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2017 in review
December 22, 2017
What we’ve learned: 5 lessons from education research to take into 2018
Researchers have worked through 2017 to separate fact from fiction.
the tenure track
May 5, 2017
For New York City teachers applying for tenure, success remains far from assured
Sixty-four percent of eligible teachers earned tenure last year. That's down from 97 percent a decade ago.
summer mix tape
August 30, 2016
Ten stories you might have missed over the summer (and should read now as a new school year begins)
There is no such thing as time off from covering education.
the tenure track
May 6, 2016
Exclusive: Teacher tenure approvals tick up, continuing a de Blasio-era shift
Sixty-four percent of eligible teachers were granted tenure during the 2014-15 school year, up from 60 percent the year before.
March 29, 2015
Budget agreement will change tenure rules, task state with eval overhaul
Many of the aggressive education policy changes sought by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — including an overhaul of teacher evaluations — will be addressed outside of the budget.
December 31, 2014
Tisch to Cuomo: Tougher teacher tenure requirements, faster dismissal process should be on the table
A longer probationary period for new teachers and an overhaul to the way teachers are terminated were among about two dozen positions taken by Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and soon-to-be acting Education Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin detailed in a 20-page letter sent to the governor's office on Thursday.
December 8, 2014
Legal fight over teacher tenure continues
The legal fight over job protections for New York teachers is continuing, as the lawyers for the parent plaintiffs have filed a formal rebuttal to…
July 22, 2014
Teachers union steps into legal battle over tenure, against a former ally
The United Federation of Teachers is officially jumping into a legal battle against advocates who are challenging New York's teacher job protection laws.
August 27, 2013
Tenure crunch continues, but just 41 teachers denied on first try
Percentage of New York City teachers who had tenure denied or extended, 2006-2013 For the third year in a row, nearly half of teachers up for tenure last year did not receive it. But the number of teachers outright denied the job protection remained small. Just under 4,000 teachers were up for tenure in the 2012-2013 school year, with 2,551 of them facing the decision for the first time — fewer than usual because hiring restrictions had been in place three years earlier. Of the total, 53 percent received tenure and 3 percent were denied it, effectively barring them from working in city schools. The remaining portion — 44 percent — had their probationary periods extended for another year. Only 41 of the 2,551 teachers up for tenure for the first time this year were told they could not continue to work in city schools, according to city data. That means the denial rate for teachers in the tenure pool was about 1.6 percent, lower than in each of the past two years. The extension rate for teachers up for tenure for the first time was 44 percent, up slightly since last year. The high extension rate is a hallmark of the Bloomberg administration's efforts to make tenure tougher to achieve. Bloomberg vowed in 2010 to move toward "ending tenure as we know it," a change he favored because teachers who do not yet have tenure can more easily be fired. The previous year, 11 percent of teachers up for tenure had been denied or extended. At the start of the mayor's tenure, that figure had been about 1 percent.
August 17, 2012
Tenure rate holds steady, but just 42 teachers denied on first try
Percentage of teachers who had tenure denied or extended, 2006-2012 The city's two-year-old crackdown on "tenure as we know it" continued this past year with nearly half of the teachers up for tenure not receiving it. Just under 4,000 teachers were up for tenure in the 2011-2012 school year, fewer than usual because hiring restrictions sharply cut the number of new teachers in 2009. Of them, 55 percent received tenure and 3 percent were denied it, effectively barring them from working in city schools. The remaining portion — 42 percent — had their probationary periods extended for another year. The extension rate was slightly higher than in 2011, when 39 percent of teachers up for tenure had their decisions deferred under a revamped tenure evaluation process. But it is five times the extension rate from 2010, which was the first time that the city used the deferral option in large numbers. Mayor Bloomberg vowed in 2010 to move toward on "ending tenure as we know it," a change he favors because teachers who do not yet have tenure can more easily be fired. Last year, Chancellor Dennis Walcott predicted that more teachers would be denied tenure this year. UPDATE: But the denial rate for teachers in the tenure pool for the first time actually fell. Last year, 104 teachers eligible for tenure for the first time were denied it, for a denial rate of 2.2 percent. This year, that rate was 1.9 percent, meaning that just 42 teachers up for tenure for the first time were told they could not continue to work in city schools. The Department of Education's chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said today that the department had no firm goals for how many teachers should receive or be denied tenure. "This is not about hitting some numerical target at all," he said during a call with reporters. "What we’re asking principals to do is treat this as a big decision about: Is this teacher ready for lifetime guarantee of employment?"
August 15, 2012
Amid tenure crackdown, some targeted teachers get good news
Later this week, when the Department of Education announces the number of teachers who received tenure last year, it’s likely that the tenure rate will be lower than ever. It used to be that virtually all teachers who completed their third year were awarded tenure, which confers added rights. But ever since Mayor Bloomberg vowed to end "tenure as we know it" in 2010, fewer teachers have gotten tenure each year. Last year, fewer than 60 percent of teachers up for tenure received it; most of the rest had their probationary periods extended, sometimes for a second time. But for a group of teachers who were told earlier this year that their tenure recommendations were being rescinded, there is better news. They'll be receiving tenure after all. In June, GothamSchools reported that tenure-eligible teachers working in some struggling schools were having their probationary periods extended, even when the superintendent, who is supposed to make the final call, agreed with their principal's recommendation for tenure.
June 8, 2012
Some teachers say their tenure approvals are being rescinded
Some teachers this week are getting bad news about what they thought was already a done deal: their tenure. Teachers come up for tenure, which confers stronger job protections, after three years. In their third year, their principals recommend a tenure decision to the superintendent, who has the final say on whether to approve, deny, or defer tenure. But some teachers whose principals had already received superintendent sign-off found out this week that those approvals had been rescinded, according to principals, teachers, and union officials. The teachers are instead being offered an extension of their probationary periods, some for the second time. The scenario has played out at multiple schools, according to officials at the United Federation of Teachers, who said the schools all seemed to have low scores on their Department of Education progress reports. The reversals appear to mark a new phase in the Bloomberg administration's campaign to make tenure tougher to earn — or, as Mayor Bloomberg put it in a 2010 vow, "ending tenure as we know it." Last year, the city aggressively cut down on the rate of tenure approvals, instead extending the probationary period of 40 percent of teachers up for tenure, up from 8 percent in 2010, and many principals said their superintendents had rejected some of their tenure recommendations.
August 3, 2011
Bloomberg declares tenure is not needed in public schools
Less than two years after pledging that he did not want to end tenure, Mayor Bloomberg struck a different chord today. "Do I think it's needed at the public school level? No," he said today. The statement came days after Bloomberg's most recent escalation in rhetoric against tenure protections. During his weekly radio address last week, he said tenure is a vestige of the McCarthy Era of the 1950s, when teachers were persecuted for their political views. But until today he had not said outright that he opposed tenure's existence for public school teachers. In fact, in a Nov. 2009 speech at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., he declared, “Let me be clear: We are not proposing an end to tenure.” Last year, Bloomberg promised "to end teacher tenure as we know it," but by making it tougher to achieve, not doing away with it. That vow appeared to bear fruit this year when the number of city teachers awarded tenure fell dramatically. Bloomberg was responding to a question I asked about what protections he thinks teachers should have given that Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott made clear that people who observe cheating should report it.
August 2, 2011
More U-ratings given out as evaluation overhaul looms ahead
For at least the sixth straight year, principals rated more teachers as unsatisfactory. Last year, 2,118 teachers received unsatisfactory ratings, setting them along a path that could lead to termination. That number, making up 2.7 percent of all teachers, was 16 percent higher than in 2010 and more than twice the number of U-ratings handed out five years ago. In the 2005-2006 school year, just 981 teachers received unsatisfactory ratings. About 80 percent of the teachers who received unsatisfactory ratings were tenured, according to Department of Education data. And about a quarter — 511 — received the scarlet rating last year as well. The numbers suggest that principals are responding to the city's sustained push to usher more weak teachers out of the system, and the city says 86 of the U-rated teachers have already resigned, including 41 who were denied tenure. But they hardly reflect a sea change in the way that principals rate teachers. For that, the city is counting on a new teacher evaluation system that will do away with the binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory rating choice altogether. State law now requires districts to enact evaluation systems that use student test scores as a component and sort teachers into four categories from "highly effective" down to "ineffective."
August 1, 2011
Citing array of experiences, teachers argue tenure remains vital
Two teachers say their experiences facing harassment after engaging in union activity are the surest sign that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is wrong about the need for tenure. On Friday, Bloomberg said during his weekly radio appearance that tenure is a vestige of an earlier time, the McCarthy Era, when teachers and others were persecuted for their political views. In the Community section today, Peter Lamphere and Rachel Montagano argue that teachers can still face unofficial sanctions for their politics or identities, making tenure just as vital now as it was in the 1950s. In February, Lamphere wrote in the Community section about his experience receiving unsatisfactory reviews for the first time after lobbying against an administrator at the Bronx High School for Science. Montagano is currently embroiled in a battle of her own to keep her job at MS 216 in Queens, where she faces incompetence charges leveled for the first time after she stepped up her union leadership. Lamphere and Montagano write: As two New York City teachers who have both been targeted with unsatisfactory ratings because of our union activity, we know from firsthand experience that tenure is one of the few protections for whistleblowers and teacher advocates.
July 29, 2011
Mulgrew: Mayor's tenure tone not conducive to evaluation talks
Far from living up to its promise, the city's tenure reform in fact amounts to a quota system for teacher evaluations, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said today. Mulgrew was responding to comments made by Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott during Bloomberg's weekly radio address this morning. They said they expect the number of tenure denials to rise next year. Mulgrew questioned how they could predict more denials when evaluations for teachers up for tenure next year have not yet happened. He said that Bloomberg's comments signal that the city has set up a quota system for teacher evaluations rather than using them as a tool to help educators improve. "If it's more about setting up a set of numbers for political reasons ... then what they’re doing is wrong," Mulgrew said. "If they're already predetermining they’re setting this up with quotas, that’s absurd." The number of teachers who receive poor ratings could change when an evaluation system mandated under state law goes into effect. That is supposed to happen in September, but first the union and the city must agree on the system's terms. Mulgrew said they are nowhere near an agreement, even after reaching a deal for 33 low-performing schools two weeks ago.
July 29, 2011
Mayor ratchets up his criticism of tenure as McCarthy-era relic
Mayor Bloomberg escalated his critique of teacher tenure on his weekly radio show this morning, calling tenure outdated and questioning whether it should even exist. Bloomberg was discussing the latest tenure data, which were released Wednesday and showed an all-time high number of teachers whose probation were extended rather than receiving tenure. He said he'd continue to comply with the laws that required him to award tenure, but wouldn't like it. "The state law has tenure, whether you like it or not. We have to work with that," Bloomberg said. "It may have been necessary in the McCarthy era or maybe even today at the university level. But in public education you’re not writing papers about things that are very controversial, which was the idea of tenure: to protect your ability to do that." Bloomberg launched the last school year with a pledge to overhaul the way tenure is granted, and he previously has criticized tenure as being too "automatic." But he has never called for an outright end to tenure; indeed, in a 2009 speech at the Center for American Progress, he declared, "let me be clear: We are not proposing an end to tenure."
July 27, 2011
Fewer teachers granted tenure this year, but denials hold steady
Percentage of Teachers Who Had Tenure Denied or Extended In a stark departure from tradition, more than 40 percent of city teachers up for tenure this year did not get it. Just over 5,200 teachers were up for tenure this year. Of them, 58 percent received tenure and 3 percent were denied it, effectively barring them from working in city schools. The remaining portion -- 39 percent -- had their probationary periods extended for another year. The number of extensions inched up in 2010 to 8 percent, but skyrocketed this year after the Department of Education revamped the tenure evaluation process in an effort to make the protection tougher to receive. Yet the rate of tenure denials actually fell slightly from last year, from about 3.3 percent in 2010 to 2.7 percent in 2011, or 151 teachers, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg's insistence that the figures were the first step toward "ending tenure as we know it." The numbers, which Bloomberg touted at a press conference today, confirm anecdotal reports pointing to a sharp rise in the number of probation extensions under the new system. Before last year, that option was rarely used and the vast majority of teachers received tenure almost as a formality.
July 27, 2011
Bloomberg to tout results of toughened tenure procedures today
All indications suggest that the city is pleased with the results of its concerted effort to make tenure more difficult to receive. Mayor Bloomberg is announcing details about how many teachers received — or didn't receive — tenure this year during a midday press conference today at Tweed Courthouse, the Department of Education's headquarters. In the past, the city has released tenure details by email. The fanfare comes on top of reports from teachers and principals that tenure was awarded far less readily last year after Bloomberg vowed to make the protection tougher to receive. For many years, receiving tenure has been an almost automatic step that happens at the end of a teacher's third year in the system. But as part of a sweeping bid to toughen teacher evaluations, the city unveiled a new tenure evaluation rubric last year. The rubric separates teachers into four categories and the city told principals to recommend tenure only for those falling into the top two. At the end of the year, principals said the new evaluations had made it difficult for them to recommend tenure for some teachers they felt deserved it, particularly if a teacher's value-added Teacher Data Report, based on student test scores, said he was below average.
July 19, 2011
Contemplating a tenure deferral, and coming up with self-critique
Sometimes the simplest explanation might well be the most accurate. That’s the conclusion that Ruben Brosbe, GothamSchools’ longtime Community section contributor, drew after finding out…
July 7, 2011
Instead of giving or denying tenure, city is deferring decisions
Under pressure from the Bloomberg administration to make tenure tougher to receive, principals and superintendents are withholding job protections from some young teachers. Instead of simply granting or denying tenure at the end of a teacher's third year, they are extending the probationary period for some teachers by another year. In 2006, just 30 teachers had their probation extended. As the city has moved to toughen all teacher evaluations, that number has risen steadily, to 465 last year. Reports from teachers and principals suggest the trend is likely to continue when official numbers about the past year’s tenure decisions is released in the near future. The reports suggest that many superintendents, who make final tenure decisions based on principals’ recommendations, are responding to a directive that teachers who score low on a new rubric not get tenure. The city urged that teachers who scored in the "ineffective" range be denied tenure and teachers who fell in the "developing" range have their probations extended. A low score on the city's Teacher Data Report was particularly influential, even if other information, such as classroom observations, contradicted it, principals said. The reports, which only some teachers receive, use value-added formulas to estimate teachers' effectiveness at increasing students' test scores, and teachers with low scores are "red-flagged" in the city's tenure system. Of the nine teachers Principal Joe Lisa had up for tenure this year at IS 61 in Queens, six taught in subjects without data reports and received tenure. Three math teachers had their probationary periods extended. One in particular seemed to be a shoo-in, Lisa said. But his superintendent rejected the idea of giving her tenure this year.
June 10, 2011
This week's teaching & learning tidbits
What to do after high school? - Preschool's benefits linger into adulthood, study finds - Colo. teacher tenure changes on table - Dougco schools revamp teacher pay - Teachers infuse arts into classroom.
April 12, 2011
To justify tenure calls, some supes ask for teacher portfolios
As schools enter the peak season for teacher tenure decisions, teachers who are up for tenure are reporting increased scrutiny from principals and superintendents. A teacher contacted GothamSchools last week to report that her principal had surprised teachers up for tenure at her school with a request for a portfolio. "The superintendent just informed my principal that each person up for tenure had to have an extensive portfolio demonstrating all the work they do that benefits the school," said the teacher, who herself is up for tenure this year. "There's been stress, to say the least," she said. The portfolios are one of several ways district superintendents are soliciting evidence to back up their tenure decisions. The superintendents have always had the final say on tenure decisions, but they rarely challenged principals' recommendations in the past. Now they're under pressure to toughen the tenure process and deny tenure or extend probation more often. So they're asking principals to justify all of the recommendations they make. Superintendents can ask for whatever documentation they like, including portfolios. Some superintendents are also observing classes themselves or sitting down with principals to analyze teachers' performance. "Superintendents have been told that nothing is a given," said a high school principal.
March 21, 2011
With tenure decisions under scrutiny, a principal tapes his own
As principals' tenure decisions come under harsher scrutiny than in the past, one principal has found a new way of proving that his teachers deserve the honor. Last year, when Fortunato Rubino, the principal of a high-performing Williamsburg middle school, wanted to grant tenure to one of his teachers, his superintendent wouldn't sign off because the teacher had a low effectiveness rating. Scenarios like this are becoming more common as the DOE tries to make tenure tougher to earn and asks superintendents — who have the final word on tenure — to consider teachers' value-added scores. These scores measure how well a teacher's students performed on the state math and reading tests compared to how well a predictive model thought they would do. So this year, when six of his teachers are up for tenure — including the one who didn't get it last year — Rubino plans to introduce his own evidence. During a visit to his school I.S. 318 this morning, I watched Rubino pull three DVDs out of his briefcase — each carefully marked with a teacher's name. For all six teachers who are up for tenure, Rubino has filmed a lesson and burned the videos to DVD for his superintendent to watch. He told me he'd spent the weekend going through the videos to make sure each showcased his teachers at their best.
March 18, 2011
This week's teaching & learning tidbits
The latest school budget news - Parents clamor for vouchers in Dougco - Fla. replaces teacher tenure with merit pay - Cherry Creek eyes stimulus money for iPod language program.
February 11, 2011
This week's teaching & learning tidbits
School bus advertising; LA Times teacher rankings questioned; More male elementary teachers in Colo.; no further cuts to K-12 funding in Colo.; Teacher tenure bill fails in Wyo.; Boulder Valley makes small gains in minority teachers; Rhee scrutinized.
January 14, 2011
Week of 1/10/11: Teaching & learning tidbits
Special ed fair in Aurora, Race to Nowhere screenings near you, Denver School of Science and Technology touts 100 percent of grad class accepted to four-year college, decline in computer science education, schools prep for national standards, NY teacher rankings rankle, enrollment growth in Colo., DPS Educa radio show lauded.
December 17, 2010
Week of 12/13/10: Teaching & learning tidbits
The teaching and learning stocking is stuffed to bursting with news of parents successfully fighting the powers that be in schools, views on school taxes and tenure, kudos to several Colorado schools, vouchers and value-added assessments of teachers.
December 13, 2010
Hurt by old tenure rules, a principal is hopeful for change
Although principals won't get their first look at the city's new tenure rules until tomorrow, one principal I spoke to today has high hopes for the new system. For years, tenure has been treated as a formality, the principal said, so some school leaders put little effort into thinking about whether it should be granted. The new rules may prompt them to take the process of granting tenure more seriously, she said. "I think the new system is probably not such a bad thing," she said, telling a story about how her school had been hurt by what's known as "tenure by estoppel." Tenure by estoppel, which is part of state law, means that a teacher can get tenure after a certain period of time if her principal never makes a decision. In this person's school, there was a teacher who had been given an extra year of probation and was up for tenure, which the former-principal knew she hadn't earned.
December 13, 2010
City unveils new steps designed to make path to tenure tougher
For more than 6,000 teachers, the path to tenure this year will be different and, the city hopes, tougher. City education officials announced a new rubric today that will guide principals as they make tenure recommendations this year. The "effectiveness framework" places teachers in one of four categories: highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective, based on students' tests scores, classroom observations, parent feedback, and other factors. No single element is meant to be weighed more heavily than the others and principals still have the ability to pick and choose what goes into their final decision. Principals will be encouraged to give tenure only to teachers they believe are effective or highly effective, city officials said today. Teachers who are "developing" will have their probation extended, giving them another year in which to improve. This extension can occur again and again until a principal makes a final decision or the teacher leaves the job. In the past, granting tenure meant checking a series of boxes in an online form. Was the teacher dressed appropriately? Check. Did she have good classroom management? Check. Principals who wanted to deny tenure had to offer a brief justification, but granting it didn't require a principal to give her rationale for doing so.
December 10, 2010
New evaluation for untenured teachers calls for greater detail
City officials are planning to unveil a new evaluation system for un-tenured teachers and have enlisted the help of a prominent educator. The Danielson Group — run by Charlotte Danielson, the creator of a widely-used taxonomy of teaching called the Framework for Teaching — is consulting with the Department of Education to create measures of good teaching tailored for the city. Sources said the new evaluation system will be used for probationary teachers — those who typically have fewer than three years experience — and will guide principals in making tenure decisions. The new evaluation system has yet to be unveiled to teachers and principals, but DOE officials have shown it to network leaders, who will be charged with training principals in its use. Meant to be in place by the time tenure decisions are made this spring, the new framework is part of Mayor Bloomberg's push to make tenure more difficult to attain. In a speech delivered on NBC in September, the mayor said that tenure should not be a "formality" for teachers and vowed that this year, principals would use a new evaluation system.
November 15, 2010
A retired Dougco teacher's take on tenure
There has been much discussion of late about teacher tenure (thanks, Superman) and whether it impedes reform and quality public education by protecting bad teachers. Read a retired Colorad teacher's views on the subject and share your own opinions and questions about teacher tenure.
September 27, 2010
Bloomberg vows last-in first-out crackdown, new tenure policy
Mayor Bloomberg on NBC today, announcing a crackdown on seniority-based layoffs and a new tenure policy. In his first major education policy announcement for the new school year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning vowed a renewed attack on seniority laws that protect veteran teachers and a change in how teachers are awarded tenure. He made the remarks on NBC, which is dedicating this week to school reporting in a project called "Education Nation." The attack on seniority laws came as city officials made a dire budget prediction for next year, saying that they will likely have to lay off public school teachers as federal stimulus funding runs out. Under the current state law, teachers with the least seniority would be the first to lose their jobs — a policy known as "last in, first out." The mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein oppose this policy, but their effort to change the law, which the teachers union does support, went nowhere last year. Today, the mayor said he would try dismantling the policy again before the city confronts an expected $700 million budget hole and possible layoffs next year. "It's time for us to end the 'last-in, first out' layoff policy that puts children at risk here in New York — and across our wonderful country," Bloomberg said on NBC. "How could anyone argue that this is good for children? The law is nothing more than special interest politics, and we're going to get rid of it before it hurts our kids," he added. Teachers union officials immediately squashed any possibility that they might partner with the mayor.
July 29, 2010
Number of teachers rated unsatisfactory rose again last year
More teachers than ever received unsatisfactory ratings last year, suggesting that the city's push to rid the school system of more struggling teachers is working. Principals gave unsatisfactory ratings to 1,813 teachers, 17 percent more than in 2009, according to data the city released today. They also denied tenure to 234 teachers this year, 80 percent more than last year. And principals nearly doubled the number of teachers given an extra year before their final tenure decision is made. In total, 11 percent of the 6,386 teachers up for tenure this year were denied or delayed, compared to 6.6 percent last year. It's an even more dramatic jump from 2006, when tenure was denied or delayed less than 1 percent of the time. By far, the leading cause principals cited for giving a U-rating was quality of instruction and student care. Attendance problems were the second-leading cause of low ratings, followed closely by the nebulous "personal and professional qualities." Still, the vast majority of teachers were rated satisfactory and received tenure after three years in the classroom.
July 21, 2010
City principals say they can address bad teachers already
City principals say they're pretty darn happy with their jobs, according to the results of the city's annual survey for principals. They gave high marks in virtually every area, including the one the city might have wanted them to endorse less enthusiastically — their ability to root out and deal with poor teachers. The city's current teacher tenure policy is a pet peeve of Chancellor Joel Klein, who argues that student performance, not just years in the classroom, should determine whether a teacher gets and maintains tenure. And Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern has said that two-thirds of the city's teachers may need improvement. But principals said they already have the tools they need to help struggling teachers. A total of 85 percent said that they were given good enough "support and information to address low-performing employees." And 93 percent of principals who responded to the survey reported that they either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I am given sufficient support and information to guide tenure decisions." Neither of those rates have changed since March 2008. Regardless of principals' views, the teacher evaluation and tenure system is set to change. Under a deal struck between the state and teachers unions this spring, student test scores will begin to factor in teacher evaluations beginning in the 2011-12 school year. Around 84 percent of the city's 1,532 principals responded to the survey, which the city has given each fall and spring since November 2007. The city's full report on the survey results is below:
February 26, 2010
City releases new teacher reports it says are simpler, fairer
Teachers' data reports place them in one of five categories depending on how much they were able to boost their students' test scores over the course of several years. Reports ranking teachers on how much they were able to increase students' test scores from one year to the next arrived in principal's inboxes this week, and this time Department of Education officials say the reports are simpler and fairer than in years past. First released in 2008, teacher data reports have rankled teachers who object to being judged solely on test scores and confused principals, some of whom found the reports too complicated to use. The reports released this week cover 12,000 teachers and address some of those concerns. They contain less information, are easier to read, and use a new formula to calculate teachers' value-added scores. This year, Chancellor Joel Klein has made it clear what should be done with the data: one in ten teachers who are up for tenure will have their reports used as a criteria in their tenure evaluations. On Tuesday morning, principals with students in grades 3-8 — the state gives yearly math and English tests to these students — were given school summary reports. Teachers won't receive their individual data reports until next week. The vast majority work in traditional public schools, as less than a dozen charter schools chose to participate, according to the Department of Education's chief talent officer, Amy McIntosh.
February 11, 2010
City's new tenure plan uses test scores, but for few teachers
Department of Education officials debuted a new tenure process today will affect only one in ten teachers up for tenure this year, but for the city's teachers union, that's one too many. Answering Mayor Bloomberg's demand that test scores be used in tenure decisions this year, the department has broadened the criteria that principals use in evaluating teachers to include teacher data reports. These reports rank teachers based on their students' scores on the state's math and English exams and compare them to others teaching similar students over several years. Department officials say the reports will only be used to alert principals to teachers who are at the top and bottom of the rankings. When Chancellor Joel Klein first introduced the data reports in 2008, he made an agreement with former United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten that the reports would not affect tenure evaluations or teacher pay. Today Klein doubled back on that agreement, sending a letter to principals that said including the data reports would make tenure more "meaningful."
January 29, 2010
To read NY's Race to the Top bid, wear rose colored glasses
New York State's Race to the Top application is nearly a printer-jamming 1,000 pages, but a quick skim of the documents offers some insight into how the state is presenting itself and its proposals to judges in Washington. Charter cap: Throughout the fight over whether and how to lift the state's charter cap, state education officials and the Board of Regents advocated for more than doubling the number of charters allowed in New York. Lifting the cap would not only improve the state's chances at winning federal money, they said, it had become necessary as New York was closing in on its 200 school limit. In December, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch told GothamSchools: "My opinion is that the charter cap is now at a place where it will prevent us from opening great charter schools." Yet the state's application paints a distinctly different picture of the charter cap's effect:
December 15, 2009
City and state take different tones in linking test scores to tenure
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is aggressively pushing for the city to link test scores to tenure decisions this year, but state education officials are less confident that the tests are a reliable measure of progress and are proceeding with caution. Using test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations is one of the most controversial elements of the Race to the Top guidelines, which states are striving to meet in order to win the federal grants. On Monday, the State Board of Regents endorsed linking test scores to tenure decisions. But state officials are wary of using the tests before they're improved upon, an approach that contrasts with the city's decision to use the data immediately. Speaking at a press conference about the state's Race to the Top application yesterday, State Education Commissioner David Steiner warned against giving too much weight to the state tests or making them the sole indicator of a teacher's success or failure. "It would not be sound policy to ground the assessment of teachers in assessments we don't have complete confidence in," Steiner said.
December 1, 2009
Conflict could exclude this year's tests from tenure decisions
A schedule conflict could mean that students' scores on this year's state standardized tests may not play a role in whether their teachers get tenure. Nevertheless, if the city does use the scores, it could land in court with the union on the other side. Citing a loophole in state law, Mayor Bloomberg ordered the city's Department of Education last week to begin using students' test scores in tenure decisions this year. But the results of this year's state math and English tests will not be available until after the deadline for submitting tenure decisions has passed. The state changed its timeline for administering math and English exams this year, pushing both exams to the spring. Previously, they were given in January and March. Though principals have to make decisions about whether to grant teachers tenure by May 1, this year's tests will not even finish going through the scoring process until weeks after that deadline. This schedule conflict could leave principals to make tenure decisions using two years of test scores rather than three, and those could be two easier years. Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch has said that this year's tests will be "less predictable" than in previous years.
November 25, 2009
Bloomberg to Klein: Use student data in tenure decisions this year
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The city's Department of Education will use student test scores in teacher tenure decisions this year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this morning. Speaking at the Center for American Progress, Bloomberg asked Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to follow a new interpretation of the state law that bans the use of student performance in tenure decisions. The law only applies to teachers hired after July 1, 2008, Bloomberg said. Teachers up for tenure this year, who were hired in 2007, are not subject to the rule, according to this interpretation, and so will be evaluated using their students' test score progress as a factor. The announcement came as the mayor called on Albany to enact a number of legislative changes, including mandating school districts to evaluate teachers with student performance data and eliminating the charter cap, that would make New York State more competitive in its Race to the Top application. Much more to come; the full press release accompanying the mayor's announcement, and the text of his comments this morning, are below the jump.
November 19, 2009
Gates Foundation to pour more money into teacher quality research
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that it will invest a total of $335 million into teacher effectiveness initiatives. The vast majority of those funds, $290 million, are headed to three school districts — Pittsburgh, Memphis and Hillsborough County, Florida — and a consortium of Los Angeles charter school operators. Foundation officials said the programs it is supporting are making strides in figuring out how to measure high-quality teaching and then encourage it. Even though none of the money is going to New York, observers here might be interested in some of the initiatives the grants are funding. In Hillsborough County, for example, the grant is going to help overhaul the teacher tenure process, linking tenure decisions to teachers' demonstrated effect on boosting student achievement. New York has a law explicitly banning the use of student data in tenure decisions, though the law is set to expire next year and many predict it won't be renewed.
November 11, 2009
Final Race to the Top guidelines keep rule that may exclude NY
The U.S. Department of Education released final guidelines for its $4.3 billion Race to the Top grant program this evening, leaving a provision that could ban New York State from applying for the funds still intact. States that bar districts from using test scores to evaluate teachers and principals are ineligible for the fund. The language of the requirement remains exactly the same as in the draft rules released in July. The draft proposal sparked a debate about whether a New York State provision that bars using student data in teacher tenure decisions will exclude the state from the competition for grant money. However, the final criteria does provide more context on how student data should be used to evaluate teachers and principals than did the draft proposal. The regulations call for states to develop evaluation methods that use student test scores as a "significant factor" in rating teachers and principals, but notes that it should be one factor among several categories for which teachers should be judged.
November 2, 2009
Mulgrew tells Assem. Hoyt to go back to school on edu reforms
Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew dismissed proposed legislation that would overhaul New York State's teacher tenure and charter cap laws. Mulgrew criticized Assemblyman Sam Hoyt's bill in an interview with GothamSchools on Saturday, after delivering an address to approximately 3,000 parents assembled for the United Federation of Teachers' annual parent outreach conference. Proposed to make New York State's bid for Race to the Top money more competitive, Hoyt's bill contains a variety of measures, almost all of which the union has opposed. In addition to abolishing the state's charter cap, the bill would increase the number of years a teacher must work before being considered for tenure and would lift the ban on using students' test scores as a factor in tenure decisions. "I think Mr. Hoyt should spend some time with people who understand education," Mulgrew said. "I am always leery of those who propose education reforms who have never spent time in a classroom."
August 11, 2009
Paterson adds new twist to the Race to the Top debate
Governor David Paterson, speaking today at Harlem's P.S. 208 Governor Paterson insisted today that New York deserves a piece of the special Race to the Top stimulus fund for schools, declaring that an Obama official assured him the state will be eligible for the funds. But there was immediate confusion over the governor's explanation for why New York is eligible. Paterson said that New York's tenure law, which bans school districts from using student test scores when doling out teacher tenure, applies only to New York City. Therefore, he said, it does not violate Race to the Top's requirement that states not link student data to teachers. "That's a specific law to New York City," Paterson said, adding that the provision is "a local law that's implemented through the state." A Bloomberg administration source disputed that interpretation, saying that the tenure provision applies statewide.
July 27, 2009
New York State could have hope for elite $5 billion stimulus fund
The fact that New York prohibits the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions would seem to axe the state from the race for Race to the Top dollars. But there are growing suggestions that the state could take home a share after all. Race to the Top is a special $5 billion federal stimulus fund meant to spur innovation in public schools. It is available only to states and districts that meet certain requirements. One of those requirements is that they allow teacher evaluations to be tied to student performance. New York State's tenure law, passed last year under pressure from teachers unions, says student test score data can't be the sole determinant of whether a teacher gets tenure. But three top officials — teachers union president Randi Weingarten, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, and incoming State Education Commissioner David Steiner — are arguing that the law will not disqualify New York from the fund. "It is our firm belief that the language of Race to the Top funding does not preclude New York," Steiner said today. "New York has a law on the books that relates strictly to tenure." Weingarten noted that a second section of the same law explicitly requires teachers' annual evaluations, which take place even after they receive tenure, to be based in part on how they use test score data to improve their instruction.
July 20, 2009
More than 500 extra teachers rated "unsatisfactory" this year
City principals rated more teachers unsatisfactory this year than they have since at least 2005, suggesting that the Bloomberg administration's efforts to escort more struggling teachers out of the system may be bearing some fruit. Principals gave the scarlet-letter rating to 1,554 teachers this year, up from 981 in the 2005-2006 school year, data provided by the city Department of Education show. Both the number and percentage of teachers rated unsatisfactory rose during that period, and the rise occurred for both tenured and non-tenured teachers, city figures show. Even with the rise, the percentage of teachers rated unsatisfactory remains low. About 2% of teachers, both tenured and without tenure, received what teachers call "U" ratings this year. Ann Forte, a schools spokeswoman, sent us the figures this afternoon. The rise follows a concerted effort by school officials to make it easier for principals to terminate poorly performing teachers, including a new group of lawyers assigned to targeting struggling teachers, called the Teacher Performance Unit. Rating a teacher unsatisfactory is often the first step toward removing him from the school system.
June 1, 2009
‘Widget Effect’ report: ‘Meaningless’ teacher evaluations need improvement
A new report is urging school districts across the country to beef up their methods of evaluating teachers, which the report describes as so slipshod as to be "largely meaningless." The report, by a nonprofit group that has clashed with teachers unions in the past, describes the poor evaluations as "just one symptom of a larger, more fundamental crisis—the inability of our schools to assess instructional performance accurately or to act on this information in meaningful ways." The report is called "The Widget Effect" because accuses districts of treating all teachers alike, regardless of how much they help students learn. It goes on: This inability not only keeps schools from dismissing consistently poor performers, but also prevents them from recognizing excellence among top-performers or supporting growth among the broad plurality of hardworking teachers who operate in the middle of the performance spectrum. Instead, school districts default to treating all teachers as essentially the same, both in terms of effectiveness and need for development. The report, conducted by The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit founded by the lightning-rod D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, calls on districts to develop more robust teacher evaluation systems that reward successful teachers and easily identify less successful teachers. The report comes amid a growing push to improve teaching quality across the country. President Obama has said that teachers who are not helping students learn should be removed from classrooms, and even the national American Federation of Teachers union is working internally to build a new method of evaluating teacher quality. The report bases its findings on surveys of thousands of teachers and administrators across four states and 12 school districts, plus a scouring of the districts' evaluation records. New York City was not one of the districts studied.
February 12, 2009
Union: KIPP charter leaders are waging an intimidation campaign
The city teachers union is accusing the elite KIPP charter school network of waging an intimidation campaign against teachers who are trying to unionize. The dispute began in January, when teachers at a Brooklyn KIPP school shocked the charter school world by petitioning to join the powerful United Federation of Teachers. At the time, Dave Levin, KIPP’s cofounder and the superintendent of its New York City schools, indicated that he was open to working with the union — even though many KIPP supporters oppose working with unions, which they argue block schools’ ability to teach at-risk urban students by imposing strict work rules on schools. (KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program.) Now, the union is accusing Levin of urging teachers not to unionize and painting a bleak picture of what will happen if they do. The accusations are cataloged in two complaints the UFT sent to the state labor board in the last nine days arguing that KIPP is improperly blocking teachers’ ability to unionize. The latest complaint, filed Wednesday, adds to complaints first aired in a Sunday New York Times story reporting that KIPP is resisting the teachers' organizing drive. The complaints accuse a KIPP human resources official of telling teachers that he is concerned that the Brooklyn school will lose its affiliation with the KIPP network if they organize; they accuse the school's founding principal, Ky Adderley, of sitting in the hallway every day to monitor teachers, and they accuse Levin of making a rare attendance at a staff meeting to encourage teachers to reverse their decision to unionize. Levin and a KIPP spokesman did not return telephone messages requesting comment today.
January 22, 2009
Mildly Melancholy responds to the great debate about her firing
The charter school teacher who goes by Mildly Melancholy first got our attention here when she was unceremoniously fired, in the middle of the school year, after struggling for months with what sounds like precious little support from administrators and fellow staff. Since then, she's inspired a great debate in the comments section here about what it means to be a teacher, how to measure teacher quality, and whether urban teachers are asked to do too much. And now, she's emerged from a period of quiet on the subject of herself to respond to this raging debate. The long response she's posted is worth a read, especially her disclosure that she's the third teacher in the grade she taught to be dismissed from this particular school. (Maybe she's not the one to blame here.) Here are some other highlights from the robust conversation Mildly Melancholy started.
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