FORT WORTH — More than 100 Fort Worth teachers won't keep their classrooms next fall as their schools embark on a pilot program aimed at improving struggling schools, but the district has promised to help them find jobs.
Superintendent Melody Johnson said that just because teachers weren't selected for schools in the program doesn't mean they are not considered good teachers. She said they are being given priority treatment for hiring and interviewing and at job fairs.
"It's about best fit, best matches and need," Johnson said.
The Fort Worth school district has been putting in place a pilot program called PEAK, or Public Educators Accelerating Kids. The effort is expected to draw strong teachers to struggling schools. The district also wants to reward schools where students make academic gains.
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Teachers who wanted to stay at their schools as PEAK educators had to re-apply for their jobs. But 110 recently learned that they won't be back, said Larry Shaw, executive director of the 5,300-member United Educators Association.
"They are all scared to death right now," Shaw said, adding that some teachers want to know why they are not a good fit for their schools.
"Not one of them is recommended for termination," he said. "It's an ego blow: 'Yes, you have a job with the district, but you don't have a job with a school you have been at for 10 to 14 years.'"
The pilot program is set to start next school year.
At the 15 schools that will be in the PEAK program, 352 teachers were asked to return, 97 opted not to reapply to be a PEAK instructor, and 110 were not reassigned to their schools after reapplying, according to the district.
District officials have stressed that these teachers are not terminated. The district has offered résumé writing and interview skills sessions. The teachers should also have been getting weekly vacancy reports. They also received "priority time" at a recent job fair.
The district has to make changes to improve struggling schools, several of which have been rated academically unacceptable by the state. Johnson said that keeping the status quo at these campuses risks intervention by the state or federal government.
"We want to own our problems and our solutions," she said.
The state has about $5 million that Fort Worth schools can use for an incentive and reward program for struggling schools. The District Award for Teacher Excellence money has increased over time as other Texas districts opt out of the program, said Punita Thurman, a resident from the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation who is helping the district with this project.
This year, principals were named to head PEAK at 15 campuses, including Polytechnic, South Hills, Dunbar and Eastern Hills high schools. The principal, a director of school leadership and a curriculum content specialist interviewed the teachers.
The PEAK interview process covered:&9632; Teachers' abilities with students and parents&9632; Teamwork&9632; Lesson planning &9632; Analyses of students' work&9632; Depth of knowledge in the subject being taught&9632; Fit within the school culture
Teachers also took an online test that gauged traits and characteristics found among strong teachers in urban schools. Some principals asked for an essay or examples of student work.
Teachers had until Wednesday to request an explanatory conversation with the district. About 20 to 25 teachers have asked for an in-depth explanation of why they weren't rehired at their schools. The district will continue searching for high-quality teachers and map out needs that will help build strong working conditions at PEAK schools.