The system is aggressively evaluating non-tenured teachers' performances

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CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Schools, in the midst of a hoped-for makeover, are doing something never done before.

The system is aggressively evaluating non-tenured teachers' performances. It has that power under state law.

In the past, that might have resulted in not renewing several teachers with one-year contracts.

But this year, it's resulting in recommendations that dozens of teachers be let go.

CEO Eric Gordon said, " It is new for us to evaluate people this thoroughly. It's part of the Cleveland Plan to make sure we have the right people in front of our children."

About 800 teachers are on one-year contracts. School principals did the evaluations. Originally they recommended not renewing 68 teachers at 41 schools. Subsequent reviews and teachers leaving have reduced that number to 46 teachers at 40 schools.

Gordon did not enumerate specific reasons for removing specific teachers.

"It's overall performance. It would include classroom performance. It would include professionalism or attendance problems. It could be a wide range of things," Gordon explained.

These are not economic layoffs. The schools intend to hire new teachers to fill vacated positions.

The Cleveland teachers union, which has worked to accept tough changes in the transformation plan, claims it did not see this coming.

Union President David Quolke said, "Quite frankly we were a little shocked and we were certainly blindsided."

The teachers being recommended for non-renewal range from rookies to veterans.

Quolke asks how teachers hired in September could be targeted at the end of their first school year, saying support programs should have worked.

"To me that's appalling. If you are a principal and see a teacher struggling, the question is 'What have you done to help that person?' " he said.

Quolke said the union has not been given information about principals' recommendations and teachers' alleged deficiencies.

Teachers are entitled to three levels of hearing to appeal. The final decision would be made by the school board based on Gordon's recommendation.

Quolke called this a major issue and a potential problem in continuing teacher buy-in with the transformation plan.

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