Sunday, October 18, 2015

Firing Highly Proficient UC Math Lecturer is apparently a best practice at Cal Berkeley

I believe the take away from the following story is every public school teacher needs to be a huge public supporter of Common Core State Standards or prepare to be driven out of teaching.  Results are not important in the education system but absolute compliance is very necessary to stay employed at any level.

Here is the link:


October 11th, 2015

In response to the many people who have asked me whether I am leaving Berkeley, it is true that the UC Berkeley Mathematics Department has fired me. More precisely, the then Chair of the Mathematics Department, Arthur Ogus, emailed me on October 31st 2014 saying that my employment would be terminated in June 2016. I have asked the campus authorities to review the circumstances leading up to that decision and overrule it. I have filed a formal grievance, ...   viewable here,

There are good people in the UC Berkeley Mathematics Department, who conduct themselves with kindness, honesty and dedication to both their research and their students. However most are simply too scared to stand up against the dominant group of men who lead by fear. Arthur Ogus in some sense helped me by supplying me with a large body of documentary evidence to substantiate what I am saying, but Craig Evans instead told me that he learned in a previous harassment case that he should never put anything in writing because "we might get subpoenaed."


My reason for asking that the decision be overruled is that on 31st October, 2014, when the Faculty Appointments Committee of the Mathematics Department made its decision, my teaching record was as follows:

  • My student evaluations for the two classes I had completed were the highest on record in the Mathematics Department.  For Math 1A in Fall 2013 I scored 6.4 and 6.5 out of 7, and for Math 16B in Spring 2014 I scored 6.4 and 6.6 out of 7 for overall teaching effectiveness.  The six year average for Math 1A as taught by Senate Faculty was 4.7 with a range of 3.2 to 6.0, and the six year average for Math 16B as taught by Senate Faculty was 4.6 with a range of 3.6 to 6.1.  Going back further, no member of Senate Faculty has scored above 6.0 in Math 1A for at least the last 18 years, as far back as records go.

    It is noteworthy that the Mathematics Department failed to report these student evaluation scores for Math 1A in my personnel file, thereby keeping them secret from university authorities. It did this despite the fact that student evaluation scores are part of the Mathematics Department's own review criteria that it devised to evaluate teaching, making it contractually obliged to report them. These non-reported evaluations are viewable here.
  • My Fall 2013 Math 1A students were tracked into the next course in the sequence, Math 1B, and it was found that their average grade in Math 1B was 0.17 grade points higher than that of those students who took Math 1A with another instructor.

    However the Mathematics Department leadership at first refused to share this data with me, then it said that the positive difference was not statistically significant with a contrived analysis that compared my students to more of my own students, and finally, when this was refuted, claimed to not be sufficiently proficient in statistics to judge. It is noteworthy that Philip Stark, then Chair of the Statistics Department, was instrumental in the statistical analysis that was undertaken and he is someone who has gone on the record saying that student evaluations are not indicative of teaching effectiveness. The documentary evidence supporting these allegations, which I encourage everyone to review carefully, is viewable here.

  • In a memo to me of April 18th, 2014, the then Chair of the Mathematics Department Arthur Ogus wrote: "As you know, there have been three written evaluations of your teaching conducting [sic] so far, two in Mathematics 1A and one in Mathematics 16B; you have been provided copies of each. These evaluations discuss your extraordinary skills at lecturing, presentation, and engaging students."

    However in the same memo he went on to say: "They also reveal some significant differences between your practices and what has been typical in our department [...] I hope and expect that you will be able to align more with our standards for the remainder of this semester and during the next academic year."

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