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
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.'"
June 21, 2012
Legislators pass teacher data shield bill despite reservations
The high-profile debate on public access to teacher evaluations ended today when lawmakers signed off on a bill making the data available to parents, despite reluctance and opposition on both sides. The bill, which was introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday, passed the Assembly 118-17. Cuomo called it a compromise between those aligned with the teachers unions, who opposed releasing teacher performance data, and officials who wanted full disclosure of the data. Not everyone was satisfied by the compromise. Many assemblymen said they felt the bill still left teachers vulnerable. Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement that he felt the opposite. “I believe that parents have a right to full disclosure when it comes to information about their child’s education, and I am disappointed that this bill falls short of that goal," he said. Many assemblymen said before the vote that they were supporting the bill in the spirit of compromise, although they said the bill itself was weak. One New York City lawmaker apologized to principals for the bill because he said he believed it would give them a host of new responsibilities in order to comply with the law. "I'm sorry for you principals out there for what we're doing to you today," said Bronx lawmaker Michael Benedetto. "I'll be voting for this very reluctantly."
June 5, 2012
Only division during ed officials' pitch is teacher ratings' release
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott (left) joined State Education Commissioner John King (center) and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on a Philanthropy New York panel. Speaking to philanthropists and foundation leaders on Monday, the city, state, and national schools chiefs presented a united front — except when it came to the sticky issue of whether to release teachers' ratings to the public. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, State Education Commissioner John King, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered up tips on financing school reform at Philanthropy New York's 33rd annual meeting. The meeting drew representatives from major education organizations used to making and receiving philanthropic gifts, including the Harlem Children's Zone and The After-School Corporation. It also attracted education policy neophytes from large private foundations: Many in the audience didn't know how many of New York State's 250,000 ninth graders typically make it to 12th grade without dropping out (Duncan furnished the answer: 188,000). The trio of education policy heavyweights together urged attendees to think about how their contributions could support their priorities, such as implementing new learning standards, known as the Common Core, and overhauling the country's lowest-performing schools. Walcott told the audience that private donations have fueled some of the city's most innovative reform efforts, including the Common Core Library and the technology-infused iZone. “I’m actually not coming here to ask you to give a lot more, although that would be great too, but to be really smarter in what you’re giving,” Duncan said. But they were divided when moderator Beth Fertig, WNYC's education report, asked whether they thought districts and states should make teacher evaluations available to the public, as New York City did in February in response to requests from several news organizations. It's a question that state lawmakers could tackle this month.
May 29, 2012
Feds grant NY a waiver to swap new promises for NCLB rules
New York State will be freed from the most onerous requirements of the decade-old No Child Left Behind law, under the terms of a waiver awarded today by the U.S. Department of Education. In exchange, the state will begin assessing districts and schools on their students' progress instead of simply their performance — and districts that fall short will get extra funding and support starting this fall. Lists of lagging schools, which will now be known as "Focus" schools, will be released by the end of June, according to a State Education Department spokesman. The state will also publish lists of "Reward" schools that will merit extra funds because of their strong performance. The Obama administration introduced the waiver program as a way around Congress, which so far has declined to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, renamed No Child Left Behind during George W. Bush's presidency. NCLB required all students to be "proficient" by 2014 in a quixotic that goal left more schools labeled as failing each year without urging states to action. “The waiver lets New York move away from NCLB requirements that were unproductive or unrealistic,” said State Education Commissioner King in a statement. “We can evaluate schools in terms of both student growth and proficiency and recognize schools in which students are making good progress toward meeting standards of college and career readiness.”
May 22, 2012
Proposed rules for new Race to the Top pose issues for NYC
In the beginning, there were charter schools, data systems, and teacher evaluations. Then, there was early childhood education. And now, the Obama administration wants to reward individual school districts for tailoring their offerings to individual students. "Personalized education" is the emphasis for the U.S. Department of Education's third iteration of Race to the Top, a competitive grants program that launched in 2009. New York State won $700 million in the first year after legislators approved new teacher evaluation requirements and allowed more charter schools to open. It's an approach the city has embraced for years, providing data tools for schools to zoom in on each student's weaknesses and creating an "Innovation Zone" that allows schools to restructure their space and time in a bid for stronger scores. The principal of Olympus Academy, an Innovation Zone school that allows students to progress at their own pace, appeared in Washington, D.C., today as part of the competition announcement. But some of the federal government's proposed eligibility criteria — including a requirement that school board members undergo formal evaluations — could make it tough for the city to qualify for the grants. Large cities could receive up to $25 million, or about .1 percent of the city Department of Education's annual operating budget. Perhaps most crucially, the city and its teachers union have spectacularly failed to adopt new teacher evaluations, despite commitments set out in the state's first Race to the Top bid and in an application for a different federal program, School Improvement Grants. The latest competition requires that districts commit to having new evaluations in place by the 2014-2015 school year.
May 18, 2012
"Turnaround" hiring to resume, but decisions could be reversed
State Education Commissioner John King observes an English and Language Arts class at the Dual Language Middle School. Hiring is set to resume at the 24 "turnaround" schools under an agreement city and union officials reached late Friday afternoon. But the hiring decisions could be reversed if an arbitrator ultimately decides that the unions' complaint — that the city is attempting to circumvent contractual hiring and firing policies at the schools — is valid. The city teachers and principals unions sued to stop the hiring process, but on Wednesday, a State Supreme Court judge urged both sides to accept arbitration rather than pursue litigation. Today, the city and unions agreed "in principle" to seek arbitration, selected an arbitrator, and selected a first meeting date — June 5. In the meantime, the city will continue the process of rehiring or replacing teachers at the schools — but will have to run the risk of having those decisions undone if the arbitrator rules in the unions' favor. The outcome of the contractual dispute could affect the state's ability to approve those 24 schools for a pot of federal funds, Commissioner John King told reporters today.
May 17, 2012
In lieu of new evaluations, city looks to options in union contract
Chancellor Dennis Walcott speaks to business leaders at the Association for a Better New York breakfast. After years of trying to win new powers to fire under-performing teachers, the city is turning to rights it has had all along. Speaking to a coalition representing the city's business elite this morning, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the city would move to fire any teacher who receives "unsatisfactory" ratings for two years in a row. He also announced that the city would ask the UFT to allow buyouts for teachers who have been without permanent positions for more than a year. Both policies are already permitted under the law and the city's contract with the teachers union — a fact that drew ridicule from UFT President Michael Mulgrew. "It's theater of the absurd. It's getting old," he said. "I think they believe that everyone's a fool. They've made an announcement about something they already have the ability to do." Mulgrew noted that the union contract already allows Department of Education officials to do exactly what Walcott's two plans announced today would do—incentivize teachers without permanent jobs to take buyouts, and require schools to remove teachers who receive consecutive unsatisfactory ratings. He also said the buyout plan was proposed by the union several times over the past three years, but the city rebuffed it.
May 17, 2012
Walcott: City won't wait for evaluations to tackle teacher quality
Even without a new teacher evaluation system, New York City will ramp up efforts to weed out teachers who "don't deserve to teach," Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today. In an early-morning speech to the Association for a Better New York, a business and political group, Walcott said the city would adopt new policies to insulate students from teachers deemed "unsatisfactory" under the current evaluation system. Under the new policies, no student will be allowed to have a teacher rated unsatisfactory multiple years in a row, and the city will move to fire all teachers who receive two straight U ratings. "If we truly believe that every student deserves a great teacher, then we can’t accept a system where a student suffers with a poor-performing one for two straight years," Walcott said. "One year of learning loss is bad enough — but studies indicate that two years could be devastating." The policies would go into effect if the city and union do not agree on new teacher evaluations by September, when the new school year begins. Under the existing evaluation system, two consecutive U ratings can trigger termination proceedings but do not have to. Two "ineffective" ratings on teacher evaluations now required under state law would automatically trigger termination proceedings. Walcott also announced that the city would capitalize on a clause in its contract with the teachers union to offer a resignation incentive for teachers who have spent more than a year in the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers without permanent positions. Buyouts would have to be negotiated for each teacher, and Walcott promised that the incentives would be "generous." The move represents a shift in approach for the Bloomberg administration, which has previously sought the right to fire members of the ATR pool. Walcott's complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below. We'll have more on his proposals later today.
May 16, 2012
LEAP a big step for teachers in DPS
Backers are banking on LEAP, Denver's pilot teacher evaluation program, to represent a substantive shift in the way teachers are reviewed and professionally supported.
May 14, 2012
In two separate rulings, state's labor board sides with the UFT
For the second time, the state's labor relations board has ruled that the city must accept mediation in its teacher evaluation talks with the United Federation of Teachers. The board, the Public Employees Relations Board, first decided in March to heed the UFT's request and appoint a mediator to broker negotiations about teacher evaluations in the 33 schools that until December had been receiving federal School Improvement Grants. But the city appealed the decision, arguing that it was no longer planning to negotiate a separate evaluation system for just those schools. Now the board has affirmed its stance and once again ordered the city into mediated talks with the union. When the board first granted the request, its director of conciliation said that because the city had not yet formally applied to switch the schools to a reform model that does not require new teacher evaluations, it was still obligated to seek a deal for the 33 schools. Today, the board ruled that the city's bid to switch the overhaul model — to "turnaround," in a swap that the state has not approved — "does not nullify its obligations." City lawyers are regrouping after the setback. "We strongly disagree with the board's ruling and are reviewing our legal options," said Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti in a statement.
April 27, 2012
Latest skeptic of teachers unions is clothing label's city billboard
This spring, the West Side Highway's typical advertising fare also includes a political message that seems aimed at teachers unions. A billboard advertising Kenneth Cole — the clothing company owned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's brother-in-law — puns to southbound commuters, "Shouldn't Everyone Be Well Red?" In smaller lettering, the billboard says, "Teachers' Rights Vs. Students' Rights ..." The second line evokes a tension drawn out repeatedly by some critics of teachers unions, including Cuomo, who say that unions' support for teachers' job protections can stand in the way of students' education. The billboard also invites viewers to visit WhereDoYouStand.com, a website maintained by the city-based company, to weigh in on "Issue in the News." This spring, one of the issues is "Should underperforming teachers be protected?"
In your inbox.
Chalkbeat New York
How I Teach
Rise & Shine Colorado
Rise & Shine Detroit
Rise & Shine Indiana
Rise & Shine Tennessee
The Starting Line