sin of omission

City's evaluation rollout plan ignores state's latest requests

The city Department of Education delivered a plan for how it will implement new teacher and principal evaluations to the state ahead of schedule today — but without giving state officials much of the information they asked for.

According to a memo that Chancellor Dennis Walcott sent today to the state, the city plans to spend $23 million in the next six months preparing city educators for a new evaluation system. The memo is a response to State Education Commissioner John King’s demand, made last month after the city and teachers union failed to agree on a new teacher evaluation system, that the city detail its implementation plans or lose state funds.

The plan that Walcott delivered today is broader than the highlights that city officials released last week. In addition to dealing just with teacher and administrator training about the observation model the city is planning to use to assess teachers in action, the memo also explains how city educators will learn about some components of evaluations that must be based on student performance. It also delineates different training programs for teachers, principals, department officials and attaches a price tag to each one.

But for the most part, the plan contains only the bare minimum of what city officials were told on Friday should be included in their implementation plan. In response to requests for guidance from the city, the state official overseeing review and approval of all evaluation plans, Julia Rafal-Baer, sent a chart to Chancellor Dennis Walcott with dozens of “key questions” whose answers do not appear in the plan the city submitted today.

City officials said the key questions arrived more than three weeks after King’s original request and just a week before his deadline. “We expected feedback from SED and will provide more information as requested,” an official said.

The plan contains no details, for example, about whether a city evaluation system would contain subjective measures of teacher quality other than observations; how teachers and principals who fall short would get help to improve; or how local assessments would be selected.

And in some cases, the plan does not even include the bare minimum. For example, the chart that Walcott received said the city should specify a “plan for developing SLOs in non-tested subjects.” The acronym stands for “Student Learning Objectives,” the name of the state’s required tool for evaluating student progress for teachers in grades and subjects that do not have state tests. But SLOs do not appear in the city’s document at all.

And while the memo says the city will execute the plans in accordance with union contracts, it does not say that the city has the UFT’s sign-off on using the Danielson Framework, even though schools have been practicing with the observation model for years and the union itself has trained teachers to use it. The city has to show that the union supports the rubric, according to Rafal-Baer’s chart, although it gave the city until March 1 to offer proof.

No endorsement was forthcoming from the union today, immediately after the city released its implementation plan.

“We are reviewing the DOE’s submission,” said Peter Kadushin, a union spokesman.

The union briefly called off teacher evaluation talks in December over the issue of implementation in one of several moments that led the city to miss a state deadline to adopt new evaluations. UFT President Michael Mulgrew accused the city of not providing adequate training for principals who would observe teachers under the new evaluation system, and last week, he told union members that he was not impressed by the draft plan the city had shown him, according to a teacher who heard the presentation.

Teachers will receive, on average, nearly six hours of on-the-job training on the new evaluation system. Teachers who are particularly weak or strong will get even more training, according to the memo.

According to the plan, training for principals will launch on Friday, and teacher training would follow in March. Telephone and email “help desks” will launch later this year to answer educators’ questions about teacher evaluations, according to the memo.

The funding would come in large part from state grants that are contingent on having a new teacher evaluation system in place, according to the city’s memo. Some funds are allocated already, according to department officials, but the additional state funds are necessary.

The city’s full implementation memo is below, followed by the chart that Rafal-Baer sent to Walcott on Friday.

Criteria for NYC APPR Deadlines

home sweet home

‘Finally! Something useful’ or a dangerous mistake? Detroiters respond to city’s housing deal for teachers

PHOTO: Detroit Land Bank Authority
This home on Harvard Road was up for auction the week after Detroit announced a half-off-on-city-owned housing deal for teachers.

Friday’s announcement that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter, or parochial schools — will get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority stirred a lot of discussion.

Some of our commenters on Facebook had high hopes for the deal:

But one commenter wondered if it’s the city of Detroit that’s actually getting the best deal, not the employees — or other people seeking to buy homes in the city:

And others argued that people who already live in Detroit won’t benefit from this deal:

Still, some readers appear to be ready to move — and have even picked homes to bid on (though not necessarily from the Land Bank Authority)!

race in the classroom

‘Do you see me?’ Success Academy theater teacher gives fourth-graders a voice on police violence

Success Academy student Gregory Hannah, one of the performers

In the days and weeks after last July’s police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, teachers across New York grappled with how to talk about race and police violence. But for Sentell Harper, a theater teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2, those conversations had started long before.

CNN recently interviewed Harper about a spoken-word piece he created for his fourth-grade students to perform about what it means to be black and male in America. Harper, who just finished his fourth year teaching at Success, said that after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, he wanted to check in with his students.

“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today, we’re going to talk about race,'” Harper told CNN. “And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”

Inspired by their stories, he created a performance called “Alternative Names for Black Boys,” drawing on poems by Danez Smith, Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes.

Wearing gray hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin, who was killed while wearing one, the boys take turns naming black men and boys who have been killed: Freddie, Michael, Philando, Tamir. The list goes on.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Harper says honesty is essential for him as a teacher. “Our kids are aware of race and want to talk about it,” he wrote in a post on Success Academy’s website. “As a black male myself, I knew I wanted to foster conversation between my students and within the school community.”

Click below to watch the performance.