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Teacher Evaluation Effort Derails

Susan Notes:

So why do I declare New York City schools "losing" $60 million Good News? It's RTTT blood money, that's why. What the U. S. Department of Education calls a "School Improvement" grant is an Orwellian move to increase the importance of fraudulent standardized tests, further deprofessionalizing teachers and stigmatizing public education.

At last a teacher union seems to be standing (somewhat) firm and saying "No!" Notice that the New York Times reporter calls this money "a lifeline." She'd do well to read Michael Winerip's description of the New York suburban principals' revolt in her own paper.

The Wall Street Journal article on this topic [see below] contains the significant detail: The money represents less than 0.3% of the Department of Education's annual budget.

I also chose to use their headline to head this piece. Notice the contrast with the New York Times:

Wall Street Journal: Teacher Evaluation Effort Derails

New York Times: Dispute Over Evaluations Imperils Grants for Schools

Here is the New York Post headline to a predictable editorial: King Draws a line.

Remember: You can show your support of the New York principals who have broken their silence by signing their position paper. Question: Why have so few New York city principals signed it?

RTTT money is definitely not a lifeline. It is blood money.

Read principal Carol Corbett Burris, named 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator, about this new evaluation scheme.

Read her open letter on assessment to Arne Duncan.

The New York Post editorialist says the New York teachers are playing chicken. He may be right.

Let's hope it's more than that.

DOE Walks Out of Negotiations on Teacher Evaluation, Dec. 30, 2011

by James Eterno

The Saturday midnight deadline will come and go but there will be no new teacher and principal evaluation system for the teachers in New York City in the Transformation-Restart schools. This is a positive development. Any agreement that would have been hammered out with the Department of Education would be a disaster for teachers. Reports from Transformation schools say that the new evaluation system based on the Danielson framework that the DOE has been able to partially implement this fall is nothing more than an attempt to get rid of veteran teachers.

Without an agreement, the city risks losing millions of dollars of federal Race to the Top funds called School Improvement Grants. Since most of that money is earmarked for more of the same data driven nonsense that is destroying the public schools, I say keep your blood money. We don't want it.

Under the new evaluation system that is mandated by a state education law, instead of rating us satisfactory or unsatisfactory, the new ratings will be highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective. All schools will have to use the new evaluation system by next school year but the law mandates that details and a review procedure need to be negotiated with the teachers' unions.

The UFT agreed to let the new system partially start in Transformation-Restart schools and negotiate the details by the end of 2011. The schools received part of the federal money but State Education Commissioner John King announced this week that if there is no agreement on how to fully implement the new evaluation system in the Transformation-Restart schools, the schools will lose the money. Gothamschools.org reported that the UFT was holding out in negotiations for a fair review procedure for teachers rated ineffective. The UFT wants ineffective teachers to be able to appeal their rating to an independent arbitrator.

The DOE wanted to keep the kangaroo court system otherwise known as the U rating appeal in effect where teachers appeal unsatisfactory ratings to a DOE panel and then we almost always lose these appeals.

Gotham reported, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew confirmed, that the UFT was willing to go to binding arbitration over the details of the evaluation system but the DOE said no. This concerns me as the UFT's record in arbitration is not so strong where we could say with confidence that this would be an easy victory. For a reference just look at the 2005 contract that was mostly hammered out by arbitrators. Arbitrators are hired and paid for jointly by labor and management so they tend to split the baby in half and give something to both sides. I would not want our future evaluation system put into the hands of arbitrators. We need to keep it in our own hands.

In arbitration, the DOE would more than likely ask for the sun, the stars and the moon as they did in 2005. Remember the 8 page contract proposal that would've basically taken away all of our rights. The UFT would be reasonable and responsible and ask for a few gains and the arbitrators would split the baby and give the DOE half of what they wanted. That happened in 2005 and we are now suffering as multiple schools are closed and our members are shuffled around as Absent Teacher Reserves. Before, 2005, members who were excessed were placed in new positions and those coming from closing schools had preferred placement rights. In negotiations the DOE wanted all excessed people fired after a year and UFT wanted them placed as they were before. The arbitrators wouldn't fire the excessed teachers but they called for the new system that allows for teachers to be unassigned ATRs. It is a disaster that has gotten worse for ATRs with last June's agreement to allow them to be rotated to different schools each week.

I am imagining how arbitration would go on the evaluation system. The DOE will come in and say they want to keep the current U rating appeal process for teachers who are rated ineffective. The UFT will say that we want an appeal before an independent arbitrator and the arbitrator's dilemma will be how to split the baby down the middle.

The cynic in me has a plausible answer. Since a high volume of ineffective ratings is almost guaranteed by the Danielson framework. this would allow arbitrators to land many jobs and a boatload of cash if they agree with the UFT position. However, the arbitrator will not rule outright for the UFT as this would anger the DOE. Therefore, to make the DOE happy, our ever intrepid arbitrator would say yes the cases have to be heard by arbitrators but they will make the standard for us to show we are not ineffective so high that few, if any teachers, will have their ratings overturned.

DOE is then happy because they can fire more teachers and shut many more up through the fear of the dreaded ineffective rating. The UFT is happy because they can tell their members they won them an independent review process. The arbitrators are elated about having more work. In fact, everybody wins but the teachers.

A better strategy than arbitration for the UFT, NYSUT, and the principals who will also be covered under the new evaluation system, is to demand that the state change this ridiculous law that will hurt children as many competent educators will be terminated if it fully goes into effect. The suburban principals are with us on this as their letter opposing the evaluation system shows.

As for people in schools, our position must be to educate our members about the dangers of the new system and put pressure on the UFT to not cave in under any circumstances.

Dispute Over Evaluations Imperils Grants for Schools

New York Times

By Fernanda Santos

Negotiations between New York City's Education Department and union officials over a new evaluation system for teachers and principals broke down on Friday, jeopardizing roughly $60 million in federal grants designated to help 33 struggling schools across the city.

The city's schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, informed the state's education commissioner, John B. King Jr., of the impasse in an e-mail on Friday, less than an hour after two deputy chancellors walked out of a meeting at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers in Lower Manhattan.

Soon after that, city officials canceled a scheduled meeting with representatives from the principals' union, which the union's president, Ernest A. Logan, said would have been their third negotiating session on the topic.

In a statement, Dr. King said he was left with no choice but to suspend the grants because the city had promised in its application to redraw the schools' evaluation systems.

"Sadly," he said, "the adults in charge of the city's schools have let the students down."

The federal money, known as school improvement grants, offered the schools a lifeline of sorts: the grants would spare them from being shuttered and give them a last chance to bolster graduation rates and standardized test scores.

Earlier this week, Dr. King put New York City and nine other school districts receiving the federal grants in New York on notice, threatening to withhold the money if the districts failed to commit to an evaluation system by Saturday, the deadline outlined in the grants. By Friday, six of the districts -- Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Poughkeepsie, Schenectady and Roosevelt -- had turned in their plans. Besides New York City, the districts that had yet to do so were Yonkers, Albany and Greenburgh.

"The city and the unions have known about this deadline for many months, but there's no evidence of any real progress," Dr. King said.

The city and the United Federation of Teachers began their discussions five months ago, after agreeing in principle to overhaul the process to judge teachers in the struggling schools. It was to serve as a model for a statewide teacher evaluation system, which the Legislature enacted to meet the requirements of the broader federal grant competition known as Race to the Top.

All along, though, the sides have struggled to reconcile differences over certain sticking points: the type of help poorly rated teachers would get to improve their performance, and the appeals process available to teachers facing termination after receiving poor ratings two years in a row.

On Friday, the president of the teachers' union, Michael Mulgrew, criticized the way appeals had been handled since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of the schools about a decade ago, saying the process was more focused on "getting rid of teachers." As it stands, principals are asked to give teachers who work for them one of two ratings: satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Teachers who are deemed unsatisfactory can contest the rating in court. More often than not, the ratings are upheld.

Mr. Mulgrew asked the city to let independent reviewers rule on the appeals. He said some principals had used the ratings as a means of punishing teachers with whom they had clashed, and he cited several examples, including the case of a Bronx principal who doled out unsatisfactory ratings to teachers whom she wanted out of her school .

"We want a fair process," Mr. Mulgrew said.

Mr. Walcott, in his letter to Dr. King, rejected the union's appeals proposal, saying it was "unsurprising" that the majority of the unsatisfactory ratings were upheld because less than 2 percent of all teachers receive them.

In a subsequent statement, he added, "The U.F.T. is more interested in protecting the worst-performing teachers than in implementing a meaningful teacher evaluation system that will benefit our students."

In suspending the grants, the state used the only leverage it has to compel the city to stick to the commitments it made when applying for the money. Dr. King cannot unilaterally cancel the grants, however: there must be a hearing, so there is still time for some kind of agreement to be reached.

Teacher Evaluation Effort Derails
Wall Street Journal
By Lisa Fleisher

Plans for a new teacher rating system for New York City schools that would include measures of student performance--a hallmark of national education reform efforts--were dealt a setback on Friday after negotiations broke down between the city and the teachers union.

The failure to reach an agreement before a year-end deadline had an immediate, if minimal, effect: The state suspended a program to funnel nearly $60 million in federal funds to the city to improve a small number of troubled schools. The money represents less than 0.3% of the Department of Education's annual budget.

More broadly, however, the breakdown suggests a stalemate over implementing new teacher evaluations for the entire city school system, a state requirement that's also one of the most ambitious items on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's schools agenda. In addition, including student performance in teacher evaluations is a key component of President Barack Obama's education policies.

"I don't know what comes next at this point," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

The parties were negotiating an evaluation method that would apply to teachers at 44 schools selected to receive federal money to improve troubled schools. But the method was seen as the model for what would be rolled out for the rest of the city's 1,750 schools.

Under state law, a new evaluation system that judges educators, in part, on student progress on standardized tests must be in place in the 2011-12 school year. Barring that, a method must be in place in order for the city and the teachers union to reach a new contract. The current contract expired two years ago.

"This disagreement--regarding both policy and principles--leads me to conclude that we will not be able to come to an agreement on a fair and progressive teacher evaluation system," schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a letter to the state.

The state Education Department had warned the city and other districts that if they couldn't reach agreements with their unions the money for the troubled schools would be withheld. The city could also lose another $77 million this summer if no agreement is reached.

State Commissioner John King called the breakdown "beyond disappointing" and said he'd seen "no evidence of real progress" on an agreement over several months. "The adults in charge of the city's schools have let the students down," he said in a statement on Friday. "The failure to reach agreements on evaluations leaves thousands of students mired in the same educational morass."

Spurred on by the Obama administration, New York is one of many states across the country working to restructure teacher evaluation methods to incorporate student test scores.

City and union officials agreed, in principle, on the framework for the new rating system, based on a state law that requires all districts to start using the new evaluations in the 2011-12 school year. More than 1,000 principals in the state--but very few from New York City--have signed a petition in opposition to the new evaluations.

Under the new system in New York City, an analysis of student scores on state tests would count for 20% of teachers' ratings, while another 20% would come from new tests the city is developing. The rest would be based on a rubric that includes things such as lesson plan preparations and use of tests and data in instruction. Also included would be classroom observations by principals, but none by peer teachers, which the union supports.

The sticking point for a deal was whether teachers should be able to appeal a low rating to an outside arbitrator. Union officials said an appeal process would prevent principals from abusing their authority, but the city dismissed it as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

"They were never really serious about getting this done," Mr. Mulgrew said of the Department of Education. Privately, department officials had similar complaints about the union.

Mr. Walcott accused the union of showing it "is more interested in protecting the worst performing teachers than in implementing a meaningful teacher evaluation system that will benefit our students."

"The union is so determined to create procedural hurdles that they are willing to jeopardize tens of millions of dollars for our schools," he said in a statement.

After the negotiations stalled with the teachers union, the city halted talks with the principals union over an evaluation system for the school leaders.

Teachers union officials said they offered to participate in binding arbitration, but Mr. Walcott rejected that option, saying it was inconsistent with state law and "too important" to be left to an arbitrator.

— Fernanda Santos, Lisa Fleisher & James Eterno
New York Times, Wall St J, & ICE blog



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