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Fisher v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 7, 2019

Roy and Josie Fisher, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
v.
Anita Lohr, et al., Defendants, and Sidney L. Sutton, et al., Defendants-Intervenors, Maria Mendoza, et al., Plaintiffs, United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
v.
Tucson Unified School District No. One, et al., Defendants.

          SPECIAL MASTER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING THE ASSIGNMENT AND SUPPORT FOR BEGINNING TEACHERS

          WILLIS D. HAWLEY, SPECIAL MASTER

         Introduction

         On May 22, 2019, the District submitted a Court-ordered Supplemental Notice and Report of Compliance: Certification and Support for New Teachers at Certain Schools. The Mendoza plaintiffs filed objections to this notice and report on June 5, 2019.

         The USP requires the District to provide support for beginning teachers, and singles out for special support teachers who are teaching in schools performing below the District average and those that are racially concentrated. This means there are three types of teachers receiving support: (1) first-year teachers serving in schools that are performing below the District average and schools that are racially concentrated; (2) first-year teachers in other schools; and (3) second-year teachers. In addition, the District provides extra support to all teachers who have been identified as being inadequate in particular teaching domains.

         For category two teachers, the District provides mentoring support in accord with a model widely used and supported by reliable research. The same model of support is provided to second-year teachers, with less time spent by the mentor with each second-year teacher depending on the teacher's needs for improved performance. Category one teachers are to be provided with additional support from mentors, about twice the mentoring engagement of category two teachers. All beginning teachers are required to take a range of courses available that the District calls “job embedded.”[1] These courses are not job embedded though they are seemingly job related. The courses should not count as meeting the mentoring requirements of the USP and the related action plan.

         Objections to the District's Plan

         The Mendoza plaintiffs argue that the District has provided conflicting information on the number of teachers in the first category. In addition, they argue that the District should revise the paperwork that:

1. Provides justification for placing beginning teachers in low performing schools and those that are racially concentrated.
2. Confirms that the District did all it could to appoint more experienced teachers in low performing schools and those that are racially concentrated.
3. Describes the “mitigating” conditions that would facilitate effective teaching by the category one teachers (e.g., smaller class size).

         The Special Master believes that the form developed by the District to capture the information in the three points above is adequate. See Exhibit 1. Space could be provided for the back of the form to allow more extended commentary. The purpose of this form is to provide basic information to identify potential issues and problems. If it is determined that there are issues that need to be resolved, that would require a more extensive inquiry in any case. Experience will tell if there is any need for more extensive exposition in the initial process. The proposed system lends itself easily to the capturing of information, its preliminary analysis and recommendations for further action.

         The Mendoza plaintiffs expressed concern that there is no mention here of how the District would remedy teacher shortcomings that were identified in implementing this plan. The District does have a process for helping teachers who are ineffective in particular ways in order to improve their performance. There is no need for the Court to demand that the District do what it is already doing.

         Recommendation

         The Court should require the District to identify the number of teachers in each of the three categories above over the past two years. Using its formula for assigning mentors to teachers, the District should identify the number of mentors that it is necessary for the District to hire using the agreed-upon ...


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