MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We move now from rabble rousing on the retail front to getting up in arms over education. Nathan Saunders is the newest head of the Washington Teachers Union. The native Washingtonian is well known for opposing the kind of education reform promoted by former D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Saunders is promising to get rid of the current and controversial teacher evaluation system, known as IMPACT.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Soon teachers will start getting letters with their ratings and hundreds of educators who got poor scores last year, could be laid off if their scores don't improve this year. Now that Saunders is six months into the job, he talked with WAMU education reporter Kavitha Cardoza about IMPACT and where he is in his fight to do away with it.
MR. NATHAN SAUNDERS
We're making headway. We're in court on a number of cases involving IMPACT. My opponents, were quick to point out, well, W.T.U. doesn't have the right to negotiate the teacher evaluation tool. They are correct. But what they did not talk about is the fact that, just because we're teachers and members of W.T.U., we are therefore subjected to an unjust law and to the extent that IMPACT is unjust in the context of races, discriminatory.
MR. NATHAN SAUNDERS
We can strike either the evaluation tool down or certain portions of the evaluation tool. Before I came in office as President, there were conversations about, well, we could challenge the process, but there was no challenge in the process. I've initiated a court case to challenge the process. Now, I expect, before the new school year begins, a ruling from the Superior Court which will make clear the method in which teachers in the District of Columbia can challenge the actual IMPACT rating itself.
MR. NATHAN SAUNDERS
And that is the score that you get when a person shows up for 20 or 30 minutes and says, you can't teach.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
Why do you say IMPACT is racist?
Well, there's this matter in title seven of the Civil Rights Act which deals with desperate discrimination. And that is, what happens when a law affects disproportionate a group of individuals who happen to be a part of a protected class. Women are a part of the protected class, African-Americans are a part of the protected class. And I believe that once we get all of the data in hand, potentially we will see an effect on African-American women school teachers that is indirectly related to where they teach, how they teach and things of that nature.
You have used very provocative language in the past. You've talked about teachers' blood on the floor, the Washington Teachers Union has teeth and we will bite. Do you think that kind of talk is helpful?
It's an issue of communication and style. People have a tendency -- their ears peak about certain words. For example, the word blood. And when I say there's blood on the floor and there's only been teacher blood, that means that the sacrifices that have been made, for the most part, have been made solely by and on the part of teachers. The other folks have not sacrificed. But that's a much longer statement to make. And the unfortunate thing is, I'm the victim of the media that only wants short bites.
So when I say, blood on the floor, people pick that up. Then that causes folks to go into, well, what is he really talking about, in what context? And so that's been a good thing.
A lot of people were surprised recently when you supported the Interim Chancellor, Kaya Henderson being made permanent.
I did not support Kaya Henderson. We respect the Mayor's right and his choice to name a chancellor in D.C. public schools.
People were surprised you didn't oppose Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
You got to look at your votes. It doesn't make any sense. In one of the provocative statements is -- there were some people who wanted me to pour gasoline on the table and burn the city council. No, I've got to make sure in everything that I do, the voice of 4,000 plus members are reflected and respected. You got to have votes. Kaya Henderson won her nomination with 13 out of 13 votes.
What advice would you give her?
Work with the union to be successful. This is a different ballgame. It's not one-sided team anymore. The W.T.U. is -- it's going to be a partner with you and from time to time without you. So she has some tremendous capabilities, but the success of the system will not rest on the shoulders of Kaya Henderson. It's what teachers do in the classroom. And I represent teachers.
That was Washington Teachers Union President Nathan Saunders talking with education reporter Kavitha Cardoza. You can see the IMPACT evaluation guide for DCPS teachers and read Saunders testimony about schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson on our website, metroconnection.org.
Time for a quick break, but when we get back...
MR. MIKE "DJ BATMAN" BEATTY
I have nothing to do with Batman. If you saw me in tights, you'd know why.
A legendary DJ whose been rousing rabble and rhythm for decades. That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection" here on WAMU 88.5.
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