I hope all New York City teachers remembered what was happening around this time last year. New York State United Teachers, in conjunction with our own United Federation of Teachers, agreed to a new teacher evaluation system with the state of New York.
I hope all NYC teachers remember that the UFT leadership, in the form of Leo Casey, tried to explain to us why the system to which they agreed was a good one. Here is Leo Casey last year “setting the record straight” on why we the teachers of NYC should support the new evaluations:
And it was essential that the bulk of the evaluations be established locally through collective bargaining, with the law only providing a general framework.
Translation: don’t worry, because your local union will have a say in what the evaluation regime will look like in your district.
Fast forward almost one year later to today. The UFT and the city have not been able to come to an agreement. As it turned out collective bargaining, the thing that Leo Casey said was essential, yielded no agreement. That is where things should have ended.
But Governor Cuomo said today that he might just push an evaluation system through the legislature and impose it on NYC by fiat. In other words, Cuomo said he is willing to override the agreement we came to via collective bargaining, which was no agreement. This is in direct contradiction to the framework to which he and the union agreed last year.
The UFT should be up in arms about this. Our Unity leadership should point out that collective bargaining yielded no agreement, despite the fact that they were willing to meet the city more than halfway. Unity should be fighting to uphold the integrity of collective bargaining, the one essential element of this evaluation framework.
Instead, here is the response of Unity’s own Michael Mulgrew:
Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that he “would prefer a negotiated settlement,” but supported state intervention if talks fail again.
In other words, Mulgrew supports an evaluation system imposed by fiat. Collective bargaining went from being the essential part of the deal to being no part of the deal whatsoever.
What a difference a year makes.
And lest there be any doubts as to how essential collective bargaining was supposed to be to the process, let us look at what Leo Casey said almost one year ago today:
With collective bargaining playing a key role in the shaping of “on the ground” evaluations, teacher unions have the input that will allow us to protect the educational integrity and fairness of the evaluation process….
Now that Unity has agreed to no collective bargaining and no input, does this mean that whatever evaluation process we get now will have no “educational integrity and fairness”?
In all of the complexity of these multiple measures, there is one essential point to remember: 80% of the total evaluation – the measures of teacher performance and the measures of student learning based on local assessments – are set through collective bargaining at the district level. This provides teacher union locals with an essential and necessary input into teacher evaluations, allowing us to ensure that they have educational integrity and are fair to teachers.
So does this mean that Michael Mulgrew today signaled that he is perfectly fine to have a system that doesn’t “ensure… educational integrity and (is) fair to teachers.”?
Remember when Carol Burris criticized the UFT for agreeing to a system that was going to deplete the quality of education in New York State? Here are some of the words Casey used to describe Burris’ criticisms: “alarmist”, “misinformed”, “groundless”, “problematic” and “speculative”. Here is Leo Casey addressing Burris’ point about our schools being given over to standardized testing:
If both components were based solely on standardized test scores, using unreliable value-added models with high margins of error, as Burris incorrectly claims, these scoring bands would have the potential of producing unfair ratings among outlier cases. But with at least one of these two components being a local assessment that, as it is collectively bargained, should be an authentic assessment of student learning, this objection does not hold.
The implication is that collective bargaining will ensure that the assessments will be “authentic” because local districts and unions know best how to assess their students. Now that Unity has signaled that they are fine with having zero collective bargaining, are they also saying that they are fine with inauthentic assessments of our students? Is he also saying that Carol Burris’ contention that these evaluations are bad for schools actually does “hold”?
What else can it mean? If collective bargaining equals authentic assessment, then how does no collective bargaining not equal inauthentic assessment?
Casey continued discussing the issue of student assessment:
In New York City, the UFT has taken the position that under no circumstances would we agree to the use of standardized state exams for the local measures of student learning…
Well, now that Unity has basically forfeited their right to agree to anything what use is Unity’s “position” now, Mr. Casey?
Casey then went on to address Carol Burris in more detail:
Burris’ commentary ignores the ways in which the New York teacher evaluation law turns over the scoring of different components of the evaluation to local collective bargaining.
And as of today, so has Michael Mulgrew.
On the measures of student learning, both the selection and the scoring of the local assessment are the subject of collective bargaining.
This is no longer the Unity’s position. As of today, this has been totally abandoned.
The law thus gives local unions the means to prevent the very sort of scenario Burris plays out in her piece, where a teacher is effective on all the measures of teacher performance and all the measures of student learning, yet still receives an overall rating of ineffective.
Sure, the law did but Unity showed today that they would be willing to allow that part of the law to be violated. Therefore, doesn’t this mean that Burris’ concern that a good teacher will be rated “ineffective” because of junk science has turned out to be much less “baseless” than Leo Casey had us thinking last year?
But Burris simply ignores the collective bargaining requirements and speculates that a scoring range for the measures of teacher performance will be established that, conveniently, produce the results that makes her scenario work. Is it really necessary to note that teacher union leaders with substantial experience in collective bargaining know how to do simple math, and would not agree in collective bargaining to scoring bands for teacher performance that would produce such an incongruous and unfair result?
I suppose it is just too bad that the teachers of NYC will not have the benefit of being protected by the awesome negotiating skills of Unity, since Unity has clearly indicated that they are willing to abdicate their role in this regard. What good are those collective bargaining skills when Unity refuses to stand by collective bargaining in the first place?
While Unity has not totally sold us out yet, Mulgrew said very clearly today that he was willing to do so. All of these promises from Leo Casey mean nothing as of now.
Dear Leo Casey,
We went the collective bargaining route and came to an agreement in NYC. The agreement was no agreement. Now you guys are willing to change the rules, do a complete about-face and trash all of the promises you made to us, your dues-paying members, last year.
Dear Teachers of NYC,
You have been had by Unity leadership. Very clearly, Leo Casey was selling us a bill of goods. They made us think that collective bargaining was going cushion the blow of these evaluations. Now they say they are fine with taking away the cushion. They are not even willing to put up a fight to keep the cushion in place.
You do not have to accept this. As Reality-Based Educator said today, there is MORE out there than a Unity leadership that will stab in you the back.
We deserve MORE than a pack of lies.