New York

City will spend $1.5M to extend judging of teachers via test scores

PHOTO: G.TatterThe Department of Education created videos to explain the reports. View them ##http://schools.nyc.gov/Teachers/TeacherDevelopment/TeacherDataToolkit/LearnKeyConcepts/Videos/VIdeo2.htm##here##. The Department of Education is moving to extend a program that judges teachers based on their students' test scores — and it plans to start paying for the project with taxpayer dollars, at a projected cost of $1.5 million over the next three years. A formal request for vendor proposals released today indicates officials are also mulling an expansion of the program to more teachers. The program, called the Teacher Data Initiative, launched quietly this school year after causing a politically explosive fight between the DOE and the teachers union the year before. The reports allow principals to track the "value" teachers add to students by looking at student test scores from one year to the next. The teachers union here has gone along with programs to judge entire schools based on test scores, but it drew the line at measuring individual teachers' performance, arguing that so-called "value-added" models risk unfairly misjudging teachers. (Many academic researchers make this claim as well.) After news of the effort surfaced, the union fought back by ushering a bill into state law that made it illegal for the city to use test scores when making decisions about job security. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein decried the bill (Bloomberg called it a "special interest protection"), which the legislature passed with no public debate, and the data reports went out as planned.
New York

After criticism, Klein embarks on a sit-down spree with lawmakers

Chancellor Joel Klein conducted at least one of his meetings with lawmakers in his office at Tweed Courthouse. After suffering a beating from legislators who accused him of being rudely unresponsive to their concerns since taking office in 2003, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is taking the hint and reaching out. In the last few weeks, Klein has walked  Mark Weprin, a Queens lawmaker who is one of his sharpest critics on the Assembly's education committee, through his Tweed Courthouse headquarters; sat down with a handful of other lawmakers; and made appointments with more, including the committee's chairwoman, Catherine Nolan. He has also begun, through his staff, to send out prompt replies to lawmakers' requests. "We’re getting letters answered, we’re getting information that we’ve asked for," a spokeswoman for Nolan, Kathleen Whynot, said. "We have a really good working relationship right now with some of the DOE staff, which has been a nice addition." Assembly members said the outreach began after they launched a series of five hearings on the subject of mayoral control — the governance structure that Klein strongly supports, but which several lawmakers have criticized as authoritarian. The state legislature handed the mayor control in 2002, but the law they wrote sunsets this year, and so many in Albany are rolling up their sleeves and hoping to revise it. The hearings were a chance for citizens to give their thoughts on how they'd like the law changed (or not). They also became opportunities for the lawmakers to air their concerns. Several of the complaints had to do specifically with Klein and his staff, who lawmakers said frequently failed to respond even to basic questions and concerns. The complaints accelerated at a hearing held in Manhattan where Klein himself testified, sitting before a row of lawmakers who took turns rebuking him.
New York

State teachers union will now represent lifeguards

New York State United Teachers, the state chapter of the city teachers union, just announced that the union is on the brink of adding about 500 1,200 lifeguards into its fold. The lifeguards used to belong to another union, but they sought out NYSUT hoping it would offer "stronger representation," according to the press release below. Most of NYSUT's 600,000 members are teachers (and most of those are in New York City) but the union also represents some groups that aren't affiliated with schools, including hospital nurses, group home workers, and day care providers. Read background on how lifeguards got unionized here. Here's the NYSUT press release: Lifeguards join NYSUT seeking a voice, better pay & improved safety ALBANY, N.Y. February 25, 2009 — Along with their whistles, sun block and rescue buoys, some 1,200 state lifeguards, including nearly 500 who protect beachgoers on Long Island’s shores, will be carrying something else on their stands this summer — a NYSUT union card. New York State United Teachers announced today that state-employed lifeguards who protect pools, lakes and beaches from Lake Erie to Montauk are affiliating with the 600,000-member union.  The NYSUT Board of Directors will formally vote to accept the new local union — known as the New York State Lifeguard Corps — on Saturday, ending a nearly six-year legal odyssey that started when lifeguards began seeking better pay, improved training and safety equipment, and a voice in their working conditions.