Education news. In context.
Are Children Learning
Future of Schools
Future of Teaching
Future of Work
In the Classroom
Movers and Shakers
Sorting the Students
The Other 60 Percent
Who Is in Charge
Find a Job
Republish Our Stories
Code of Ethics
Our news partners
Work with Us
Future of Teaching
Examining the divisive push to rate, reward, improve, and remove teachers
January 22, 2013
Bloomberg renews criticism of UFT in ongoing teacher eval spat
Addressing the collapse of teacher evaluation talks for the first time since state education officials criticized his role, Mayor Bloomberg today blamed the teachers union again. Last week, Bloomberg said he could not accept a teacher evaluation deal because the union wanted only a temporary evaluation system — an objection that State Education Commissioner John King said city officials had not raised earlier in negotiations. “That comment from the mayor was, from my perspective, a new issue that was raised after they walked away from the table,” King said on Friday. Speaking this morning at an announcement about an affordable housing project, Bloomberg dialed back his emphasis on the "sunset" issue. The union “was just deliberately trying to throw as many procedural roadblocks up that it would be so impossible to remove a teacher, even if the deal didn’t expire," he said.
January 22, 2013
Pre-K, teacher quality top education agenda in Cuomo's budget
Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo used his budget address to issue a teacher evaluations ultimatum heard around the state. This year, Cuomo took that ultimatum and raised it, telling districts that he would again tie their increases in school aid to having new teacher evaluation systems on the books but that he would also reward some of their highest-rated teachers. Cuomo also set new funding for full-day pre-kindergarten in high-need school districts, early college programs to help high school students accelerate, and extended day programs that he introduced in his State of the State address earlier this month. And he announced that the state would require teachers to clear a new hurdle, a "bar exam," before being certified to work in New York State. We'll have more about Cuomo's education budget proposals later today, including his answers to three open questions about how he would fund schools. For now, here's the education section of his budget highlights sheet: The 2013-14 Executive Budget reflects a continued commitment to supporting improved student outcomes, sustainable cost growth, and equitable distribution of aid.
January 18, 2013
State sets new deadline to pressure city to submit eval plan
If nearly $300 million wasn't incentive enough for the city to create an evaluation plan, state Education Commissioner John King said today that he hopes the threat of more than $1 billion will do the trick. King assailed the city and the teachers union for their failure to reach a deal on evaluations before last night's deadline and vowed to get them to do so in the coming weeks. In a letter sent to Chancellor Dennis Walcott today, King said he plans to add teeth to the request by taking advantage of a $1 billion pot of funds meant for city schools that the state has the power to withhold or control. "They have a legal obligation to continue their negotiation," King said in a call with reporters today. "I'm disappointed that they're not at the table today...They thought this new system was the right thing for students. If so, shouldn't they be at the table?"
January 18, 2013
Walcott to principals: We rejected evaluation deal to protect you
Chancellor Dennis Walcott told principals today that he was thinking about them when he rejected a teacher evaluation deal. Then he warned them that their schools could see budget cuts as a result. In his first communication with school leaders since months-long negotiations with the teachers union fell apart on Thursday, Walcott said the union had asked to be able to file more grievances over teacher ratings than a previous agreement had allowed. If the city had acceded to the union's request, Walcott said, principals would face union attacks over the data they collect from students, the way they communicate with teachers, and what they ask teachers to work on. "In the end, I could not agree to the UFT’s demands because they would have stripped principals of much of your existing authority," he said.
January 17, 2013
Calling it a night, city and union say their eval talks are over
Michael Mulgrew has left UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway and a union official confirmed that any chance that a deal could be salvaged in the final hours tonight are "dead." And the other side also appears to have thrown in the towel. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said they "called the UFT a couple of hours ago and tried one last time with a proposal and they rejected it." She did not say what the specifics of that proposal were. Micah Lasher, a former aide to Mayor Bloomberg who lobbied hard for the evaluations, was optimistic that a deal could happen earlier in the day, even after the city and the union exchanged blows. But his mood had soured in a statement released late tonight.
January 17, 2013
As clock winds down, talks continue but wide impasse remains
Almost immediately after UFT President Michael Mulgrew finished ripping Mayor Bloomberg's characterization of how talks broke down between the two sides this morning, he informed members that there might still be a chance. "Now they want to talk," Mulgrew told members at a Delegate Assembly meeting after being handed a sheet of paper, according to several teachers who attended. In addition to $250 million that's on the line if a midnight deadline passes, no evaluation plan would also be a black eye for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who devised the law to withhold state funding from districts that failed to submit plans. Earlier this month, he declared the law succeeded, touting the fact that 99 percent of districts had submitted plans. But New York City and its 1.1 million students have remained a prominent outlier as the time wound down. Heading into this week, officials acknowledged that they were close to a deal in between lengthy negotiation meetings. This morning, the meetings broke down and both sides spent the afternoon dodging blame about who was responsible. The slim possibility that a deal could get hammered out before its midnight deadline came just over an hour after Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mulgrew said the chances were grim that there would be enough time. "The time to get all the paperwork done is not there," Mulgrew said at a press conference that took place less than an hour after he said in a statement that Bloomberg stood in the way of a deal.
January 17, 2013
Bloomberg blames UFT for killing deal with 2015 sunset demand
PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoyMayor Bloomberg blamed new and unacceptable demands by the UFT for ending the possibility of an agreement on teacher evaluations. During a hastily convened press conference about the collapse of teacher evaluation talks, Mayor Mike Bloomberg rejected the teachers union's account that he had "torpedoed" a deal. It was the union's insertion of new demands at the last moment, including that the evaluation system would expire in 2015, that made an agreement impossible, Bloomberg said. "If the agreement sunset in two years the whole thing would be a joke," he said. “Nobody would ever be able to be removed. The law would be gone before the process could finish. It would essentially sabotage the entire agreement." The vast majority of evaluation plans — about 90 percent — that districts across the state have adopted are in effect only for this school year. "Those deals are shams," Bloomberg said when asked about them. Flanked by Chancellor Dennis Walcott and two deputy chancellors who had headed negotiations, Bloomberg said the union also demanded additional arbitration for teachers who want to appeal their ratings and a change to the way evaluations are scored "in a way that would have ensured that fewer teachers were rated ineffective."
January 17, 2013
No deal on teacher evals: UFT blames Bloomberg, not DOE
Just in from UFT President Michael Mulgrew: There won't be a deal on teacher evaluations today, and it's Mayor Bloomberg's fault. In a statement that the union president said was "painful to make," Mulgrew said UFT and Department of Education negotiators had reached a deal overnight on how to structure and execute new teacher evaluations. But when they presented their agreement to Mayor Bloomberg this morning, Mulgrew said, the mayor rejected it. "Despite the involvement of state officials we could not put it back together," Mulgrew said. Just hours ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed again to withhold state aid from districts that did not adopt new evaluations today. For the city, $250 million was on the line. Bloomberg is holding a press conference in just a few minutes to tell his side of the story. But he has said repeatedly — as recently as yesterday — that he would only sign off on a deal that "really evaluates," or shows that some teachers are low-performing. And last year, he turned down an opportunity to finalize a teacher evaluation plan in favor of a different strategy aimed at removing teachers faster than evaluations would allow. Our analysis of the costs and benefits of reaching a deal to every party to the evaluation talks foreshadowed the outcome that Mulgrew says has happened.
January 17, 2013
On evals due date, Cuomo breaks silence to repeat ultimatum
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stayed mostly quiet during the lead-up to the deadline he set for districts to adopt new teacher evaluations or lose…
January 16, 2013
In final hours of teacher eval talks, what they might be thinking
Both the teachers union and the city have strong reasons to make a teacher evaluation deal — and strong reasons to let negotiations fail. And our analysis of the incentives at play at the bargaining table suggests that Department of Education officials and the mayor might not always see eye to eye on evaluations.
January 16, 2013
Toward An Equity Framework For Teacher Evaluations
In the debate over teacher evaluations, the city and teachers union are both missing a major issue: whether and how a new evaluation system would advance educational equity and opportunity for the city’s 1.1 million students.
January 15, 2013
Evaluations progress seen behind the scenes, despite public spat
Tensions between the city and teachers over their t0-the-wire teacher evaluation talks bubbled over in 140 characters early this morning, sending both sides into their respective corners for most of the day. But state education officials said the city Department of Education and the UFT had been laying the groundwork for a successful submission before the end of the day on Thursday, the deadline for districts to adopt new evaluations or lose state funding. After a negotiations-packed weekend in which both city and union officials acknowledged that progress had been made, talks went late into the night on Monday at the union's headquarters. But a little after 1:30 a.m., Leo Casey, a former vice president for the union who has stayed on to finish the evaluations deal, suggested in a Twitter message that negotiations had fizzled out. "At UFT. Negotiating team prepared to do round the clock negotiating, with full team present," Casey wrote. "But DOE leaves."
January 14, 2013
State officials are ready to fast-track New York City's eval plan
Commissioner John King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch discussed the remaining school districts without approved evaluation systems during a Board of Regents meetin today. ALBANY — State education officials cleared their schedule in anticipation of a busy week as dozens of school districts, including New York City, scramble to meet a Thursday teacher evaluation deadline. Over the weekend, they finished assessing the last of the evaluation plans that districts had proposed, Commissioner John King told the Board of Regents this morning. "As of 5 p.m. [Sunday], our desk was empty," he said. "We've reviewed and provided feedback on everything that's been submitted." Now they are just waiting for six districts to submit their plans for the first time and 29 others to resubmit plans that needed revisions. King did not name New York City when he mentioned the districts that have not yet submitted plans. But there was no mistaking which district was most on his mind. "One of them is quite large," King said, to laughter.
January 11, 2013
Union makes plans to approve an evaluations deal, if one comes
The teachers union has planned a series of meetings to sign off on a teacher evaluation system in the event that union and city officials agree on one by next week. The union's negotiating committee on evaluations, a team of about 150 teachers, is meeting this afternoon with union officials. It's the committee's second meeting of the school year. The union has also moved up a meeting of its Delegate Assembly from Jan. 22 to Jan. 17, the deadline Gov. Andrew Cuomo set for districts to adopt new evaluations or lose state funding. The Delegate Assembly is a large group of chapter leaders and union officials that must approve changes to work rules. UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced the date change in an email to union members this afternoon. The email stressed that union officials planned to participate in negotiations through the weekend and that there is still a chance that a deal might not come. "If no agreement is reached with the city, the [Delegate Assembly] will serve as a planning and operational meeting to push back against the mayor as we have so many times before," Mulgrew wrote. But insiders say they suspect that a deal is imminent — or perhaps even complete except for the final touches to make it official.
January 10, 2013
Report: Low-rated teachers more often work with poor students
A new report by the advocacy group StudentsFirstNY found that low-rated teachers work more often in high-poverty schools. The group presented its findings outside City Hall. The poorer a school's students are, the more likely they are to be taught by low-rated teachers. That's the conclusion of a new report by the education advocacy group StudentsFirstNY. The group, which is critical of the city's current teacher evaluation system, looked at ratings given to 65,527 teachers during the 2011-2012 school year and found that the low-rated teachers disproportionately worked in schools with high concentrations of poor students. At schools with relatively few poor students, 1.14 percent of teachers received low ratings last year, according to the report. But at schools where more than 85 percent of students are considered poor, 3.9 percent did. The inequities were even more pronounced when comparing schools with different demographics. At schools where fewer than a quarter of students are black or Hispanic, just 1.06 percent of teachers got low ratings. At schools where almost all students are black or Hispanic, that figure was 4.13 percent. The report says the findings support StudentsFirstNY's position that new teacher evaluations are needed in New York State.
January 9, 2013
Study details how to evaluate teachers
A three-year study of teacher evaluation methods supports Colorado's standard of basing 50 percent of evaluations on student performance.
January 8, 2013
Timely advice from Gates Foundation as evaluation talks resume
The Gates Foundation's latest report from its teacher-effectiveness study concludes that many evaluation models can be useful as long as they include multiple measures. Now that the city and teachers union are back at the negotiating table to work on teacher evaluations, the Gates Foundation has some tips. The foundation today released the third and final report about the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an ambitious three-year study that included 3,000 teachers in seven districts, including New York City. The study concludes that teacher effectiveness can indeed be measured and identifies strategies for grading teachers. Having multiple people observe the same teacher is more effective than having one person observe the teacher multiple times, the study found. Student surveys are stronger predictors of teachers' ability to raise test scores than observations. And counting state test scores for a third to half of a teacher's rating is better than weighting the scores less or more. With the report, the foundation takes a bold stance on a policy issue that remains hotly contested, even as states and school districts across the country have adopted new evaluation systems. But foundation officials are confident because the latest report reflects a change in the study's design that they say proves that teacher evaluation systems really do measure teachers.
January 7, 2013
As NRA analogy draws ire, teacher evaluations take backseat
Union officials, elected officials, and parent advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall to decry Mayor Bloomberg's comments comparing the union to the NRA. Elected officials, parent advocates, and three of the four Democratic candidates for mayor lined up today to call on Mayor Bloomberg to apologize for suggesting that the teachers union is like the National Rifle Association. On his radio show last Friday, Bloomberg characterized both the United Federation of Teachers and the NRA as groups "where the membership, if you do the polling, doesn’t agree with the leadership." Bloomberg had made the indirect comparison before. But coming weeks after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and with tensions already running high with the UFT over teacher evaluations, the analogy has drawn a swift backlash from union supporters. At a press conference on the steps of City Hall this afternoon, several City Council members and other union supporters called on the mayor to "man up" and apologize. Among the speakers were Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, and former comptroller Bill Thompson — mayoral candidates who are courting the union's endorsement.
January 4, 2013
UFT calls latest labor conflict over evals a "misunderstanding"
The city and the union continued their back and forth over a labor complaint this week, with union president Michael Mulgrew disputing the city's gripe as misguided. In the latest swipe as the city and union struggle to reach a deal on teacher evaluations, the city filed a complaint with the state's labor board Dec. 27 alleging that the UFT was negotiating in "bad faith." The complaint also accused the union of unfairly trying to tie a deal to perks that were unrelated to the evaluation negotiations, including guaranteed "economic credit" toward a future contract, fewer school closures, and less paperwork for teachers. Mulgrew's reply, in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott sent yesterday, asked the city to drop the complaint, which Mulgrew said reflected a "serious misunderstanding." Although the union cancelled a negotiation meeting with the city two weeks ago, the UFT still wanted to talk, Mulgrew said. The letter was the latest in a back-and-forth being closely watched by observers who wonder whether New York's largest district will come to a teacher evaluation deal. Governor Cuomo has set a deadline of Jan. 17 for districts to strike deals, saying that those that don't meet the deadline will lose $250 million in state aid.
January 4, 2013
UFT takes to the tube to tackle evals and Bloomberg's legacy
The United Federation of Teachers ratcheted up pressure on Mayor Bloomberg over teacher evaluations with a new television ad campaign that will run daily between now and Jan. 17. The 30-second spot — and an accompanying statement from Michael Mulgrew — take aim at Bloomberg's education legacy during the 11 years he's been in office. The ad begins with a still shot of a young student who has grown up through the city school system during the Bloomberg's tenure, entering first grade during the mayor's first year in office. "And while she's changed a lot, he hasn't," the narrator says, as negative tabloid and op-ed headlines fill the screen. "It's still his way or the highway, at whatever cost." The ad also implores Bloomberg to "put politics aside" and "agree to a fair evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need to help children succeed." The $1.2 million campaign, which will run on local broadcast stations and cable television networks in the New York area, comes amid stalled negotiations between the city and the UFT over how to evaluate teachers. The city has until Jan. 17 to come to a deal on an evaluation system or else it will lose an estimated $250 million in state aid funding.
January 2, 2013
Commission recommends broad overhaul, with few specifics
The high-profile commission charged with overhauling New York's public schools released its first set of recommendations today, endorsing several popular education reform policies but shying away from declaring a position on others. The full report, titled "Putting Students First," is below the jump. Governor Cuomo, who created the commission, stopped short of endorsing its recommendations, but did express early support for several ideas, including teacher performance pay and the community school model of using schools to offer supports beyond academic preparation. Other recommendations include expanding pre-kindergarten for students in poor districts, strengthening teacher and principal preparation programs, and extending the school day and year. The commission did not address some prickly issues, such as teacher evaluation. Chairman Richard Parsons said that was by design, citing a recommendation from State Education Commissioner John King that the commission wait to take up the topic until its next report, scheduled for next fall.
December 27, 2012
UFT bargaining in "bad faith" over teacher evals, city charges
The United Federation of Teachers has not been bargaining over teacher evaluations in good faith, the city Department of Education charged in a labor complaint today. The complaint comes a week after UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced he would halt negotiations until the department presented an implementation plan that satisfied the union. It also comes nearly a year to the day after the city called off a different round of teacher evaluation talks. Filed with the Public Employees Review Board, the complaint accuses union officials of refusing to reach an evaluations deal unless the department promised to limit school closures, reduce paperwork for teachers, and award "economic credit" toward a future contract. Under state law, those issues do not have to be discussed in order to devise a new evaluation system, which the city and union are under pressure to agree upon by Jan. 17. That's the deadline that Gov. Andrew Cuomo set early a year ago for districts to adopt new evaluations or forgo increases in state school aid.
December 21, 2012
Walcott on eval talks: "We don't have a clue" what UFT wants
Mayor Bloomberg has used his weekly radio appearance recently to charge the UFT with holding up teacher evaluation talks. Today, he didn't mention the union at all. Instead, it was Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who joined Bloomberg on the John Gambling Show, who cast blame on the union and its president, Michael Mulgrew, for blowing Walcott's self-imposed deadline to make a deal. "It’s really tough to negotiate when the UFT walks away from the table," Walcott said. "Mr. Mulgrew has instructed his negotiators that they shouldn’t negotiate with us, at all — they shouldn’t even talk to us on other issues. … That’s tough to really operate from." He added, "We don't have a clue what they want." That wasn't quite true. Alarmed by a spate of reports from teachers about improper observations, Mulgrew did halt evaluation talks this week. But he set a clear condition for them to resume: an agreement on how new evaluations would be rolled out. He invited Walcott to negotiate about implementation, but no talks have yet taken place.
December 19, 2012
UFT calls off evaluation talks until city addresses rollout issues
Weeks before a state deadline for the city and teachers union to agree on new teacher evaluations, UFT President Michael Mulgrew has thrown a major wrench into negotiations. Mulgrew said today that he is halting talks about the evaluations until the Department of Education presents an implementation plan that he approves. The plan, he said, would have to include "a concrete plan" for how and when educators are trained on whatever system is adopted. The announcement came in an angry letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott this afternoon that Mulgrew said was prompted by a spate of complaints from teachers about surprising and intimidating observations. A top union offiical, Michael Mendel, registered alarm about the complaints in his own scathing letter to Walcott earlier this week. The city and union had agreed to have some schools practice conducting observations of the type likely to be required in new evaluations. But Mendel said the reports came from schools beyond the pilot program and described practices that were not supposed to happen but could potentially be part of a new evaluation system, such as unannounced observations. "How is it possible to start implementing a system that we haven’t agreed on?" Mulgrew said in an interview today. Doing so, he said, "breaks every piece of good-faith etiquette in negotiations."
December 19, 2012
Advice, caution from early adopters of new teacher evaluations
New York City teachers discussed preparations for new teacher evaluations with Chancellor Dennis Walcott in September 2011. In Washington, D.C., officials shortened a new teacher evaluation checklist after complaints from teachers and principals that it was too long and time-consuming. In Memphis, Tenn., after a year of piloting new evaluations and a summer of training, some principals and teachers remained confused and overwhelmed. In Louisiana, one expert warned of lawsuits as the state began to roll out a truncated observation system without first testing it. But in New Haven, Conn., union officials and reformers alike have praised a collaborative effort to help teachers improve under the city’s new rating system. As New York City officials and union leaders wrangle over the design of new teacher evaluations due to roll out citywide next year, the experiences of other states and districts offer both inspiration and lessons about what not to do.
December 18, 2012
NYC among just two dozen districts without teacher eval plans
Not having a teacher evaluation agreement puts New York City in an increasingly elite group: Of the state's 694 school districts, just 27 haven't agreed on an evaluation system. And almost all of the other lagging districts have much less ground to negotiate with their teachers unions than the city does: They have fewer students, on average, than some city high schools. According to the latest update from the State Education Department, 442 districts have already had their evaluations systems approved. About 180 have received feedback from the department and are expected to revise and resubmit before the Jan. 17, 2013, deadline set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And about 45 have submitted plans recently and are waiting to hear whether they pass muster. That leaves just 27 districts that have not submitted even a first draft of a teacher evaluation plan, despite increasingly strident admonitions that state officials at least six weeks to review whether plans adhere to legal requirements and department guidance.
December 17, 2012
Union official warns that new evals could be 'doomed for failure'
PHOTO: Caroline BaumanUFT Secretary Michael Mendel, at right, told Department of Education officials in an angry email that the union is unhappy about the way some schools are preparing for the likelihood of new evaluations. Intimidating and inappropriate practices in some city schools that are preparing for a new teacher rating system could undermine the system before it goes into effect, a top union official has warned. In an email sent Friday to Chancellor Dennis Walcott and his top deputies at the Department of Education, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel wrote that the union had recently received a spate of complaints about surprise observations by teams of administrators that seemed designed to make teachers uncomfortable. "We have been told, increasingly over the last couple of days by our members from all parts of the city, that the DOE’s roll out of a new evaluation system has been a disaster and that it has created a terrible atmosphere of fear around both the new evaluation system and the Danielson protocols," Mendel wrote in the email, whose subject line was "I'm very Frustrated." Walcott's email address was misspelled, so he did not get the message, according to a department spokeswoman. But the email came through for other top deputy chancellors. This afternoon, Mendel said he had not yet received any response.
December 12, 2012
Facing own teacher eval deadline, charter schools just say no
wallyg via flickr At the same time as the State Education Department is publicly pressuring school districts to adopt new teacher evaluations by next month, it's also quietly demanding that charter schools turn in their teachers’ ratings from last year. Charter school advocates are urging most school leaders to ignore the demand, even though state officials have said it's needed in order to fulfill its Race to the Top plan. The advocates say the demand would be hard to fulfill and impinges on charter schools’ autonomy. The standoff has its roots in the state’s 2010 application for federal Race to the Top funds. In its application to the U.S. Department of Education for funding, New York State said it would require schools to rate teachers according to specific guidelines and would collect ratings for all teachers, even in charter schools. Some charter schools committed to sharing their teacher ratings at the time in order to receive some of the state’s $700 million in winnings. But two thirds did not — and the state wants their teacher ratings too, according to a series of updated guidance memos that officials have issued over the last 18 months. City and state charter school advocates have pushed back against the demands throughout that time. “Both the New York City Charter School Center and the New York Charter Schools Association believe that this reporting requirement does not properly apply to non-Race to the Top charter schools,” Charter Center CEO James Merriman and NYCSA President Bill Phillips wrote in a strongly worded email to school leaders last month. They added, “Ultimately, it is up to you whether you choose to report this data.” So far, few school leaders have made that choice. By the original submission deadline Nov. 30, just 30 of 184 charter schools in the state had handed over teacher ratings from last year.
December 10, 2012
Some teachers to get a sneak peek of new evaluations this week
A screenshot from one school's ARIS "Community Space" shows that teachers were able to download "growth scores" for their colleagues last week. Teachers in tested grades and subjects are set to receive last year's growth scores, which will factor into new evaluations, this week. About one in five city teachers will get a sneak peek on Tuesday about how they might be rated under a new evaluation system. That's when the city Department of Education will be sharing the state's "growth scores" with teachers for whom a score was generated. The scores reflect how well a teacher's students performed on state math and reading exams last year compared to other students like them and, according to state law, must eventually constitute 25 percent of annual evaluations for teachers who work in tested grades and subjects. In New York City, about 17 percent of teachers teach fourth or fifth grade or English or math in middle school. They will get their growth score for the 2011-2012 school year Tuesday evening in their Department of Education email, department officials said. The department has had the information since the end of the summer, state education officials said at a briefing for reporters last month. Principals got the reports last week and are expected to use the scores to help teachers at their school improve, according to Connie Pankratz, a department spokeswoman. But teachers are supposed to get access only to their own scores.
December 10, 2012
Survey of students about student surveys yields mixed opinions
Students from LaGuardia High School gathered at the Sloan awards ceremony to support their teacher, Neal Singh. Student opinion surveys seem unlikely to play a role in the city's teacher evaluation system, even as research suggests that they can provide valuable information. The city Department of Education piloted student surveys as part of its preparation for new teacher evaluations, and the head of the state’s teachers union says student feedback could be useful in helping to rate teachers. But city union officials say they are staunchly opposed to incorporating student feedback in teacher evaluations because the information could be skewed and could encourage teachers to put student approval ahead of student learning. But what do students think about what they can contribute to teacher evaluations? The students GothamSchools surveyed last week at a reception for award-winning math and science teachers had mixed opinions about whether their peers could accurately judge the quality of their teachers. Should student survey results factor into teacher evaluations? "I think some students would be negative because they have anger against a certain teacher, so when it comes time, they might put bad stuff. But at the same time, as students, we are able to look at what teachers are able to bring to the table in terms of skills and personalities." —Raymond John, senior at Gotham Professional Arts Academy
December 6, 2012
In evaluation talks, some not-quite-sticking points remain open
For months, city and union officials have been expressing optimism about reaching a deal on new teacher evaluations by a state deadline in January — with some road bumps, of course. But what is keeping the two sides from reaching an agreement has not been clear. That has started to change in the last week, as Department of Education officials have spoken publicly on multiple occasions about sticky issues that are still being worked out. The issues include how often observations should take place, what the observations should focus on, and when to schedule hearings of teachers who want to appeal low ratings. Union officials have declined to comment on open issues, saying that they did not want to discuss negotiations while they are ongoing. But a top official said that no issue would be considered fully closed until the entire evaluation system is set. David Weiner, the deputy chancellor in charge of teacher quality, stressed that the issues were "not sticking points" when he spoke with teachers at an event last week hosted by the advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence, which supports new evaluations. Department officials made the same assurance Wednesday morning after a panel discussion about teacher evaluations held at the Manhattan Institute, the politically conservative think thank. Instead, they said, the issues are simply very complicated to resolve.
December 5, 2012
Walcott outlines cuts that could take place without an eval deal
If the city and its teachers union do not agree soon on new teacher evaluations, class sizes will likely rise, teacher training suffer, after-school activities be eliminated, and guidance counselors cut, Chancellor Dennis Walcott predicted this morning. Walcott spelled out the doomsday scenario during a brief talk about teacher evaluations at the Manhattan Institute this morning. He said he had called UFT President Michael Mulgrew — at 7:50 a.m. today — to say he wanted to conclude negotiations by Dec. 21, or two weeks from Friday and the last regular workday before Christmas. Reaching an agreement by Dec. 21 would give state education officials, who have expressed increasing anxiety about the city's timeline, nearly a month to review the plan and request any necessary adjustments before a deadline that Gov. Andrew Cuomo set last January. State education law requires that districts adopt new evaluation systems when they next negotiate contracts with their teachers unions. But Cuomo vowed to withhold increases in state school aid from districts that do not have evaluation systems in place by Jan. 17, 2013. In a statement, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said there was no need to commit to a Dec. 21 agreement and said politics were again impeding the union's good-faith effort to negotiate new evaluations.
November 28, 2012
Student surveys seen as unlikely evaluations element, for now
Inspired by a 2010 study that found that students’ feedback about their teachers helped predict how well the teachers' students performed on state tests, New York City asked some schools last year to test out a student survey that could become part of new teacher evaluations. But if the city and its teachers union agree on a new evaluation system this year, student surveys are unlikely to play a role, according to people on both sides of the negotiating table. The Gates Foundation-funded Measures of Effective Teaching study found that student feedback and teacher observations combined were more closely correlated with teacher effectiveness than observations alone, or any number of other attributes of teachers. The city participated in that study and adapted the survey used in it, called Tripod, for use last year in 10 of the 108 schools in the Teacher Effectiveness Pilot, meant to test possible components of overhauled teacher evaluations. Under the state’s new evaluation law, 60 percent of teachers’ ratings must come from subjective measures such as principal observations and peer reviews. The State Education Department has said student surveys can play a role, too, if districts and their unions agree. The head of the state’s teachers union says student feedback could be a useful element of evaluations. But city union officials say they are staunchly opposed to incorporating student feedback in teacher evaluations.
November 28, 2012
Even if deal on teacher evals is reached, logistical matters loom
Negotiations between the city and teachers union over new teacher evaluations appear likely to come down to the wire yet again. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would withdraw increased state aid from any district that does not negotiate a teacher evaluation system with its union by Jan. 17, 2013. As the deadline nears, state education officials have said repeatedly that they need weeks to review systems that are submitted for approval. Districts should submit plans by the first week of December, they have urged. Most districts have responded to the urgency. About 85 percent of New York State's 700 school districts have turned in at least the first draft of required teacher evaluation plans, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said today. In New York City, where $300 million in state aid is at stake this year, city officials say they feel confident that they will reach a deal before Cuomo's deadline, and union leaders say constructive discussions are back on track after a nearly monthlong hiatus following Hurricane Sandy. But both said there is significant ground yet to cover. Comparing the introduction of new teacher evaluations to a 26.2-mile marathon, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said on Tuesday, "We're at mile five, and our goal is to make this a long-distance run."
November 19, 2012
Parents rally at City Hall, but their protest is directed elsewhere
Keoni Wright, an East New York parent, speaks on Saturday at a StudentsFirstNY backing new teacher evaluations. The scene was familiar, but the rallying cries and signs were a departure. More than 100 parents and organizers from StudentsFirstNY filled the steps of City Hall on Saturday to demand that the teachers union cooperate with the city on an evaluation deal before a deadline that could cost the city $300 million in state aid. "What do we want?" shouted Darlene Boston, who has been working to organize parents in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn to support StudentsFirstNY's policy agenda. "Great teachers!" they replied. "When do we want them?" Boston shouted back. "Now!" they said. When education advocates protest outside City Hall, it is usually with an ensemble of union leaders, City Council members, and other elected officials. And more often than not, they are criticizing policies favored by Mayor Bloomberg, the man who governs the city from the building behind them. But no elected officials showed up at Saturday's rally — and organizers said none was invited. Parents came mostly from neighborhoods in Central Brooklyn and Harlem, areas where StudentsFirstNY is trying to build a base. And while the mayor's name was not uttered, it was clear that he was not the target of their protest. The target was the continuing lack of new teacher evaluations in New York City, which StudentsFirstNY and Bloomberg have blamed on the United Federation of Teachers.
November 19, 2012
Johnston: SB191 delay not needed
Rollout of Colorado’s educator evaluation system doesn’t need to be pushed back says Sen. Mike Johnston, despite rumblings to the contrary.
November 14, 2012
City's Race to the Top-District bid centered on iZone expansion
Students at Brooklyn's Olympus Academy, a transfer high school, use online learning to move ahead at their own pace. The city is asking the U.S. Department of Education for funds to support additional efforts to "personalize education." Pitting itself against school districts across the country, the city has asked the U.S. Department of Education for $40 million to expand and augment its existing education technology programs. The city's biggest commitment in its application for Race to the Top-District, which city education officials filed last week, is to add as many as 100 schools to its three-year-old “Innovation Zone.” The application also promises to build innovative schools from the ground up and train teachers on how to use technology to improve instruction. Race to the Top-District is the latest effort by the Obama administration to entice state and local education officials to adopt its preferred policies. In the first Race to the Top grant competition, in 2010, New York State netted $700 million to overhaul teacher evaluations, add more charter schools, bulk up teacher preparation programs, and develop a statewide data system. Last year, the state fell short in its bid to win Race to the Top funds earmarked just for early childhood education. The current round — the first open to individual districts — is focused on "personalized education." City Department of Education officials say the Innovation Zone, which this year contains nearly 250 schools, makes the department uniquely positioned to turn federal funds into higher student achievement. "It’s something that we’ve been doing for three years," said David Weiner, the Department of Education deputy chancellor in charge of innovation. "We really believe that that puts us in a great place to capitalize on what we’ve learned."
October 25, 2012
In 90 minutes, Tisch took on readiness gap, test objectors, TFA
Learning Matters' John Merrow and New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch (Photo: Nancy Adler) The city's very low college and career readiness rate for black and Hispanic students is a statistic usually cited by advocates seeking to discredit the Bloomberg administration's education record. But when asked to measure the true value of a high school diploma in New York City Wednesday night by education reporter John Merrow, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch turned to the familiar statistic to convey her concerns. "That, to me, is tragic," Tisch said, after rattling off the numbers. Merrow pressed her to account for the disparity between the city's graduation rate, which is over 60 percent, and its low college-readiness rates. "Why isn't this fraud?" he asked. "I didn't say it wasn't," Tisch said. The exchange was part of a 90-minute public dialogue in which Tisch also criticized families who opt out of state tests, set firm limits about the city's request to certify teachers, and proclaimed that the city and its teachers union would reach a teacher evaluation deal before Gov. Andrew Cuomo's mid-January deadline.
October 16, 2012
City officials to ed commission: standards rollout needs funds
Chancellor Dennis Walcott and UFT president Michael Mulgrew talk at the education commission. The city and other school districts desperately need additional funding if they are to raise academic standards, Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky said today. Even though the city has done more to integrate new learning standards known as the Common Core than other districts and states, it cannot adequately train staff or buy the materials it needs with the resources it currently has, he said. "We are bound to fall short if we raise the standards without investing in the support that educators need to meet this challenge," he told the commission, according to his written statement. The call for additional funding was one of three priorities that Polakow-Suransky outlined before Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reform commission today. The funding, he said, would be necessary to to purchase new books, software and other learning tools aligned to the Core, and help schools hire coaches to train teachers in the implementation of the Core. He also said the city needed more funds to develop a key piece of the new teacher evaluation system, rigorous assessments developed by the city for each grade level and subject area that would factor into teachers' evaluations on top of many other criteria. "As these assessments become more authentic there are real costs that come along with them," Polakow-Suransky said. "None of this is funded." Polakow-Suransky was offering a solution to a problem that United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told the commission had already arrived. Mulgrew said the Common Core rollout has already been hindered by the lack of robust materials aligned to the new standards that teachers can use in classrooms now.
October 9, 2012
A leading teacher of teachers says feedback should be used fast
Good teachers are not born; they're made slowly, over time, through sustained and deliberate practice. That's the theory behind "Practice Perfect," the new e-book by Doug Lemov, managing director of the Uncommon Schools network of charter schools and author of "Teach Like a Champion," a 2010 book with 49 concrete strategies for improving student engagement and classroom management. (GothamSchools' Elizabeth Green wrote about Lemov and his approach in a 2010 New York Times Magazine story.) "Practice Perfect" aims to provide similarly user-friendly ideas — 42 of them — for attaining incremental improvement. Lemov and his co-authors, two of Uncommon Schools' top educators, say the strategies would be useful in any field — but they are particularly apropos for teachers, whose performance carries high stakes for their students and, increasingly, for themselves. The city's current teacher evaluation system lets educators know whether they are considered satisfactory, but it doesn't tell them about their strengths and weaknesses in the classroom, or how to build on them. The city is piloting an observation model now that would give teachers more feedback about their performance. But feedback is meaningless if it does not change practice. In an exclusive excerpt from "Practice Perfect" in the Community section today, Lemov outlines ways to make feedback more useful. He describes testing out a teacher observation protocol in which teachers received one item of praise and one suggestion for improvement immediately after delivering a three-minute lesson — and then were required to repeat the lesson incorporating the feedback right away. Lemov writes: One benefit of this structure was its implicit accountability: it was hard for teachers to ignore the feedback. For one thing, it was public. Six or seven people had heard them get it; they were explicitly asked to try it just a minute later. It would be egregious not to try it at all.
September 17, 2012
On teacher quality, city has so far fulfilled few of last year's vows
Chancellor Dennis Walcott made several policy promises during a May 2012 speech to ABNY. In the 2011-2012 school year, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott vowed to push forward an array of policy changes — from the way teachers are hired and fired to the ways schools prepare boys of color for graduation and college. So how did they do? We've rounded up all of last year's policy promises and checked up on the city's progress on each. Today, we’re looking at proposals to bolster teacher quality, a longtime pet issue for the Bloomberg administration. We found that the city has fulfilled one promise completely, to create a new Teaching Fellows program just for middle schools, but several others fell off the radar or were pushed to the margins by ongoing negotiations over new teacher evaluations. Each promise is in bold, followed by an explanation of how far the city has come toward meeting it. In future posts, we'll tally the city's progress on creating new schools, engaging parents, helping high-needs students, and improving middle schools. The city will adopt new teacher evaluations that adhere to the state’s new evaluation law. (When: Many times) Anyone who hasn't been living under a rock should know the answer: not yet, despite one close call and a helping hand from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. City and union officials are meeting regularly to negotiate an evaluation deal, this time in hopes of meeting the state's January deadline. They say they are "optimistic" and "hopeful" they'll reach an agreement in time to qualify for state funds. Teachers with top ratings on teacher evaluations will get a $20,000 pay raise. (Bloomberg's State of the City speech, January 2012) The city still has not adopted new teacher evaluations, so the proposal is moot. But the teachers union, a longtime opponent of individual merit pay, quickly passed a resolution opposing it, so its future prospects are not bright. The city will repay up to $25,000 in student loans of teachers who are in the top of their college classes. (State of the City)
September 14, 2012
City bolstering ATR evaluation process, but challenges remain
A year after starting to rotate teachers without permanent positions into different empty slots weekly, the Department of Education has settled on a way to evaluate them. But the plan, hiring administrators to observe and coach the teachers in multiple placements, could be stymied if the department cannot find enough available evaluators who are up to the task. Last year, when the city launched the rotation system for members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, it left up in the air the question of who would be responsible for evaluating them. Previously, ATRs were typically assigned to one school for the entire year, so principals could rate them as they did any other teacher on staff. For almost all of the roughly 830 teachers in the pool at the end of last year, district superintendents ended up issuing the annual ratings with input from potentially dozens of principals who supervised each teacher — in most cases, without conducting the formal observations that teachers are required to receive each year. But in Brooklyn, which had about 250 ATRs last year, the city took a different approach. It interviewed and selected five administrators who had also lost their positions to budget cuts or school closures to visit the teachers in their classrooms and give them feedback about their performance.
September 13, 2012
City says teachers improved during pilot observation process
Distribution, by effectiveness rating, of 300 teachers who were part of a two-year observation pilot. City teachers got better when they participated in a two-year teacher evaluation pilot program, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today. Of 300 teachers who were observed and given systematic feedback multiple times for consecutive years, the number with the lowest rating on a four-tiered evaluation system fell by half and the number with the highest rating more than doubled. Officials said the trends were evidence that when used correctly, a citywide evaluation system would help teachers improve. The teachers were among 5,000 who participated last year in the city's Teacher Effectiveness Pilot, in which some schools practiced using a style of teacher observations called the Danielson Framework. The model is a way of advising and assessing teachers based on multiple observations throughout the year and is seen as likely to count for a significant component of teachers' annual ratings in the future. Walcott announced the numbers during an address at the Schools for Tomorrow conference hosted by the New York Times. His speech centered on the city's efforts to boost teacher quality and took a gentler tone about the purpose of teacher evaluations at a time when city and union officials are expressing optimism about reaching a deal on instituting a new evaluation system. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will withhold some state aid from districts that have not adopted new teacher evaluations by January 2013. "Across all categories, from the weakest to the strongest, we saw teacher improvement," Walcott said during his address. "It’s time to bring these results to every student in every school through a citywide evaluation deal."
September 11, 2012
State finds assessing eval systems to be harder than expected
For months, state education officials have been hounding school districts to draft teacher evaluation plans and submit them for approval. But now that the plans are streaming in, the officials are realizing the state is not adequately prepared to assess them. Each plan must be combed through to ensure that it complies with the state's evaluation law and meets the State Education Department's hard-and-fast rules and subjective guidelines. "I think it's fair to say we underestimated the time and resources that we needed to review these plans," Valerie Grey, SED's deputy commissioner, told members of the Board of Regents Monday in Albany. Grey said the department would seek "additional resources to get through January," when Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said districts must put new evaluation systems in place or risk forgoing an increase in state aid. She also said the department would ask districts to turn in their plans early to leave time for the approval process.
September 10, 2012
Why Chicago teachers are on strike and what could come next
PHOTO: Grace TatterStriking Chicago teachers picket today outside Ray Elementary School, where U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent his children when he was Chicago's schools chief. (Photo: Raiselle Resnick for GothamSchools) Chicago's long-threatened teacher strike, which began today, isn't just about Chicago teachers. It's also something of a referendum on the current moment in education policy. Of the many reasons for the strike, three stand out. We explain each one below — and then explain how the strike could evolve from here. In a second post, we'll explain why the Windy City's labor conflict matters here in the Big Apple. 1. A new mayor. Chicago teachers have been distressed for several years as budget cuts caused school closures and hundreds of layoffs. Tensions between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city mounted last year when former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor, bringing with him an aggressive approach to cost-cutting, the support of national education reform advocacy groups, and a superintendent who cut his teeth under Joel Klein in New York City. Jean-Claude Brizard quickly earned criticism as "anti-teacher" based on his record in Rochester, N.Y., where 95 percent of teachers gave him a "no-confidence" vote shortly before he departed. Emanuel immediately announced that he was canceling raises promised to Chicago teachers and requiring teachers to work longer days and years. The extended-day gambit backfired when a state labor board ruled that Emanuel could not unilaterally require that kind of change. But Emanuel pressed on, offering incentives to schools that would add teaching time. He and Brizard also introduced a new rating system for schools, engineered closures and multiple "turnaround" efforts that cost some teachers their jobs, and introduced a new teacher evaluation system without union consent. (WBEZ Chicago has a comprehensive timeline of Emanuel's education initiatives and how they were received.) 2. A new teachers union. Emanuel's moves would have angered any teachers union. But since 2010, Chicago's has one of the most aggressive in the country. That's when a minority party known as the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE, took power from the reigning union leadership, which it criticized as complacent on issues of privatization and community engagement. After contract talks failed to satisfy the union this year, its members voted to authorize a strike in June, in a vote with a 91.5 percent turnout rate and a 90 percent approval rate. Since then, the city made several rounds of concessions and reached a deal with CTU about how to extend the school day. But several issues remained unresolved by the strike deadline on Sunday. CORE started out as a minority party in the union that was organizing with the goal of pushing the union's agenda to the left. As budget conditions worsened and city officials took an increasingly aggressive tone, the group gained traction with a platform that stood apart from most union leaders'.
September 6, 2012
City, union stress "optimism" over future of teacher evaluations
Deputy Chancellor David Weiner talks to two first grade students at Young Scholars Academy in Brooklyn. With another school year underway without a deal on new teacher evaluations, officials in charge of hammering out the evaluation system seemed only to agree on one thing: be optimistic. That was the mantra for Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Michael Bloomberg as they toured the halls of the New Settlement Campus in the South Bronx this morning. "I'm always optimistic," Bloomberg told reporters in the spotless new library. "If we don't get a deal by January we will forfeit a lot of state funds." Teachers Union President Michael Mulgrew told a similar story when he spoke this morning in Brooklyn. "We are definitely having conversations, pretty good conversations," he said, "and we're hoping to get it done." The city and union have been negotiating over evaluations for more than a year with the as-yet-unfulfilled hope of securing federal funds that are not available to districts without evaluations. Now they are under the gun from the state, too. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will withhold state aid increases from districts that do not adopt new evaluations by January 2013.
August 16, 2012
State releases teacher rating data that most districts won't use
As of today, school districts across New York State have in hand the first piece of data they would need to calculate some teachers' ratings: their "growth scores" for last year. The State Education Department today distributed scores to districts for 36,685 educators who teach reading and math in grades 4-8 or supervise those teachers. The scores — which calculate students' growth on state math and reading tests, adjusting for the students' past performance, the performance of similar students, and the reliability of the exams — would count for 20 percent of educators' ratings under the state's evaluation law. Two consecutive “ineffective” ratings could trigger termination proceedings under the law. But the data released today suggest that the state's current formula for measuring student growth would be unlikely to place many teachers' jobs at risk. Nearly 85 percent of the 36,685 educators who received a score fell into the "highly effective" or "effective" ranges. Just 6 percent of them had scores in the "ineffective" range. Few of the scores issued today will actually be used to evaluate teachers. Most of the state's 715 school districts, including New York City, have not yet adopted evaluation systems that comply with the state's evaluation law, and many that have adopted new evaluations won't use them until next year.
July 23, 2012
Annual survey reflects sanguine views of school performance
A slide from the Department of Education's presentation of this year's Learning Environment Survey results shows teachers' responses to questions about their evaluations. Results of the city's annual survey of what parents, students and teachers think about their schools paints a much rosier picture than data on school performance indicate. It also offers a rosier picture of teachers' views of their evaluation system than both city and union officials have painted in the past. This year, 94 percent of parents said they were "satisfied" with their children's education, and 95 percent of students said they have to "work hard to get good grades" — figures city officials touted as a sign that the schools are becoming more rigorous. Answering a new question, 94 percent of teachers said their school "does a good job supporting students who aspire to go to 2- or 4-year colleges." Those responses suggest that city parents, students, and teachers remain sanguine about their schools even as the city and state have mounted a concerted effort to raise expectations. The Learning Environment Survey results, which the city published today, come on the heels of annual state test scores that showed for the second straight year that fewer than half of the city's third through eighth graders are reading at grade level. And while the city's "college-readiness" rate inched up since it was first announced last year, only about a quarter of students meet the city's and state's standards. The survey results do signal that some schools are beginning to ask more of their students. Since 2009, the proportion of high school students who say they are receiving "helpful" college and career counseling has risen from 74 to 82 percent. And while the number of students reporting sophisticated research or essay assignments barely budged, the number who said they had been asked to "complete an essay or project where [they] had to use evidence to defend [their] own opinion or ideas" three or more times increased sharply, from 62 percent in 2011 to 67 percent this year.
June 29, 2012
Arbitrator rules for unions: Turnaround firing, rehiring reversed
Principals union president Ernest Logan and UFT president Michael Mulgrew announce their lawsuit over turnaround in May. An arbitrator has ruled that the city's plans to reform 24 struggling schools by shaking up their staffs violated its collective bargaining agreements with the teachers and principals unions. The arbitrator's decision adds a new and abrupt twist to months of uncertainty at the schools. It also guarantees that the city cannot claim more than $40 million in federal funds that the overhaul process, known as "turnaround," was aimed at securing. The turnaround rules require the schools to replace half of their teachers, and the city was trying to use a clause in its contract with the teachers union, known as 18-D, to make that happen. In recent weeks, "18-D committees" told hundreds and possibly thousands of teachers and staff members at the schools they could not return next year. Under the arbitrator's ruling, all of those staff members are now free to take their jobs back. The decision is a shocking blow to the Bloomberg administration, which turned to turnaround in January in a bid to win the federal funds without negotiating a new evaluation system with the United Federation of Teachers.
June 22, 2012
Bloomberg: City will aggressively push teacher evals to parents
The city will exploit every letter of a new law that sets out exactly who can see the results of teachers' annual evaluations, Mayor Bloomberg announced today. The announcement came less than 24 hours after legislators in Albany signed off on a compromise bill meant to shield the results of new teacher evaluations from public scrutiny. The legislation, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced, blocks the results of new teacher evaluations from being subject to Freedom of Information Law requests, preventing news organizations from obtaining them. But it created a process for parents to request the evaluation results of their children's current teachers. Bloomberg opposed the bill, arguing that the public has a right to know how individual teachers perform and that the request process was so onerous that few parents would be able to use it. So during his weekly radio address this morning, Bloomberg announced that city schools will bring the process to the parents. "We are going to have our schools call every single parent," he said. "We will tell [them],'You are entitled to this information and if you want it say yes right now and we will send it to you.'"
In your inbox.
How I Teach