Denver teachers union prez Henry Roman on the pros and cons of DPS' Denver Plan

The 2009 Denver Plan developed by Denver Public Schools pins a lot of blame for the district's shortcomings on teachers -- the very teachers who agreed earlier this week to lower a guaranteed cost-of-living increase in acknowledgment of revenue shortfalls.

Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the union that represents DPS instructors, isn't exactly livid over the portions of the document that focus on teachers' failings. He points out that "the plan is a draft, an initial document that will let us have conversations about a lot of different topics: effective teaching, effective allocation of resources" prior to the finalization of the strategy, expected in November. Nonetheless, he makes it clear that the DCTA has some "clear disagreements" with some aspects of the plan as currently written.

Roman feels that some of the language in the 62-page draft is unnecessarily vague. "We need to define what we're talking about when we talk about effective teaching," he notes, by way of example. "It's not simply looking at CSAP scores." He's also concerned about the negative spin put on "placements" -- the term used when a teacher is moved from one school to another: "Every placement supposedly means that you're talking about someone who is not doing his or her job, and that's simply an assumption," he argues. "You could have a reduction in staff because of enrollment, and so a teacher might be placed somewhere else. That shouldn't mean a teacher in that case should be labeled as ineffective or a problem.

Areas of dispute also exist when it comes to "simply extending the probationary period of teachers," Roman goes on. "Typically, by state law, it's three years, and after that, you have to make a decision about whether a teacher is a good fit -- and if everything goes right, they're granted non-probationary status." In addition, he believes, "we need to pay more attention to good mentoring programs and have a good formative feedback process in place, so we're constantly informing our teachers about good work and areas that need to be improved. And I think there needs to be more emphasis on vocational schools, vocational courses. Because we need to offer a well-rounded education to all of our students."

And all of our teachers, too.