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Future of Teaching
Examining the divisive push to rate, reward, improve, and remove teachers
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.
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