pre-observation conference.
Grievances are not permitted on the content of the observed lesson, but rather the procedure of the observation. There is an article on this in a recent NY Teacher.

Yes, an AP or Principal can rate a lesson as unsatisfactory. And thanks to the 2005 contract the observation report (aka "material in the file") can no longer be grieved. One can still appeal a U-rating, however, if it comes to that.

Good question. I thought you cannot grieve the observation, unless perhaps a major reason for the U was something like lesson plan format. There’s also Article 24, Professional Conciliation when it’s a matter of differing judgment. Outside of that I am not sure off hand what else you can do.

Elem CL
I assume you can grieve a U rating during the year also. It would depend on informal and formal observation reports from the Principal. Maybe the teacher recieves an S rating on one report and a U rating on another report and so on. Also, the Principal would have to prove he/she gave you help and guidance to be a better teacher. E.g. send you to workshops on classroom managment or pair you with a mentor teacher.

Elem CL
my understanding is that while we cannot grieve letters placed in our files, we can attach a reply. Signing the letter simply means we received, not that we agree with it.

A "U" rating on an observation is usually followed up with a chance to have a second observation and to have the letter replaced with a satisfactory lesson observation. Teachers have the right to request a pre-observation, to have their plan looked over by the administrator who will do the observation. It's pretty unusual for an administration to refuse to give people a second chance at the observation.


  1. Be careful about the pre-ob. requirement. If you are not a new teacher or one on probation (possibly getting a U rating), I learned and the CL training that you need to request pre-obs in writing, even though the contract says the formal observation process includes a pre observation. We have a form for this at our school.


  2. You cannot grieve a U rating on a lesson. However, you can write a reply to the bullshit and this can actually be effective. It is worth being very careful, professional and comprehensive: reply in detail to all the mistatements, omissions and irrelevances in the observation report. Expose the fraud, you have truth on your side. This goes into the record, and can deter the supervisor from doing the same thing next time. Conclude by saying you don't understand how the lesson could have been rated unsatisfactory, and therefore have no guidance on how to avoid a U rating in the future. This cuts off any attempt they will make to say "we gave you feedback and you didn't act on it." Also, it builds a record that can help you win the appeal of an overall U rating at the end of the year. Finally, it turns the tables on them psychologically. You should not feel at all ashamed or intimidated by their bullshit; if you expose it effectively, they will then be on the defensive because they encountered unexpected and effective resistance. Reply to the supervisor in a letter with a cc to your file, your chapter leader and even your district rep. Even if your chapter leader is corrupt or ineffective, by beginning to publicize the fraud, you put pressure on management not to do it again.

    High school teacher, former CL

  3. Yes, you should make all requests in writing regarding pre-obs, post-obs, etc...Keep a log of all communication with the administration. That way should your observation be used as part of a U rating, you might be able to contest it by showing a pattern of inappropriate communication on their part. And definitely attach a response to the observation, but have your Chapter leader read it and advise you on it before you place it in your file.

  4. From an El CL via email:

    The Elem CL that states that "a U rating on an observation is usually followed up with a chance to have a second observation and to have the letter replaced with a satisfactory lesson observation," is obviously working for a principal who has been around a long time, or this chapter leader is retired, or obviously not working in Region 5. Since the BOE became the DOE, Principals have not given anyone a "second chance on an observation." After all, they have to meet their quota for the year with U Ratings in June, and an unsatisfactory in an observation is a good beginning for them to start a paper trail for that "U". Principals that use to work for the BOE had a heart and most of the time knew their teachers. As a result, they would know if you were not having a good day/lesson when they came in to observe you. Nowadays, when the administrator gives you a U on an observation, whether it's the AP or principal, it's the beginning of a paper trail for a U Rating for the year.
    So, it's NOT UNUSUAL for an administration to refuse to give people a second chance at the observation.

  5. Unsatisfactory observation reports and year-end U-ratings can be appealed within thirty days to the Commissioner of Education in Albany pursuant to §310 of the Education Law.

    This section states:

    § 310. Appeals or petitions to commissioner of education and other proceedings. Any party conceiving himself aggrieved may appeal by petition to the commissioner of education who is hereby authorized and required to examine and decide the same; and the commissioner of education may also institute such proceedings as are authorized under this article. The petition may be made in consequence of any action:

    1. By any school district meeting.

    2. By any district superintendent and other officers, in forming or altering, or refusing to form or alter, any school district, or in refusing to apportion any school moneys to any such district or part of a district.

    3. By a county treasurer or other distributing agent in refusing to pay any such moneys to any such district.

    4. By the trustees of any district in paying or refusing to pay any teacher, or in refusing to admit any scholar gratuitously into any school or on any other matter upon which they may or do officially act.

    5. By any trustees of any school library concerning such library, or the books therein, or the use of such books.

    6. By any district meeting in relation to the library or any other matter pertaining to the affairs of the district.

    6-a. By a principal, teacher, owner or other person in charge of any school in denying a child admission to, or continued attendance at, such school for lack of proof of required immunizations in accordance with section twenty-one hundred sixty-four of the public health law.

    7. By any other official act or decision of any officer, school authorities, or meetings concerning any other matter under this chapter, or any other act pertaining to common schools.

    For further information about appeals to the Commissioner of Education, see the following Website:

  6. If you attach a letter to the U rating, be sure to write "see attached" when you sign the rating form. This way the attached letter won't get "lost."

  7. you should see their site


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