The city and teachers union aren't anywhere close to settling on new teacher evaluations. But if and when they do strike a deal, they might have to revisit a point of agreement.
Leo Casey, a teachers union official, told me recently that before negotiations broke down in December, the city and UFT had agreed that only students with a minimum attendance rate should be counted in teachers' scores. Exactly what that rate would be was still up for discussion, Casey said, but everyone agreed on the basic principle that if students aren't in class to learn, it's not fair to hold teachers responsible for their learning.
It's an outlook that teachers at schools under threat of closure have shared over and over. At Washington Irving High School, teachers protesting the city's ultimately successful closure proposal argued that the school would have much stronger performance data if the city excluded the school's many "long-term absences" from its progress report calculations.
It's also a point that united Buffalo and its teachers union as they negotiated a new teacher evaluation system earlier this year for schools eligible for School Improvement Grants. In February, they settled on a system that would exclude chronically absent students from the student growth portion of evaluations.
But the State Education Department rejected that portion of their compromise. In the rejection letter, Education Commissioner John King explained that Buffalo's evaluation system would have applied the attendance provision to the 20 percent of evaluations that the state controls, and that's not allowed. But another problem, he wrote, was that the provision could be abused.
New York City's release of teacher ratings last month stoked fierce debate over the role of evaluations in boosting student achievement and about whether the public should be privy to their results.
A panel discussion featuring former state education chief David Steiner; United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey; policy researchers; and Nick Lemann, dean of Columbia University's journalism school tackled those issues this afternoon. The panel, part of a two-day long symposium on testing, was billed as a conversation about whether to make teacher ratings public, as New York City did with caveats last month and New York State is poised, at least legally, to do in the future.
But the panelists mostly skirted that issue, focusing instead on the bigger question of how current teacher evaluations can be improved upon — an issue that the state is grappling with as it rolls out new curriculum standards and prepares to impose a state-wide evaluation system.
Eric Nadelstern, a former top city Department of Education official who spoke from the audience, was the only person to speak out in favor of the data releases — or address the matter head on at all.
"Clearly the tests have to get better, but we can't wait until they do before we use them to determine whether or not the adults are doing good work," said Nadelstern, who led the city's effort to create report cards for each school. "However imperfect the data, if we're using it to make high stakes decisions about kids, shouldn't we make that data available to the students, to the parents and to the public?"
Department of Education officials are telling principals of schools slated for "turnaround" not to worry about quotas when they decide which teachers to hire for next year.
This guidance conflicts with the federal guidelines for the reform model, which require a school to replace at least half its teachers. It also contradicts the words of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials, who have done little to dispute this figure before alarmed teachers, students and parents at meetings held throughout the city.
The 50 percent figure has been repeated again and again in months since Bloomberg's announcement, at forums, protests, union press conferences, and city presentations. Superintendent Aimee Horowitz told families and staff at Brooklyn's William E. Grady High School and Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School that "up to 50 percent of the remaining faculty can be re-hired," while at least 50 percent will have to leave. At a meeting of the Citywide Council on High Schools, Deputy Chancellor Elaine Gorman distributed a presentation that said part of the plan was to "re-hire no more than 50 percent."
But behind the scenes, department officials have been telling principals to ignore this requirement. They said they have told principals at the 33 schools to hire the best teachers available without fretting over whether they are new or would be returning.
"Our goal is for schools to hire and recruit the most qualified teachers who meet the high standards set by their principals — not to remove a certain percentage of staff," said Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg. "As that happens, we will work with the state to secure millions of dollars in funding that these new schools need and deserve."
Principals who have been working on developing plans for the replacement schools say they plan to follow the department’s instructions and are anticipating replacing far fewer teachers than 50 percent. Multiple principals said they were expecting to replace about a quarter of their teachers over the summer.
Two more New York State school districts will have their federal funding restored after adopting new teacher evaluations for this school year, State Education Commissioner John King announced today.
In January, King cut off the funds, known as School Improvement Grants, to 10 districts that had been receiving them to help overhaul low-performing schools. The districts had not adequately complied with a Dec. 31 deadline to adopt new evaluations for teachers in those schools, King said.
But after the state's teacher evaluation deal in February, five districts refined their applications sufficiently to have their funding restored. Today, two more districts — Yonkers and Roosevelt — got their funding back. The announcement means that just three districts, including New York City, are still shut out of funding for the year. The city was supposed to get almost $60 million this year through the grant program.
The other two districts that haven't met the state's requirements for this year are Greenburgh 11 and Buffalo. Greenburgh 11, a tiny school district that serves only students with special needs, has been silent on the issue of teacher evaluations all year. Buffalo, on the other hand, devolved into conflict this month after King rejected an evaluations agreement between the city and its teachers union, saying that their plan to exclude the scores of chronically absent students was unacceptable.
Southside High School Principal Carol Burris and Harbor School Principal Nate Dudley at Burris's school on Monday. The pair oppose the state's new teacher evaluation requirements.
The Long Island principals who galvanized opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's teacher evaluation proposals say they won't let the fact that the proposals won legislative approval stop their protest.
Together, Sean Feeney and Carol Burris in October launched a petition critiquing the evaluation system that has garnered more than 8,000 signatures, nearly 1,500 of them from principals. The petition argued that the state’s evaluation regulations — which require a portion of teachers’ and principals' ratings to be based on their students’ test scores — are unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts.
Those issues haven't disappeared just because the legislature agreed late last night to turn Cuomo's proposals into law, Feeney and Burris said today.
They said they would still run an ad featuring about 70 principals in next week's Legislative Gazette, and they would still ask lawmakers to shield teachers' ratings from transparency laws that could land the ratings in newspapers, as happened last month in New York City. More than that, they said, they would still speak out about problems they have identified in the evaluation system's requirements.
"One way or another we have to stand up for what we believe in, and no matter what happens, we've stated and articulated our position," Feeney told me this morning. "We'll see what happens after that."
A late-night, no-contest legislative agreement has brought changes to the state's teacher evaluation system a crucial step closer to becoming law.
The deal also heads off protest by the evaluation system's critics, including principals from across the state who had planned to ask legislators to make changes.
Under the agreement, the State Senate and Assembly agreed to approve revisions to the state's 2010 teacher evaluation law proposed last month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office and the state's main teachers union, NYSUT. The agreement came during a spree of deals that lawmakers tore through all night and well into this morning, on issues as wide-ranging as the state's pension system, congressional redistricting, and a database to store most convicted criminals' DNA.
In large part because NYSUT had signed on to the framework, the evaluations legislation was among the least controversial issues before the lawmakers. They made no changes to the framework agreed upon last month.
That the legislature included teacher evaluations in the spree at all was something of a surprise. Cuomo had proposed the revisions to the law as part of the budget amendment process, meaning that they would be approved only when the state's budget is finalized by the end of the month. Now, as soon as Cuomo signs the legislation, it goes into effect, and changes to teacher evaluations won't be on the table when legislators haggle over budget items.
New York City voters by and large do not trust the teacher ratings released late last month. But most wouldn't mind if future assessments of teachers' quality were also made public, according to a poll whose results were released this morning.
The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University last week, asked 964 New Yorkers about teacher evaluations both in theory and in practice. It found that just 20 percent of voters said they trusted the city's "recently released teacher evaluations" known as Teacher Data Reports, and nearly half said the results were flawed. (The ratings, which had massive margins of error, were not actually used to evaluate teachers.) But 58 percent said they approved in theory of releasing the results of teacher evaluations to the public.
The poll's findings suggest voters simply haven't made up their minds about the role that teacher evaluations should play even as battles over new evaluations have dominated the headlines in recent months.
Just a third of poll respondents said they thought teachers who score low on evaluations should be fired, a use that advocates of new evaluations have championed. But 54 percent said they thought top-rated teachers should be rewarded with additional pay, something Mayor Bloomberg has suggested and the UFT has opposed. And 84 percent said they thought performance should trump seniority if the city needed to lay off teachers, a policy position that Bloomberg made his priority last spring, to no avail.
New York City schools erupted in controversy last week when the school district released its “value-added” teacher scores to the public after a yearlong battle with the local teachers union. The city cautioned that the scores had large margins of error, and many education leaders around the country believe that publishing teachers’ names alongside their ratings is a bad idea.
Still, a growing number of states are now using evaluation systems based on students’ standardized test-scores in decisions about teacher tenure, dismissal, and compensation. So how does the city’s formula stack up to methods used elsewhere?
The Hechinger Report has spent the past 14 months reporting on teacher-effectiveness reforms around the country and has examined value-added models in several states. New York City’s formula, which was designed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has elements that make it more accurate than other models in some respects, but it also has elements that experts say might increase errors — a major concern for teachers whose job security is tied to their value-added ratings.
“There’s a lot of debate about what the best model is,” said Douglas Harris, an expert on value-added modeling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved in the design of New York’s statistical formula. The city used the formula from 2007 to 2010 before discontinuing it, in part because New York State announced plans to incorporate a different formula into its teacher evaluation system.
During the month that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was engineering revisions to the state's teacher evaluation law, more city principals signed onto a petition critiquing it.
A pair of Long Island principals launched the petition against the state's 2010 evaluation law in November, arguing that its requirement that a portion of teachers’ ratings be based on students’ test scores is unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts.
Two weeks after the petition started circulating, hundreds of principals across the state had signed on, but only a handful were from New York City. By early January, only about 100 city principals had signed on, up from 30 in early December.
Now, there are more than 175 principals on board as of the version of the petition distributed Monday night.
City principals still make up less than 15 percent of the 1,359 state principals who have signed on while comprising more than a third of principals statewide. But they have made up ground in recent weeks. They were less than 10 percent of signatories a month ago.
The city's new process for managing low-rated teachers might result in more of them leaving the system — but not because they have been fired, if New Haven's experience using a similar model is any indication.
When city and union officials announced a deal on a key sticking point in teacher evaluations talks, the appeals process for teachers who get low ratings, both said they had been inspired by a system in place since 2009 in New Haven, Conn.
A key component of that system is the use of third party "validators" to observe teachers considered ineffective and either corroborate or contradict the principal's assessment. In New York City, validators would work with teachers in the year after they receive a low rating according to a not-yet-finalized evaluation system.
New York City officials said they expected the new process to result in more teachers being terminated. If the validator supports a principal’s assessment of a teacher, they note, the teacher would enter termination hearings under a presumption of incompetence — a major shift from the current system, in which the city must prove that the teacher is not up to par.
But New Haven’s system has not produced many firings. Instead, officials there say it has encouraged teachers to leave on their own. Thirty-four New Haven teachers designated "in need of improvement" — less than half of whom had tenure — exited the system last year, but they had chosen either to retire or resign, according to the officials.
“They came to an understanding once they saw that it wasn’t just one person saying that they weren’t performing, that the validator was also seeing the same thing,” said Michele Sherban-Kline, who oversees New Haven Public Schools Teacher Evaluation and Development. “Most of them came to the realization that it was better that they not fight it because all of the evidence was there.”
Contrasted against each other, this week's two pieces of teacher evaluation news put some education reform groups in a tough spot.
As a deadline on a teacher evaluation deal neared, the groups anxiously supported Gov. Andrew Cuomo's work to add weight to test scores for assessing teachers. But in the middle of those negotiations, a court decision on the release of the city's teacher data reports reminded the public of the pitfalls of relying too heavily on data-driven metrics. Research into the reports had revealed a wide margin of error and instability from year to year.
So, for the most part, groups were mum about the legal ruling, which paves the way for a data dump of two-year-old "value-added" ratings for 12,000 city teachers.
The exception was Educators 4 Excellence, an upstart advocacy group that says it has support from thousands of city teachers. Although they are usually a thorn in the side of the United Federation of Teachers because of disagreement over senior-based layoffs and teacher evaluations, the two groups struck common ground on this issue.
E4E co-founder and co-CEO Evan Stone sent over an email Wednesday saying he was "disappointed" with the court's decision to let the release go forward and said he thought making the ratings public would do little to boost the issue of improving teacher quality.
"While we strongly support teachers receiving quality feedback about their performance, including how much they're helping their students progress on state tests, publicizing these results on the front page of newspapers will not help improve teacher effectiveness," Stone said in a statement.
Stone's comments, while not as sharply worded, echo the sentiments of UFT President Michael Mulgrew. Principals union head Ernest Logan piled on criticism of the decision as well yesterday.
Councilman Ruben Wills present Richmond Hill Principal Frances DeSanctis with allocated discretionary funding.
Parents at Richmond Hill High School hadn't heard that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was given a chance to reverse his bid to overhaul their school yesterday when they gathered to strategize against his plan.
But it wouldn't have made a difference if they had: Bloomberg rejected the opportunity, created by a resolution in the city's teacher evaluation talks with the UFT, and vowed to proceed with plans to "turn around" 33 struggling schools, including Richmond Hill, anyway.
When I told some of them the news that Bloomberg had reaffirmed his intentions to move forward with the turnaround, they said the news didn't change their agenda: to figure out how to halt the turnaround, which would cause the school to close and reopen with a new name and many new teachers. They pressed Principal Frances DeSanctis and City Councilman Ruben Wills, who both attended the parent association meeting, for suggestions about how to fight back against the city's plan.
Carol Bouchard, the parent coordinator, said she left an "early engagement" meeting with Department of Education officials under the impression that the school could still go back to the restart model, which involved sharing the school management duties, and SIG funding, with and Educational Partnership Organization. She said Bloomberg's recommitment did not cause her to abandon hope.
"I feel like it's still hanging," she said.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the agreement between the State Education Department and NYSUT.
Just hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a deal about the structure of a new teacher evaluation system, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he was no longer concerned about the state's eligibility for federal Race to the Top funds.
New York won $700 million in Race to the Top funds in large part by agreeing to adopt a new teacher evaluation system. But after passing an evaluation law in the spring of 2010, implementation was slow, and relations between the state and its teachers union, NYSUT, had deteriorated over the implementation.
Last month, charging that the state was "backtracking on reform commitments," Duncan warned that New York was at risk of losing its Race to the Top funds.
Today, Duncan said he was no longer worried. He struck a tone of unreserved optimism this afternoon while speaking to reporters on a Midtown sidewalk as he dashed between a meeting with the New York Times editorial board and a taping of the Daily Show.
"This was a major roadblock, a major stumbling block, and I think they are over that in a great way," he said. There's a whole body of work going forward that New York has to do, but this was a major issue, a major concern of ours and I think they've addressed it in an extraordinary way."
More than a month after Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would fulfill a state requirement by overhauling 33 struggling schools, the city still has not officially informed the state of its plans.
The announcement, which came during Bloomberg’s State of the City address Jan. 12, was an attempt to circumvent a requirement that the city and teachers union agree on new teacher evaluations. New evaluations were a condition of the previous improvement processes the schools were undergoing with funding from federal School Improvement Grants. But turnaround, which requires schools to replace at least half of their teachers, does not call for new evaluations.
The turnaround switch isn't up to the city alone. State Education Commissioner John King must sign off on the plans if they are to get the federal funds. King has said the turnaround model Bloomberg described is "approvable." But he still hasn't seen any details.
That's because the city hasn't supplied them. For weeks, city officials — including Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott — had cited Feb. 10 as the deadline to complete applications detailing the turnaround plans, but the day came and went with no completed applications in sight.
Department officials now say the deadline was only internal, and now the city is aiming to finish them up by the end of this week. That way, the officials said, the applications can be on the table next week when the city has its hearing about the SIG grants with state education officials.
Across the state, school districts are inching toward teacher evaluation deals one week before a deadline Gov. Andrew Cuomo set last month.
According to NYSUT, the state teachers union, 100 school districts have agreed on how to put new evaluations in place and 400 districts "report making progress." That leaves just over 200 districts that, like New York City, are nowhere near agreeing with their local unions on new evaluation systems.
Cuomo said last month that if districts do not settle on new evaluations by next week, he would use the budget amendment process to change the state evaluation law. Last year, in a hint of what the changes might entail, the governor pushed state policy-makers to double test scores' weight, from 20 to 40 percent, in an action that drew a successful legal challenge from the union.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top education aide took his boss's message on the road Thursday night for a speaking event with city teachers.
Speaking at a Midtown hotel on a one-man panel moderated by three teachers from the group Educators 4 Excellence, Deputy Secretary for Education David Wakelyn primarily discussed teacher evaluations and why, nearly two years after a state law was signed requiring that they be toughened, nothing had changed.
The meeting was notable not for what Wakelyn said — his comments hewed closely to what the governor has said about evaluations in recent weeks — but because it happened at all. Wakelyn has been relatively quiet since becoming Cuomo's education deputy in September. But now Cuomo has made his education agenda a priority for 2012 and has increasingly sought to exert greater influence over policy.
The event began with a question from Dan Mejias, a teacher at JHS 22 Jordan L. Mott, one of the 33 low-performing schools slated to close and reopen with new teachers under Mayor Bloomberg's "turnaround" plan. Bloomberg devised the turnaround plan to sidestep a requirement under a previous plan for the schools that the city and its teachers union agree on new evaluations.
Mejias said his school had shown progress with federal money it received under the previous model, known as "transformation," and wanted to know what the governor planned to do to force both sides to drop what he saw as pure political gamesmanship.
"The NYC DOE is threatening to fire half of our staff, the UFT is willing to protect every single teacher at all costs, and none of this is beneficial for our students," Mejias said.
Principals union president Ernest Logan with Diane Ravitch after Ravitch's speech to union members on Tuesday
City principals should overcome their fear and join with more than a thousand of their colleagues from across the state who oppose New York's teacher evaluation rules, Diane Ravitch urged during a speech to the principals union Tuesday.
A group of Long Island principals launched a petition in November arguing that the state’s evaluation regulations — which require a portion of teachers’ ratings to be based on their students’ test scores — are unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts.
The petition has attracted nearly 1,300 principals from across the state, but relatively few — just over 100 — work in New York City, in a trend that has persisted since the petition's earliest days. Sean Feeney, a Nassau County principal who drafted the petition, said in November that city principals seemed to be more afraid of jeopardizing their jobs by speaking out.
Ravitch, a frequent and outspoken critic of the Bloomberg administration's education policies, took aim at those concerns during the kickoff event in the union's 50th anniversary celebration. She concluded her speech by exhorting city principals to sign on to the evaluations petition.
"There is strength in numbers," she said to the roughly 150 current and retired principals in the audience. "The DOE can't fire you all."
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued his state budget speech two weeks ago, he offered a stark choice to districts and unions working on new teacher evaluations: agree, or face the consequences.
In Albany today, Chancellor Dennis Walcott suggested that the city would prefer the consequences — widely assumed to be an effort by Cuomo to use his budgeting process to impose new evaluations without the consent of local teachers unions
"I think the law, and the governor is so right about this, is broken," Walcott said. "It’s not going to work as constructed."
Walcott would not comment on the status of negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers but said that the issue dividing them — the appeals process for teachers rated ineffective — had not been solved.
Cuomo, who has said the 2010 evaluation law was "destined to fail," seemed willing but not eager to expend political capital on changing the law when he delivered his budget address. He said he preferred districts and their unions to agree on a "protocol" for new evaluations within 30 days.
But, Cuomo said, "If they can’t do that then we’ll do it for them."
Walcott's comments reflect pessimism about the state of negotiations in the city just days after UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised Cuomo for his "intervention" to induce the city back to the table. Walcott said he was in Albany to lobby them about changing the law.
A training session about the city's favored teacher evaluation model went off as planned on Tuesday — but without the involvement of the city, which had worked with the teachers union on event.
Since the start of the school year, the union and city have been grappling over the Danielson Framework, the observation model the city hopes will be adopted when a new evaluation system is finalized. Over time, a tension has emerged about whether the model is meant first to help teachers improve — the union's position — or whether it is a tool to help principals usher weak teachers out of the system, as the city's rhetoric has sometimes suggested.
Since at least December, the city and teachers union had been planning joint training sessions for principals and union chapter leaders to clarify the model's purpose and value.
But after Mayor Bloomberg lashed out at the United Federation of Teachers during his State of the City speech last week, declaring that he would remove half of the teachers at 33 low-performing schools, the union decided it would no longer work with the city on the trainings.
"The content of the State of the City has not been received very well by members," Michael Mendel, a union secretary, told me Wednesday. "To do a joint training didn’t sit right."
On Friday afternoon, union officials surprised the city by announcing that the collaboration was off.
Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo slashed school aid across the state. This year, he plans to add back much of what was lost — but there's a catch.
Districts will get the money only if they roll out controversial new teacher evaluations according to an accelerated timeline, Cuomo announced in a hotly anticipated speech in Albany today.
He also outlined a procedure by which new evaluations could be put into effect even without local unions' agreement, which a state law passed in 2010 requires.
Cuomo kicked off the procedure today with an ultimatum: He demanded that the state teachers union, NYSUT, drop its lawsuit over the evaluations and settle on a “protocol” for new evaluations with the State Education Department within 30 days.
"If they can't do that then we'll do it for them," Cuomo said in his address today. Using the state’s unusual Article 7 process, Cuomo could use a budget amendment to change the state’s teacher evaluation law — possibly by striking the requirement for districts and unions to negotiate some details locally.
For now, local districts and their unions would still have to sign off on evaluation plans even if NYSUT resolves its issues with the state. Districts that do so by Sept. 1 will be able to compete for $250 million in state funds, Cuomo said today. If they miss that deadline, they will have until Jan. 17, 2013 — a year from today — to settle on new evaluations or give up the 4 percent increase in state aid.
"The equation is simple at the end of the day: No evaluations, no money, period,” Cuomo said.
Under a proposal laid out by Mayor Bloomberg today that took education insiders by surprise, the city would retain access to threatened federal dollars for struggling schools by riffing on a familiar strategy: school closure.
The announcement in today's State of the City address sets the stage for a showdown with the United Federation of Teachers — and maybe also with the State Education Department.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew had already dismissed the idea that schools could receive the funds without union support by this afternoon. But State Education Commissioner John King has yet to weigh in on the strategy.
Under Bloomberg's plan, the city would swap dozens of schools from one federally mandated overhaul strategy to another in a bid to escape a requirement that the city and union come to terms on a new teacher evaluation system. An impasse over negotiations caused King last week to cut off federal funds to 33 city schools that were undergoing the “transformation” and “restart” strategies, which require new evaluations.
Under the mayor’s plan, the schools would undergo “turnaround” instead. Turnaround is more aggressive than the other strategies, requiring at least half of a school’s teachers to be replaced. But it also does not require that new teacher evaluations be in place, according to the Obama administration’s guidelines for the funds, known as School Improvement Grants.
Mulgrew immediately dismissed the plan, arguing that the union would have to sign off on turnaround. That would be true — but only if Bloomberg had been talking about the type of turnaround that the Obama administration envisioned.
What the city is actually proposing is using a second, lesser-known turnaround that state regulations allow. Essentially, the city would close 33 schools and reopen them immediately, with new names and identification numbers. Then a team of educators selected for the “new” school would hire a new staff with the union’s input, pulling half of the new teachers from the original school’s roster.
Mayor Bloomberg is attempting to breathe new life into his enervated education agenda today with an ambitious and startling list of proposals that include paying top teachers $20,000 bonuses and bypassing the union to overhaul struggling schools.
Perhaps most interesting is the way that he is outlining, in his 11th State of the City address right now in the Bronx, to resuscitate stalled efforts to transform 33 struggling schools — and still receive the $58 million in federal funds that were supposed to support them. The state cut off the city's access to those funds last month, arguing that Bloomberg's failure to reach a deal with the teachers union on evaluations of teachers made the city ineligible for them.
But today Bloomberg argued that the city could still get the federal support without a deal. His plan is to change the city's approach to overhauling those schools, using the "turnaround" model. That model requires that at least 50 percent of a school's teachers be removed.
"We believe that when we take this action, we will have fulfilled the state's requirements and the schools will be eligible for the $58 million in funding," he is set to say.
The city had originally wanted to use the turnaround model, one of four federally mandated options, to overhaul the 33 schools. But it turned to backup models, "transformation" and "restart," because the union would not agree. Today, Bloomberg says he believes the union's current contract permits turnaround, according to his prepared remarks.
In a telephone call before the address, a union official said immediately that that was not the case, auguring a fight that could drag on or even wind up in court.
NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi on the steps of the State Education Department building today
ALBANY — Nearly 200 teaching jobs across the state could be lost as a result of a decision to freeze federal funding to low-performing schools, according to the head of the state teachers union.
New York State United Teachers President Richard Ianuzzi detailed the potential job casualties this afternoon on the steps of the State Education Department building, where the Board of Regents was holding its monthly meeting. He was joined by union officials from six districts and superintendents from Albany and nearby Schenectady — but not from New York City, where he blamed politics for impeding progress on teacher evaluations.
The press conference was a response to State Education Commissioner John King's decision last week to suspend federal funding set aside for the state's lowest performing schools, known as School Improvement Grants, in all 10 districts that were set to receive the money. Some of the districts, including New York City, failed to negotiate new teacher evaluations for those schools by a Dec. 31 deadline, and King said the other districts' evaluation plans didn't meet state standards.
"What is happening here, ladies and gentlemen, is that the State Education Department has decided that being a bully and acting like a bureaucrat is better than meeting the needs of New York State's most vulnerable children," Ianuzzi said at the press conference.
The money still could be restored. King gave all districts a 30-day period to appeal the decision and revise their system to meet his concerns, which he spelled out in letters last week. District officials at the press conference said that they planned to follow that process.
The study measured teachers against the criteria in Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Effective Teaching rubric, which is used in New York as a tool for observing teachers. Teachers scored better at classroom management than they did on measures of higher-order instructional challenges, such as asking productive questions.
A historic look inside the nation's classrooms, including some in New York City, painted a bleak picture, according to a report released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today.
The second installment of the foundation's ambitious Measures of Effective Teaching study, the report focuses on the picture of teaching yielded by five different classroom observation tools. It also scrutinizes those tools themselves, concluding that they are valuable as a way to help teachers improve but only useful as evaluation tools when combined with measures of student learning known as value-added scores.
The conclusion is a strong endorsement of the Obama administration's approach to improving teaching by implementing new evaluations of teachers that draw on both observations and value-added measures. New York State took this approach to overhauling its evaluation system when it applied for federal Race to the Top funding.
Among the group of five observation tools the foundation studied is the rubric now being piloted in New York City classrooms as part of stalled efforts to implement the changes to teacher evaluation, Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Effective Teaching.
Through all five lenses, instruction looked mediocre in an overwhelming majority of more than 1,000 classrooms studied, the report concludes. There were some bright spots. Many teachers were scored relatively well for the aspect of teaching known as "classroom management" — keeping students well-behaved, making sure they are engaged.
But teachers often fell short when it came to other elements of teaching, such as facilitating discussions, speaking precisely about concepts, and carefully modeling skills that students need to master. These higher-order skill sets, the report notes, are crucial in order for students to meet the raised standards outlined in the Common Core.
New York City isn't alone in having its federal School Improvement Grants frozen.
State Education Commission John King announced this afternoon that he was suspending the SIG grants of all 10 districts eligible for them even though six met the deadline to negotiate new teacher evaluations. The grants total more than $100 million altogether.
Roosevelt, Poughkeepsie, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and Rochester all submitted applications to use the funds before the Dec. 31 deadline, but there are shortcomings in all of them, King said in a statement today.
King outlined those shortcomings in letters to each district today. Rochester's SIG spending plan, for example, simply did not outline appeals procedures for teachers who receive low ratings — the policy point that derailed negotiations in New York City. Buffalo's plan outlined appeals procedures, but the state rated only five out of 13 components of the application as sufficient.
Three other districts — Schenectady, Greenburgh 11, and Yonkers — joined the city in missing the deadline entirely. Officials in Yonkers petitioned for extra time, saying that negotiators on both sides of the table were on vacation last week.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew appears on Inside City Hall on NY1
On the first workday after negotiations with the city over new teacher evaluations broke down shortly before a deadline to maintain federal funding, UFT President Michael Mulgrew is defending his call for a third-party negotiator to broker a compromise.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott laid out a case against the union's request in a New York Post op/ed today. Mulgrew, in contrast, has taken to the airwaves, appearing Monday night on NY1's Inside City Hall and this morning on John Gambling's radio show.
Whether third-party arbitrators would rule on appeals for teachers who get low ratings was a key sticking point in negotiations between the city and the union. Now, a secondary impasse has opened over arbitration about the arbitration — that is, whether a third-party negotiator should figure out final teacher evaluation details for the city and union.
Both Inside City Hall host Errol Louis and Gambling, whose show airs daily on WOR 710, pushed Mulgrew to explain how third-party arbitration would close the ideological divide separating the city and union.
"Tens of thousands of teachers elect you, millions of New Yorkers elect the mayor, and yet some third unelected person now has to decide one of the most important questions?" Louis asked.
A teacher who received an unsatisfactory rating at the Bronx High School of Science will have that rating removed from his record after a judge ruled that it was assigned unfairly.
Peter Lamphere had gone to court to appeal an unsatisfactory rating he received when he was the union chapter leader at Bronx Science, where there are deep tensions between administrators and teachers.
Lamphere and other teachers said they had been targeted after speaking out against administrative policies. In February, Lamphere described his experience in the Community section:
In the fall of 2007, the math department welcomed a new assistant principal, Rosemarie Jahoda. Soon, however, we found that the newer teachers in the department were being subjected to a level of scrutiny and paperwork that was excessive. As soon as I spoke up about the issue, which was my responsibility as a member of a UFT consultation committee that met with the principal, I immediately began receiving unjustified disciplinary letters. These were quickly followed by groundless unsatisfactory lesson observation reports. I had had a spotless teaching record for my entire previous career, including at Bronx Science.
Last week, responding to a lawsuit filed by the state teachers union, Judge Paul Feinman granted Lamphere's petition to have the U-rating overturned. (Feinman is the same judge who denied the UFT's bid to halt school closures and co-locations last summer.) According to the petition, which was filed in July, the city had upheld the U-rating even after Bronx Science Principal Valerie Reidy declined to contest Lamphere's appeal.
Geraldine Maione, principal of William E. Grady High School, has signed onto a petition opposing the state's new teacher evaluations.
The newest signatories to a petition against the state's new teacher evaluation system include one of the few principals who actually has experience with the new evaluations.
Geraldine Maione heads Brooklyn's William E. Grady High School, which is among 33 "persistently low-achieving" city schools that are using the new evaluations in exchange for additional federal funds.
She told me that she opposes the new evaluations because they are so formulaic that they leave little room for principals to exercise discretion.
"When I walk in a classroom, I know when children are learning and teachers are teaching," she said, adding that tougher evaluations aren't necessary if principals push struggling teachers either to improve or move on.
"No teacher has a forever job if the principal is doing her job," Maione said.
Maione is among about 30 city principals who have signed onto a position paper arguing that the state's evaluation requirements — which require a portion of teachers’ ratings to be based on their students’ test scores — are unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts. That's a sharp rise from last month, when hundreds of principals statewide had signed on but only two active city principals were on the list.