Tag Archives: Leo Casey


Leo and Unity do damage control. Laws are now "binding arbitration".

Leo and Unity do damage control. Laws are now “binding arbitration”.

Leo Casey has been good enough to respond to my post about Michael Mulgrew’s comments yesterday, comments that me and many others see as preparing us for a “sellout”. I thank him for taking his time to write out a thoughtful response.

I think his comments are are too important to leave buried in the comments section and have decided instead to give it its own post. I will respond to Leo Casey in this post. If he wishes to further respond to what I say it is up to him, although he is obviously under no obligation to do so.

I will respond to his first paragraph and then I will respond to the rest of the post as a whole.

Leo Casey | January 31, 2013 at 3:37 pm | ReplyEdit

What is clear is that either MORE caucus does not understand collective bargaining or that it has made a decision to knowingly misrepresent the collective bargaining process.

Perhaps, but understand that me and every other NYC teacher is getting their information from Gotham Schools, the NY Post and Michael Mulgrew himself. Out of the hundreds of words to be read between those three sources there was no mention of the term collective bargaining. Every single one of them said the same thing: the governor and the state legislature are willing to push an evaluation regime through legislative channels, thereby instituting one by fiat. Mulgrew said he was fine with that. This comment by Leo Casey is the only time the term collective bargaining has been used to describe what the governor is promising to do.

Therefore, if there is a misunderstanding it is due to the nature of our sources, sources that include the UFT President himself.

Now on to the rest of Leo’s comments.

It is not uncommon to have negotiations grind to a standstill, especially when one of the parties — in our case, Michael Bloomberg — has no intention of engaging in good faith negotiations. Bloomberg can not get over the fact that law requires the DOE and City to negotiate teacher evaluations with the UFT, rather than be able to unilaterally impose what he wants — a system focused on the notches he can put on his belt for the number of fired teachers. What the Governor and leaders of the state legislature are saying is that if impasse with the city continues because of the mayor’s obstructionism, NYSED would act as an arbitrator, and issues that could not be resolved in negotiations would go to it for a decision.

This is a standard procedure in both labor law and collective bargaining practice, commonly described as a form of binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is not rare: it is in that forum that management and labor bring issues of the interpretation or implementation of a collective bargaining agreement that they can not resolve between them. The recent decision on SESIS (http://www.uft.org/news/uft-prevails-sesis-arbitration) is an example of binding arbitration, in which an arbitrator ruled that the DOE would have to compensate teachers for the additional time they spend, beyond the regular work day, to do the paperwork associated with the system.

It is important to remember here that there was an agreement that was reached between the UFT and the DOE that the mayor then blew up. The number of issues where there is now disagreement are finite and small. Chief among these is the issue of the sunset clause, where the mayor withdrew the agreement to have such a clause at the very last hour. In the days since he blew up the agreement, the mayor has made the sunset clause into a line in the sand, accusing hundreds of other school districts and the NYSED of countenancing ‘sham’ evaluation systems because they had sunset clauses. At the same time, Bloomberg’s account of the sunset clause and of the events that led to him blowing up the agreement over that clause have been publicly refuted and discredited by the President of the CSA, NYS Commissioner of Education John King and Governor Cuomo himself. New York City teachers have nothing to fear from putting that issue to NYSED for a decision, should the mayor continue in his fits of pique.

Real political debate requires a honest airing of disagreements. The suggestion that Michael Mulgrew gas given away “collective bargaining rights” or that I sold a “bill of goods” in talking about the role of collective bargaining in determining teacher evaluations are misrepresentations, and do not advance the honest debate that members of the UFT deserve.

This is a very curious response. Essentially, Leo Casey is saying that whatever Cuomo is threatening to push through the legislature is a form of binding arbitration. He compares what Cuomo is threatening to do the recent SESIS decision where an independent arbitrator ruled in favor of the UFT. I find this to be a disingenuous comparison.

The governor of NY State is not an independent arbitrator. Independent arbitrators are independent because they are free from public pressure. They do not have to run for office and therefore do not have to make the popular decision. They are independent because they are free to make the just decision.

To say that the governor and state legislatures are similar to independent arbitrators is absurd. To say that a law that comes out of the state legislature is a form of binding arbitration is equally absurd. In that case, every single education law ever made and that will ever be made can be considered a form of binding arbitration.

Cuomo and the state legislature are going to be pressured to do what is popular. What is popular may run counter in many cases to what the union wants, especially when it comes to accountability.

Remember that Students First and Educators 4 Excellence have spent the past year pushing for a law that would force an evaluation system on districts that have failed to agree to one. This is exactly the type of law Cuomo is proposing. The proof is in the pudding according to the Post:

A few hours before Cuomo made his announcement, the Bloomberg-backed “Students First” advocacy group filed a short-lived lawsuit to try to recoup the lost state aid, sources said.

But the lawsuit was quickly yanked after Cuomo called Bloomberg, sources said.

Right and they yanked the lawsuit because Cuomo is offering what they have been lobbying for for the past year on a silver platter.

Does the union feel any compunction about being in such close agreement with the likes of Micah Lasher?

To say that a state law is the same as an independent arbitrator’s decision is ridiculous. Nothing in any article about the matter has mentioned the terms collective bargaining or binding arbitration.

This is my take on Leo Casey’s response. To me, it seems as if he is doing a great deal of damage control. He is making it seem as if the union is not backtracking when they clearly are doing just that. We were promised collective bargaining. Mulgrew and Unity negotiated in good faith. No agreement was reached. That is what our collective bargaining came to.

Rather than defend the principal of collective bargaining at the local level, the thing that Casey said was essential to the process last year, they have allowed the whole bowl of fruits and nuts to be decided by government fiat. Government fiat is not a form of binding arbitration. It is a form of coercion.

And it is a form of coercion by a governor who is under pressure from billionaire groups like Students First. This makes the governor anything but independent and makes any system he comes up with tainted. More importantly, it is against the spirit and principles of what our union promised us last year.

I appreciate Leo Casey’s response. As I have said before, I like him as a human being. But I see no reason to see whatever Cuomo comes up with as a form of binding arbitration.

Has Leo Casey changed your mind? What do you think?



And why is the knife not even in Mulgrew’s hand? I stink at Paint.


I actually don’t like doing this to Leo’s picture because I like him. He has helped me out of a major jam before and he knows what I mean. But this goes beyond me and affects everyone in NYC. We have to remember what he said last year, what he promised us last year.



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.



Teachers and Principals and NY’s Teacher Evaluations

An exchange between NYC principal Phil Weinberg and UFT Vice President Leo Casey raises some interesting questions about New York State’s new teacher evaluations.

Weinberg decries the fact that the rating of teachers has effectively been taken out of the principal’s hands. No longer can a principal walk into a teacher’s classroom for a few minutes, get a sense of the wind and know whether or not real learning is taking place. Instead, they must use an observation rubric like Danielson for 31% of the observation. Another 40% will be based on some sort of student assessment score. No doubt, Weinberg is correct that a great share of teacher ratings have been taken out of the principal’s hands.

On the other hand, Leo Casey is correct to draw attention to some of the more ominous parts of Weinberg’s article. Weinberg supports Bloomberg’s position that the principal’s evaluation should be final. Bloomberg made that assertion in support of nixing any idea of an appeals process for a “U” rating. As Leo Casey says, as it stands now, a principal can say “l’evaluation, c’est moi” and that is the end of that.

Weinberg states that the whole deskilling of the evaluation process speaks to a lack of public confidence for principals. I do not know how true this is. Bloomberg’s regime has notoriously put near absolute power in principals’ hands. Principals who have been found guilty of gross misconduct have been able to retain their positions. If anything, the establishment has put too much confidence in the principals’ hands.

Weinberg is onto something later when he points to how principals have contributed to their own lack of public confidence:

But we principals, too, are part of the problem. Not because we have promoted the use of bad data to rate teachers, but because we may have allowed our attention to stray from our chief job of promoting professional growth, training staff, documenting teacher performance, creating community and defining what quality teaching and learning look like in our schools. Newly necessary distractions like marketing and fund-raising and data analysis may have seemed more important than getting into classrooms and working with teachers on how to plan lessons and ask questions. But if we let our attention waiver from those things which we know should be our primary focus, if we asked “How can we help students earn more credits?” instead of “How can we help students learn more?” then some of the distrust we see driving this new agreement is our fault, even if we believe that is what the school system and the general public wanted us to do. We may have felt less incentive to concentrate on the quality of classroom instruction in our schools because we are rated on other things, but we know our jobs. If we chose to focus on tasks outside of instruction, it makes sense that the void such a choice created was filled by psychometricians.

This is certainly true. However, rather than let principals off the hook so easily, I will say that many principals in NYC have made satisfying Tweed their primary concern. They have allowed themselves to be driven by data instead of using their nearly unlimited power to buck the system and support students and teachers.

Weinberg seems like he is speaking from the position of an experienced educator. He might be one of those principals, very rare to find nowadays, who knows good teaching when they see it, observes his teachers often and supports his teachers when necessary. Sure, principals like this do not need the Danielson Framework and it is a shame that the all-important 40% of teacher evaluations have been taken out of their hands.

Unfortunately, teachers in NYC know exactly the type of person who becomes a school administrator in NYC nowadays. It is usually someone with less than 5 years in the classroom, someone who always had an eye on an administrative job and someone who strives to do nothing but satisfy Tweed. These are the types of administrators who, under the current system, have been given unlimited power to rate teachers.

If public confidence in principals is declining, it is because Bloomberg has lowered the bar for the type of person who is able to become an administrator. This is the result of shutting down big schools and opening up small schools. The pool of talent to choose from becomes shallower as the system needs more and more principals.

Before Bloomberg came to office, between 10 and 15 percent of “U” ratings by principals were overturned by appeals. This is the basis for the UFT only being able to appeal 13% of the “ineffective” ratings under the new system. Leo Casey supports this provision as fair. It is certainly fairer than the absolutist ratings principals currently enjoy. However, entitling only 13% of the membership to any sort of due process is not fair in any absolute sense.

Here is where I disagree with both Weinberg and Casey. Weinberg said that rating teachers has been taken out of principal’s hands. Sure, but the power of destroying teachers has not been taken out of their hands. In fact, it is just as easy for principals to destroy teachers under the new system as it is under the current one. Leo Casey says the “Danielson Framework represents the best professional thinking in the field of education on the essential components of teaching.” Those of us who have read Danielson’s Framework probably would not agree with this either. It might be halfway decent, and even preferable to the arbitrary measures inexperienced principals use now, but it certainly leaves much to be desired.

The fact is that principals will be able to fill in the observation rubric in any way they see fit. They can give a teacher they do not like all the tough classes and give that teacher the worst ratings all the way down the Danielson Framework. They can do this in the confidence that only 13% of all “ineffective” evaluations will be appealed. All of the “data” backing up the “ineffective” rating will give it an undeserved air of objectivity.

And after the appeals process, the independent validator and the new 3020a hearing with the burden of proof on the teacher, there is simply very little for any teacher to hang their hat on. Weinberg expresses the fact that there is little for principals to hang their hats on either.

Teachers and experienced administrators need to make common cause against these evaluations. While there might be disagreements between us, they should not blur the broader points over which there is consensus.

Leo Casey Sets the “Record Straight” on the Appeals Process

Leo Casey finally released his long awaited explanation of the appeals process under the new New York State teacher evaluation agreement. The process is certainly as convoluted as the rating system itself. There are some serious concerns we all have about the process that will, hopefully, begin to be fleshed out in this post.

First, Leo Casey is confident that the appeals procedure secures “the educational integrity and fairness of the teacher evaluation process.”

He summarizes the protections we had before the Bloomberg regime. There were essentially two processes available to teachers. The first was the ability of all teachers, tenured or not, to appeal an end-of-year “U” rating to a hearing officer within the DOE. Before Bloomberg, 10-15 percent of these ratings were overturned through this process. After Bloomberg, around .5% of appealed “U” ratings were overturned. Essentially, Bloom-Klein-Walcott indiscriminately upheld the “U” ratings of principals, giving them unprecedented power.

The other process, available only to tenured teachers, is the 3020a hearing. This is the “going after the license” hearing consisting of an “independent” arbitrator who hears arguments from both a DOE and union (NYSUT) lawyer. Just like a trial, the “defendant” (teacher) must be charged with specific misconduct (incompetence, felony, child abuse, etc.). The lawyers present their cases and the arbitrator decides on a binding outcome.

As we know, there are serious problems with the 3020a process, problems that Leo Casey does not touch in his article. First, 3020a arbitrators are appointed to one-year terms and must be agreed upon by both the DOE and UFT. This motivates arbitrators to split the baby in most cases, giving a little to the union and little to the DOE. It must be made clear that arbitrators have a range of decisions they can reach: termination, heavy fines, letters to the file and others. Therefore, in around 96% of 3020a cases, the teacher was found guilty of something. Their punishments can run the gamut, but the fact is that very few of them are ever exonerated.

And these are just the cases that make it to 3020a. Around half of all teachers charged choose to settle instead, where they then incur any of the penalties available to the arbitrator. It is more accurate to say the teacher’s lawyer chooses to settle. When a teacher first learns they are facing a 3020a, they are given a choice between a private and public hearing. Private hearings allow the arbitrator and lawyers to work out settlements in peace. Since lawyers and arbitrators are linked, the fear is that they go over their list of cases and decide who gets fired and does not. We do not really know because these proceedings are, after all, private. There used to be a time when teachers would be able to choose their own arbitrator. Now, they are randomly assigned.

After the 3020a hearing, a teacher can appeal the decision of the arbitrator to a court of law (3020a hearings are not actual courts).  According to former NYSUT attorney Brian Glass, more decisions than ever are being “bounced” (overturned) by the courts. This shows that there is something wrong with the city’s 3020a process. The arbitrators are motivated to find teachers guilty, but stop short of termination in order to split the baby. The private hearing procedure allows lawyers to decide who gets terminated and who does not. This means that an individual teacher’s case might not be decided strictly on its merits, but on the relative severity of the infraction compared to other cases on the docket. Ever since the Bloomberg regime began, and especially after the 2005 contract, the 3020a process has been skewed more and more against teachers.

Here is the first big point: the new teacher evaluations do nothing to change this 3020a system. This is a shame because, as you will see, the 3020a process will play a crucial role in the new evaluation regime.

Speaking of the new regime, Leo Casey describes “two different procedures which, in combination, guarantee a fair teacher evaluation process with educational integrity:

First, there are those cases where a teacher has been targeted by a principal who abuses his authority, and is given an ineffective rating for reasons entirely unrelated to his/her teaching performance, such as retaliation for advocating for students or engaging in union activism. In these cases, the UFT will be able to challenge the ineffective ratings before a three person board comprised of one UFT member, one DoE member and a third neutral member who serves as chair. Up to 13% of all ineffective ratings in a year may be brought to this board by the UFT.[4] By a majority vote, the board will either overturn or uphold the ineffective rating, and its decision is final and binding.”

If I understand this correctly, this means that the UFT can appeal up to 13% of all ineffective ratings in a single year. These will be the retaliatory ineffective ratings that principals give to teachers for things like “advocating for students or engaging in union activism”. The 13% percent ratio is based upon that 10-15 percent of overturned “U” ratings of the pre-Bloomberg years to which Leo Casey earlier referred. The appeals will be heard by a three-member board: one chosen by the UFT, one chosen by the DOE and one neutral chairperson.

There are two major questions (if not more) that arise from this: first, how will the UFT determine which ratings are retaliatory? It seems that the variegated evaluations procedure gives administrators ample opportunity to fudge and justify ratings based purely numbers. A particularly shifty administrator can make a vindictive ineffective rating look totally objective. They can throw up their hands and say “hey, I am just going by what the numbers say.” I am sure the UFT will need some sort of evidence outside of numbers to determine which ineffective ratings are retaliatory.

My concern with this is that this gives the UFT tremendous power over our careers. Now, if we had to choose between the UFT and DOE having that type of control, I am sure most of us would opt for the former. This does not mean, however, that the UFT will be immune to favoritism in its own right when choosing which cases to appeal. What about members who are outspoken against the Unity caucus? Will the UFT go to bat for them? Will the UFT automatically choose to appeal all ineffective ratings for chapter leaders on the grounds that they must be retaliatory prima facie? Would this not eat up a healthy percentage of that 13, leaving the rest of us to fight over the remaining scraps?

The second major question is: who will choose the third “neutral member” of this panel? Will they be chosen in the same manner as 3020a arbitrators? It seems like a pretty important question, since we can assume how the other two members will decide. If that is the case, I can imagine these all-important “neutral” members splitting the baby once again, voting to overturn ineffective ratings roughly 6.5% of the time. While this is certainly fairer than the automatic denial of all “U” rating appeals currently in place, it does not seem like a fair system by any stretch, let alone one that upholds “the educational integrity and fairness of the teacher evaluation process.”

Leo Casey then describes the second appeals procedure:

“Second, in those cases where a teacher has received an ineffective rating for reasons related to his/her teaching performance, a number of procedures will be in place both to establish that the teacher is truly ineffective in the classroom and to ensure that the teacher receives the support s/he needs to improve. Following a first ineffective rating on an end of year evaluation, the principal will develop with the teacher a TIP (Teacher Improvement Plan) that identifies both the steps to be taken to correct the shortcomings in his/her teaching performance and the supports to be provided to assist in the improvement. Further, in the year following the first ineffective rating, the teacher will be assigned an independent validator, a licensed educator who will be selected through a joint union-management selection process. This independent validator will observe lessons by the teacher at least three times over the course of the year, and at the end of the year, s/he will issue a finding on the effectiveness of the teacher’s classroom instruction. If the independent validator agrees with the principal’s rating of ineffective, the DoE may then proceed to a 3020a hearing before an independent arbitrator to remove the teacher’s license, with the burden of proof falling on the teacher to demonstrate that s/he is not ineffective. If the independent validator disagrees with a principal’s rating of ineffective, the DoE may still proceed to a 3020a hearing before an independent arbitrator, but the report of the independent validator will become part of the proceedings and the burden of proof is now upon the DoE to demonstrate that the teacher is ineffective. It will thus become extraordinarily difficult to dismiss a teacher for poor performance when the independent validator has found him/her effective….”

To pick up where we left off from in the previous paragraph, let us say that you are one of the 87% of teachers who could not get the UFT to appeal your first ineffective rating. Or you might be one of those 6.5% of teachers who got an appeal and lost. You now must develop a Teacher Improvement Plan (TIP) with your principal. Does this mean that you have input into this plan? Is there anything stopping a principal from unilaterally shoving an unreasonable TIP upon you in order to set you up for failure next year?

So you start the next school year under the tutelage of an independent validator, a licensed educator agreed upon by both the UFT and DOE. (Leo, is there a way you can email me with information on how I can become one of these validators?) This validator will observe the teacher at least three times over the course of the year. If the principal rates you ineffective for that year (your second such rating in a row), you will go through the 3020a process. Now, if the validator agrees with the principal’s ineffective rating, then the burden of proof is on you during 3020a. If the validator does not agree with the principal’s ineffective rating, then the burden of proof is on the DOE during the 3020a.

First, we know these validators will be educators, but will they be teachers? We know that there are loads of administrators out there without assignments doing make work in some decrepit DOE office. Will the validator job merely be a sinecure for these administrators? Can teachers like me apply to be validators? It seems like a major concern. We are working in a system where so many administrators are non-teachers, people who entered the DOE to get the required three years out of the way and move on. Do we really want those people working in the instructional side of education? I suppose Leo Casey’s response to this will be “that is why the UFT will have a say in who becomes validators.” But I guess it all depends on the pool of people who are allowed to apply for the job. If they are all non-teachers, then it really does not matter how much say the UFT has in the choosing of these validators. That is why I am offering my services for this important job.

Once at the 3020a level, all of the problems previously discussed with the 3020a process will kick in. If both the principal and the validator agree that you are ineffective, then it seems that you are pretty much gone. All of the thinking has already been done for the arbitrator up until that point. They will have mounds of paperwork and data “proving” the ineffectiveness of the teacher, paperwork that has been rubber stamped by the UFT along the way. The arbitrator can terminate the teacher without fearing the UFT will refuse to reappoint them for the next year.

The other scenario, one where the validator does not agree with the principal’s ineffective rating, seems a little thornier. It seems as if it will be the same splitting the baby game that currently exists in 3020a. A few will probably be terminated, a few will be exonerated and the vast majority will get some other type of outcome. It is tough to see, however, what this other outcome will be. It would be silly to fine or put a letter in the file of someone rated “ineffective”. Instead, the only other outcome I can imagine is a third year with a TIP and a validator. This will merely stagger the termination until next year, or the year after that. In sum, this entire TIP process seems like the pipeline to termination soon or eventually.

I am willing to allow that certain of these concerns are conjectural. We never really know how something so complex will play out in the realm of human interaction and institutions. However, I do see a lot over which to be concerned. It seems as if the TIP and validator process is an end run around tenure as we know it in New York City.

I appreciate Leo Casey taking the time to explain such a rococo system to the membership. In the end, it seems there is more than enough grey area to cast doubt on the idea that the appeals process secures the educational integrity and fairness of the teacher evaluation process.

NY’s Teacher Evaluations: The Mystery 20%

Yesterday, Leo Casey was gracious enough to respond to my critique of his defense of the new teacher evaluations here in New York.

What he addressed above all was this part of my critique:

It is difficult to see what can be a district-wide assessment that is not a test. Can it be a portfolio? Are contractors from the DOE going to pour over millions of stacks of portfolios every year in order to assess each individual student? Will the State Education Commissioner approve this?

To which he responded:

Let me simply take up one point of disagreement here which I think is a particularly telling one — your view that the local measure of student learning must necessarily take the form of a standardized exam, and that this is what I must mean when I talk of assessments. In fact, I chose the word assessment deliberately precisely because I wanted to make clear that it was entirely possible and desirable to use assessments that were not standardized exams. There is a strong tradition of authentic performance assessments in progressive education, with prominent educators such as LInda Darling-Hammond and Deborah Meier among its strongest advocates. There is a consortium of high schools in NYC which have a waiver from a number of the Regents exam to do performance assessments. At the point that the negotiations over the 33 Transformation and Restart Schools broke down, we were actually developing performance assessments for the local measures of student learning. I think it is would be a major mistake to assume that these the local measures must be standardized exams.\

And then my response:

Now, for my part, I am working from a few assumptions. First, that these progressive forms of assessment tend to be less efficient from a grading standpoint, in that they take longer to grade than a fill-in-the blank exam. Second, that it is pretty clear that the DOE will not want teachers themselves to grade these assessments. This would mean that some outside agency will have to do it, or that a committee of educators will do it.

If this is the case, how feasible is it to implement progressive forms of assessment for the largest school system in the country? It seems like a logistical nightmare.

Therefore, it would seem that the only assessment that could feasibly be put in place is a bubble-in exam of the traditional type. It might not be what the UFT necessarily wants, but facts on the ground, so to speak, makes testing the default assessment for the remaining 20%.

So, while I understand that you were not necessarily alluding to testing, I don’t really see other assessments being implemented citywide that has the type of broad-based approval politicians like Bloomberg look for other than testing. I can’t imagine Bloomberg unveiling with a straight face to the voters of NYC something like portfolio or other performance-based assessments that have never been used on a scale of NYC.

In short, it seems like testing is the ONLY feasible option, politically, economically, logistically, that could possibly be instituted citywide.

If there is any light you can shed on this matter, it would be appreciated.

This all stems from the mysterious local student assessments that have yet to be worked out between the UFT and DOE. This 20 percent is part of that overall 40 percent that will determine whether or not teachers are found “ineffective”.

Leo Casey asserts that there is a long tradition of student assessments that are not standardized exams. A “consortium of high schools in NYC” have already been using them.


Have any of these assessments been used on the scale of the NYC public school system, the largest school system in the United States?


Let us assume non-test-based assessments are out there for every grade and subject. How are teachers going to be rated on the basis of these assessments? Who will grade these assessments in a way that can be worked into the teacher ratings? The teachers themselves? A committee of educators? An outside contractor?

These are the details that must be worked out in collective bargaining.

Can we really imagine Mayor Bloomberg jeopardizing his legacy as the “education mayor” by agreeing to a battery of “progressive” assessments that have not been implemented on this scale before? Will Commissioner King approve of this?

Mayor Mike and Commissioner King are going to push for the sure thing: testing.

Testing is the only performance assessment that has been used on a NYC scale. It is logistically simple and easily translatable into data. There is the added factor of testing being the cash cow that corporations with big lobbyists like Pearson stand to benefit from.

All of the political facts as they stand now point to King Test as the thing that will fill that remaining 20%.

What Leo Casey is proposing runs counter to every political fact surrounding education reform here in NYC and around the country.

While Leo Casey and the UFT might push for progressive assessments that are better for students, we all know what is best for students does not shape education policy anywhere in this country.

Education policy is shaped by Realpolitik.

The only reform feasible in the world of education Realpolitik is testing.

Leo Casey “Sets the Record Straight” on the New Teacher Evaluations

Is the UFT selling us another bill of goods?

Over at Edwise today Leo Casey, Vice President of the United Federation of Teachers, addresses the criticisms of Diane Ravitch and Long Island principal Carol Burris of the new teacher evaluations here in New York State. Mr. Casey acknowledges the complexity of the new evaluation regime, then goes on to say:

“Unfortunately, complexity has provided a fertile ground for commentaries on the New York teacher evaluation framework that reach alarmist conclusions, with arguments built on a foundation of misinformation and groundless speculation. A widely circulated piece by Long Island Principal Carol Corbett Burris, published on the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog, is in the thrall of this alarmist alchemy. Burris decries the law and last week’s agreement as allowing “test scores… to trump all.” Under its scoring, a teacher could be “effective” in all components of the evaluation and yet still receive an overall rating of “ineffective.” The law, Burris concludes, is creating an evaluation system in which schools and students will “lose great teachers.” At the Bridging Differences blog, Diane Ravitch has now taken up Burris’ argument, repeating her main points as gospel.”

Casey then goes on to explain why their criticisms are unnecessarily alarmist.

“First, Burris incorrectly assumes that the entire 40 points in the measures of student learning will be derived from standardized state exams. But the use of value-added growth measures from state standardized exams need not take up more than 20% of the total teacher evaluation – and then only for a minority of teachers, those teaching English Language Arts and Mathematics, grades 4 through 8. Standardized state exams can only be used as the basis for the local measures of student learning if the union local agrees to their use in collective bargaining. I know of no significant New York district where the local union has agreed to the use of standardized state exams as the basis for the local measures of student learning. 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…”

Now, I still have some respect for Leo Casey. He has written some very good things at Edwise and has had moments of eloquence in defense of teachers. Unfortunately, his counter-argument here seems to be a matter of splitting hairs.

The key word throughout this entire post is state. 40 percent of the new evaluations will be based on “measures of student learning”. Only half of that (20 percent overall) can be based on state standardized exams. The other half will be local assessments which must be agreed to in collective bargaining. In fact, Casey consistently reminds us that most of the details of the new evaluation framework will be filled in by what local unions and school districts agree to in collective bargaining (more on that later).

First, what is a local assessment? Notice how he does not use the word exam. Also notice that he did not mention that any assessment agreed to in collective bargaining must be approved by the State Education Commissioner. In reality, these local assessments will be more tests. They might be different from the state exams but they will be exams nonetheless. And, remember, all local assessments must be approved by the State Education Commissioner.

Local standardized exams do not yet exist in New York City. Furthermore, many grades and subjects do not have established state exams either. What this amounts to for the children of New York City are two exams, one state and one local, for every grade and subject. This is a mouth-watering prospect for companies that make standardized exams; a stream of millions of dollars in state and municipal contracts.

This new testing regime has been the major criticism of Diane Ravitch. In her vision:

All such schemes rely on standardized tests as the ultimate measure of education. This is madness. The tests have some value in measuring basic skills and rote learning, but their overuse distorts education. No standardized test can accurately measure the quality of education. Students can be coached to guess the right answer, but learning this skill does not equate to acquiring facility in complex reasoning and analysis. It is possible to have higher test scores and worse education. The scores tell us nothing about how well students can think, how deeply they understand history or science or literature or philosophy, or how much they love to paint or dance or sing, or how well prepared they are to cast their votes carefully or to be wise jurors.

Leo Casey never really addresses these arguments. He only responds that half of those tests will be agreed to by the union in collective bargaining (but must be approved by the State Education Commissioner.) I do not see how this is supposed to allay Diane Ravitch’s “alarmist” fears.

What is collective bargaining worth anyway, if the State Education Commissioner can give a thumbs down to whatever was bargained?

And what about that other 60%, the one that deals with “teacher performance”?

According to Leo Casey, this entire 60% will be shaped by collective bargaining as well. 31 of those percentage points must be administrative observations based on a research-based framework (i.e. Danielson) that must be agreed to in collective bargaining. The other 29 percent can be anything from peer observations, lesson plans (wait, I thought the contract said that principals cannot judge us based upon lesson plans?) and “artifacts” such as student work (does this mean the bulletin board police will continue to be out in force?) Whatever this 29 percent ends up being for New York City, it must be agreed to in collective bargaining between our own UFT and the DOE.

Therefore, according to Leo Casey

“…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.”

That really does seem like a sweet deal for teachers, but it is misleading. We have already dealt with 20 of this 80 percent, so let us look at the remaining 60.

First, this is a disaster for administrators (where is their union, by the way?) They effectively have had all of the power to rate teachers taken out of their hands. The 31% that they are actually guaranteed to be a part of must use a “research-based” rubric to rate teachers. No longer can principals walk into a class, observe what is going on and know whether or not students are learning. Believe or not, there are still a few administrators in the system who have been veteran educators who know when a class is learning and when they are going through the motions. None of that matters anymore. All of them, from the 20-year pro to the Leadership Academy neophyte who would not know good teaching if it was standing in the front of the room conducting a lesson, must refer to some pre-packaged rubric.

Maybe the account of a principal from Tennessee, where they have already started using some of this research-based stuff, can give a clue to the problem with this:

But under Tennessee’s new teacher-evaluation system, which is similar to systems being adopted around the country, Mr. Ball said he had to give the teacher a one — the lowest rating on a five-point scale — in one of 12 categories: breaking students into groups. Even though Mr. Ball had seen the same teacher, a successful veteran he declined to identify, group students effectively on other occasions, he felt that he had no choice but to follow the strict guidelines of the state’s complicated rubric.

“It’s not an accurate reflection of her as a teacher,” Mr. Ball said.

Ever call for tech support for your computer only to end up talking to someone in another country reading from a script in which there is no place for your individual problem? That is what this 31% percent is. No matter what is agreed to in collective bargaining, the assumption will be that good teaching looks the same in every classroom every day. Maybe you forgot to write the date on the board, maybe the aim is not focused enough, maybe the class gets so into a discussion that the original lesson does not get completed, or maybe you just did not wear a tie (or female equivalent) to work that day. No matter what, it all counts. It can all be used against you if your classroom does not look like every other good classroom as determined by “research” done by people who have not been in a classroom since the term classroom was coined.

The other 29 percent is pretty much up in the air and, chances are, whatever is agreed to in collective bargaining will disaggregate that 29 percent into smaller percentages. However, it does not matter in the end because according to Leo Casey:

“At the behest of Governor Cuomo, the New York State Education Department set overall scoring bands for the teaching evaluation system which are quite stringent: very low scores in both the state and local components of measures of student learning (0, 1 or 2 out of a possible 20 in both components) will lead to an overall ineffective rating, regardless of how a teacher scored on the measures of teacher performance.”

So, as has been said on every blog and news column at this point, that 60 percent is irrelevant because the 40 percent can make or break a teacher’s entire rating.

Leo Casey goes on to make this murky point:

“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. Teachers and their unions have always said that we wanted to be responsible for student learning – our objection was to the idea that standardized exams provided a true measure of that learning. With the inclusion of authentic assessments of student learning, student achievement must be a vital part of our evaluation.”

Wait a minute, what is an “authentic assessment of student learning?” Does this mean that me, Diane Ravitch and the rest of the teaching blogosphere who fear that 40 percent (the vital 40 percent) of our worth as teachers will be judged on test scores are wrong? Has Leo Casey put our fears to rest?

Unfortunately not. What I fear is happening in the paragraph quoted above is a bit of sleight of hand. The term standardized sticks out here. I take this to mean that Leo Casey believes that because each school district will decide on the other 20 percent (in conjunction with the union) on their own, whatever assessment they agree upon is not standardized. It will be an assessment that is tailor-made for that particular district instead of a “one size fits all” approach for children throughout the entire state or nation.

It is difficult to see what can be a district-wide assessment that is not a test. Can it be a portfolio? Are contractors from the DOE going to pour over millions of stacks of portfolios every year in order to assess each individual student? Will the State Education Commissioner approve this?

Not bloody likely.

The only thing that it can be is something that is digestible in numbers. That can mean either: a) a city-wide exam or b) semester grades. Knowing how Bloomberg loves to crow about the rising graduation rate in New York City, it is possible to imagine him pushing for teachers to be assessed by the grades their students receive, which would pretty much end up institutionalizing the “social promotion” to which he claims to be so opposed. After all, if teachers know they can be fired if enough kids do not pass their class, you can bet that kids will end up passing along to the next grade.

But most likely the other 20 percent will be a city-wide exam. Maybe Leo Casey is setting the stage early for the collective bargaining farce to come between the UFT and Bloomberg. Bloomberg wants a city-wide exam and the union puts up one of their fake oppositions. Mulgrew and Bloomberg exchange mutual recriminations in the media to sway the hearts and minds of New Yorkers. The State Education Commissioner signals his support for a city-wide exam, making the UFT look like a roadblock in getting the new evaluation system finalized. Mulgrew goes silent on the issue for a few weeks, and then emerges from a backroom deal with Bloomberg where he reveals he has conceded the point on the city-wide exams. There will be huzzas from education deformers across the country and the UFT will turn to us and say it was the best possible deal under the circumstances.

As much as I would like to believe Leo Casey’s characterization of the foremost historian on American education’s concerns as “alarmist”, I do not see anywhere in his post today where he silences those alarms. All I see is a dark time ahead for the children and teachers of New York City.

This does not even touch on how the new evaluation regime destroys tenure for teachers. According to Leo Casey, his next installment will address this concern. I can only say I hope it goes over better than his latest defense of this horrid new system.