The union has negotiated and advocated strongly for many years to maintain the integrity of lesson plans as a tool created by and for teachers.
Since 1990, Article 8 of the DOE-UFT teachers’ contract has affirmed that the organization, format, notation and other physical aspects of lesson plans are all up to the teacher. Nevertheless, many supervisors continued to require specific components be included in lesson plans or that lesson plans be organized in a certain manner or placed in a certain location. Those violations of the contract led the UFT to file a union-initiated grievance, which was resolved to the union’s satisfaction in 2014.
“The development of lesson plans by and for the use of the teacher is a professional responsibility,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña wrote in a joint letter in 2014 to clarify lesson plan expectations. “Although a supervisor may suggest elements to include in a lesson, lesson plans are by and for the use of the teacher. Their format and organization, including which elements are to be included and whether to write the plans on paper or digitally, are appropriately left to the discretion of the teacher.”
The only exception is if a teacher has been rated Ineffective, Developing or Unsatisfactory, in which case the supervisor and the teacher will collaborate on different strategies. Administrators can dictate the format for lessons for a teacher with a Teacher Improvement Plan for poor planning.
As has always been the case, a supervisor may ask to see a teacher’s lesson plans at any time. However, lesson plans cannot be collected in a mechanical or routinized manner. While teachers may be asked for a particular lesson, they cannot be compelled to submit every lesson plan for a week, month or year. Teachers are not required to have hard copies of their lesson plans.
Teachers cannot be evaluated by supervisors based on their lesson plans — another issue resolved in the 2014 arbitration. A teacher’s lesson plan is not the lesson itself. A lesson unfolds in the classroom as a teacher works with his or her students.
“The lesson plan cannot be evaluated in isolation but as part of the planning cycle of the observed lesson,” Mulgrew and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza wrote in a joint letter in May 2019.
Carranza clarified in a February 2018 memorandum to superintendents that an evaluator cannot demand that a teacher provide a hard copy of the day’s lesson plan on the spot. “When observing a lesson, a supervisor has the right to see the plan of the lesson being taught,” he wrote. “The supervisor may take a photo of the plan or ask that the teacher provide the plan. Requiring teachers to make and maintain a copy of each of their lesson plans for every class in the event of an unannounced visit is not permitted.”
Teachers may have lesson plans available for substitute teachers on days they are absent, but it need not be the lesson they were planning to teach that day.
Teachers have a contractual right to curriculum aligned to state standards in math, English, social studies and foreign languages.
Curriculum writing cannot be mandated by administration. Teachers who are asked to write curriculum should be paid for the work as a per-session activity, or it can be done during the work day if the teacher chooses to do it as their professional activity or if they are relieved from teaching duties.