Tag Archives: NY State Teacher Evaluations


It's not the Superbowl. It's the dime defense of the UFT.

It’s not the Superbowl. It’s the dime defense of the UFT.

MORE’s recent post about the origins of this new teacher evaluation system is a good primer for those who are unaware of how our union has failed to protect either us or the students we educate.

The most interesting parts of the post are the responses it has been getting. Many Unity supporters are coming out of the woodwork to defend Mulgrew tooth-and-nail. Their responses shed a great deal of light on the type of thinking that prevails among our union leadership.

I post the following comments from the MORE blog as a way to draw out some of the underlying assumptions of many Unity supporters. This is in no way a personal attack on them. In fact, I thank them for expressing their points of view. I will be sure to address only the points made below without resorting to ad hominems. Anyone who happens to see their comments posted below are free to respond on this site.

Taken together, we can see that there are 7 main defenses of UFT leadership.

DEFENSE #1: The “Be Thankful For What They Didn’t Do” Defense

Comment from “Dolores”:

No one has fought more for TEACHER and STUDENT environment than President Mulgrew. What you fail to point out is the fact that the evaluation proposal included major improvement on teacher working conditions. Mulgrew realizes that teacher needs are important and directly related to student performance. OTHERWISE, HE WOULD HAVE ACCEPTED THE DOE PROPOSED EVALUATION. BUT HE DID NOT!!!

Keep in mind that Dolores is responding to an article that is crammed with facts. The lack of facts in this post makes it a relatively weak defense of Unity, in my opinion.

The last sentence here is telling. We will see that this is common to many impassioned defenses of Unity. It is the old “but he could have accepted something much worse” defense. This is what I call a non-defense, since it gives credit to Mulgrew for something he did not do. We are all in trouble if the only thing that could be said in Mulgrew’s favor is “hey, he could have done worse.”

Defense #2: The “Stop Dividing The Union” Defense

Comment comes from “Gloria”:

Instead of impugning Mulgrew, who is working so diligently on our behalf we should be working together. Name calling isn’t helpful to anyone and it is disappointing how easily we turn on each other.
I did not hear a “championing of arbitration” at the DA. What I heard is that negotiations are/will continue and that arbitration would only be in Sept. should we fail in the intervening seven months,
Vigorous debate is good. Honest disagreements exist. Let us respectfully agree to disagree where we can and work TOGETHER at this critical and difficult time.
I am sure those whose true agenda is the dismantling of public education, unions, and all community endeavors that we have,( in favor of privatization) are happy to read all this vitriol and hostile negativity from teachers about their own Union leadership.
Let us agree to disagree and express ourselves to each other with respect, and solidarity. We ARE in this together

Many of the comments refer to “name-calling”, supposedly done on the part of MORE. If you read the article in question at no point was Mulgrew ever called a name. Was he criticized? Sure. Criticism is not the same as name-calling.

One thing that concerns me is the insistence of Unity supporters to call an SED-imposed evaluation system “arbitration”. The MORE piece contended that calling state education policy “arbitration” might set a dangerous precedent, especially because the issue they intend to arbitrate affects our contract.

The issue here is not so much Mulgrew throwing up his hands and allowing SED to save the day. It is the fact that he so eagerly signaled his willingness to acquiesce in whatever the SED hands down. If Mulgrew is still negotiating with the city, fine. Why does he have to comment at all about what the SED might do? I mean, that part is so far in the future, right? Just because a reporter asks him about the possibility of an SED-imposed evaluation does not mean he has to comment on it, let alone enthusiastically support such a move. It is just plain not smart from a political standpoint.

Another thing common to many of these defenses of Mulgrew is the insinuation that MORE is some sort of traitor group. On the one hand, Gloria wants “vigorous debate”. On the other hand, she doesn’t like divisiveness in the union. My contention is that MORE is trying to have that vigorous debate and Unity is trying to beat them back into toeing the party line by calling them divisive. How can you have a vigorous debate when one side can’t speak up without being accused of being divisive?

Defense #3: The Straw Man Defense

This defense of Unity is an extremely long comment from Woodruffw1980. Rather than quote the entire thing, I will merely address what I see are the representative points:

The stance of MORE to refuse to negotiate at the table no matter the situation, is kind of like on the play grounds at any of our schools when a young child says “If you don’t play my way I am taking the ball and going home.” If the child does not make good on their threats they loose credibility with their peers. If they take their ball and go home they loose out because the other kids just find something else to do to enjoy their time.

Classic straw man argument that assumes MORE’s position is to “refuse to negotiate at the table no matter what the situation.” Nowhere in the article does it say or even hint at such a stance. Again, this is another classic Unity defense. They would like MORE to ask them “why should we play ball at all?” This assumes that the only two options are playing ball and not playing ball. The fact that there are infinite options in between these two points seems to be lost on them.

Defense #4: The “It Could Be Worse” Defense

This helps explain the rest of Woodruffw1980’s post where he both argues against the straw man he has set up and gives us the well-worn explanation of why the UFT has to “play ball” with the education deformers:

Education laws are not passed with union rhetoric. They are passed by traveling to Albany and working with legislators to get your point across. This is something that the militancy and hard lined ideology that MORE seems to embrace leaves out completely. Michael Mulgrew and the UFT leadership had an obligation to be front and center at that negotiating table along with our brothers and sister from across the state. If they had refused to talk, or to participate in the plans then surely what would be imposed on us would be very much worse as Bloomberg, Student’s First, the large privatization companies and ALEC as well as their allies would have received everything they wanted. They would have gotten MORE testing, less job security, and eroded public education even MORE. I applaud Mulgrew and the UFT leadership for not sitting back but going to Albany and working to negotiate instead of just whining that things didn’t go their way. By doing that they did what was expected of them.

I call your attention, once again, to the classic “it could have been worse” defense. Indeed, if the UFT didn’t play ball according to Woodruffw1980 we would have been stuck with “MORE testing, less job security, and eroded public education even MORE.” The great thing about this argument is that it does not have to be proven. It excuses the person saying it from doing the messy work of factual analysis and synthesis.

In Woodruffw1980’s mind, it is either play ball or be railroaded by the wave of education deform. Better to hitch our wagons to the star of education deform since that it where the political winds are blowing.

Here is my problem with this argument: it totally ignores the role nay, the duty, of the union to shape those political winds. This is just like when reformers and even educators say we should make our classrooms technological because it is “the future”. We should just accept it. No use of spitting into the wind.

Whether we want to accept it or not, all of us have a hand in shaping that future. All of us have a hand in the direction of the political wind. It is an abdication of our responsibility to assume that the winds blow independently of us and that the future is something that happens to us.. The future happens because of us. Does my stance on this make me a militant as well? 

The even more astounding part of Woodrufw1980’s defense is that he is defending our union leaders. He is saying our union leaders are powerless to shape the political winds. He is justifying an impotent, lead-from-behind strategy that has defined the UFT for decades.

Does the fact that I would like my union leaders to try to be out front make me a militant? Does the fact that I recognize our leaders have a duty to, well, lead make me some intractable, bomb-throwing radical? It is a sad day when defenders of our union are defending their strategy of non-leadership.

Defense #5: The “Everything Is Fine” Defense

In a separate comment Woodruffw1980 also has this to say about his dealings with UFT leadership:

I also am a bit confused. MORE claims to want people like myself to speak up about our opinions. They claim that they are open to the ideas of “the rank and file” and that the leadership does not listen. Yet when I have spoken to any one of the leaders currently in place at the UFT they have treated me with respect, and respected my opinion, even when I have disagreed with them. Yet you call me names and accuse me of double dipping into pension.

It is great that his district rep treats him with respect. Was he expecting something less than basic human decency?

Just like Woodruffw1980, I am a chapter leader. My dealings with my district rep and other union brass have been, for the most part, cordial. Heck, my district rep and Leo Casey helped me out last year, something for which I am always giving them credit.

Yet, on a daily basis, I am embarrassed to have to tell members of my chapter that there is “nothing I can do”. There is nothing I can do because there are barely any more rights for me to defend, any more contractual weapons for me to wield. Furthermore, I know that my concerns about the direction of my union and public education in general are of no concern to my higher-ups in the union. To them my concerns are an annoyance, an inconvenience and maybe even a threat. They might be cordial and responsive on inconsequential matters. However, when it truly counts, I know I am on my own.

Defense #6: The “Reformers Are Correct” Defense

This next defense of Mulgrew comes from Dr. John Marvul:

Dr. John,

There was no agreement for a new Teacher Evaluation System because of our Mayor’s insistence on no Sunset Clause ( which helps in altering/modifying the proposed system), and his hatred for teacher ” Due Process.” Any teacher wants to see his/her students grow both academically and socially; otherwise, why would they be in this profession? A pre-test in a discipline at the start of a school year and a post-test in that subject should be what an educator covets. Did my student learn from me? That is what Mulgrew wants. Currently, “U” rated teachers win almost no appeals, but the new system would change that. What are all of you afraid of? Do you want to teach and help kids, or is it just yourself that you are worried about?

Dr. John seems to really believe that this new evaluation system will honestly help teachers and students improve. He believes that testing is a fair measure of a teacher’s worth. There is nothing for me to discuss with Dr. John because we simply do not agree on this. To act as if testing is the only or the best form of assessment for either students or teachers flies in the face of what we know about testing. It is the reason why countries like Finland don’t cram tests down their children’s throats. If the good doctor is such a fan of testing then he really is no better than an education reformer.

What am I afraid of? I am afraid of public school children being subjected to an endless battery of testing that narrows the curriculum while those who have the money send their children to schools with no tests; schools with a broad, rich curriculum. With his question, the doctor is implying that we are crappy teachers afraid of being evaluated.

Contrary to what the doctor thinks, this new system promises to be no more “objective” or “fair” than the one in place now. You want to know why? Because teaching is an art and learning is subjective. It does not matter how sciency your evaluation is or how many numbers, equations, “effect sizes” and checklists in which you dress it. The teaching and learning process is subjective and the information being put into those equations are subjective as well.

The doctor’s comments reveal something very scary about Unity, something that I used to refuse to believe for my sanity: they really agree with the “deformers” more than they disagree with them. Read the doctor’s comment again. It could have easily been written by Michelle Rhee.

Defense #7: The “C’mon, Let’s Have An ‘Honest’ Discussion” Defense

I am going to skip the next few comments since they traverse ground we have already covered. The final comment comes from Khiera:

Members who question MORE’s intentions are no more traitors than those who criticize Mulgrew. What’s scary is that the deformers would have a field day reading the comments section of this blog where there is a proud display of union member in-fighting. Why can’t we put caucus affiliations aside and have honest dialogue about what we can do to improve this dysfunctional school system?

Again, any criticism of Unity is divisive. Here is my question: what about this dialogue is not honest?

Yes Khiera, I am sure MORE is not being serious in their critique. They are organizing, blogging, getting signatures, raising money and reaching out to teachers because they are pulling an elaborate prank to waste everyone’s time.

Here is another question: what makes you say the school system is “dysfunctional”?

There you go: the 7 ways to defend the UFT. With defenses like this, it is tough not be offended.



The last post highlighted the exchange between me and UFT Vice President, Leo Casey. Leo Casey explained that Cuomo’s proposed evaluation system would be a form of binding arbitration. To buttress his point, he cited a recent decision where the UFT won payment for hours some of our members worked from binding arbitration.

He also explained, or at least intimated, that MORE and myself either do not know what collective bargaining is or are purposefully misrepresenting the facts. There is a lively discussion on the MORE blog where many Mulgrew supporters are saying the same thing as Leo Casey.

Maybe he is right that I don’t know what collective bargaining is. The case Leo Casey sites was an example of an independent arbitrator’s decision. I have read in detail about other examples of binding and non-binding arbitration before. All of those examples were from independent arbitrators.

Cuomo and the State Education Department and the state legislature are not independent. In fact, they are our bosses. They are bosses under a great deal of political pressure from groups like Students First to hollow out all of our rights as teachers and the education of our children.

My question is: how common is it to have management play the role of “independent arbitrator”? Is the UFT under Unity leadership really upholding our collective bargaining rights by allowing management to act as independent arbitrators?

Someone with a fair view of the matter please enlighten me. This is not a loaded question, I really would like to know.

UFT members: do you feel comfortable with trusting Cuomo with the fate of your school system? Unity’s stance is “trust Cuomo”. Is that appropriate?


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?




Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching has been pushed by education reformers around the country, not to mention Danielson herself. Teachers in New York City are familiar with the FFT, or “Danielson” for short. The term “Danielson” has come to take on an ominous meaning over the past year. Many teachers have a sense that this framework is a bludgeon and not a tool to assess our effectiveness as teachers.

Who is this Charlotte Danielson? Accounts of her teaching experience are hard to come by but this short biography gives us a clue:

Charlotte Danielson is an educational consultant based in Princeton, New Jersey. She has taught at all levels, from kindergarten through college, and has worked as an administrator, a curriculum director, and a staff developer. In her consulting work, Ms. Danielson has specialized in aspects of teacher quality and evaluation, curriculum planning, performance assessment, and professional development.

Ms. Danielson has worked as a teacher and administrator in school districts in several regions of the United States. In addition, she has served as a consultant to hundreds of districts, universities, intermediate agencies, and state departments of education in virtually every state and in many other countries. This work has ranged from the training of practitioners in aspects of instruction and assessment, the design of instruments and procedures for teacher evaluation, to keynote presentations at major conferences. Clients for the development of materials and training programs include ASCD, the College Board, Educational Testing Service, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Charlotte Danielson has a rich and varied educational background. She holds a BA in history from Cornell University, and advanced degrees (in philosophy, economics, and educational administration) from Oxford and Rutgers Universities. She is based in Princeton, New Jersey, and has taught at all levels, from kindergarten through college, as well as working as an administrator, a curriculum director, and a staff developer. In her consulting work, Ms. Danielson has specialized in aspects of teacher quality and evaluation, curriculum planning, performance assessment, and professional development.

It seems as if she is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. She has “taught at all levels, from kindergarten to college” in “school districts all around the country.” She has been a staff developer, administrator and has received several degrees from prestigious institutions. Where does she find the time?

How long did she actually stay in a classroom? It could not have been more than a few months here and a few months there, if that. Anything more and she would have had a coronary many years ago.

Danielson may be a very bright person but she is no teacher.

So why is her “framework” being used by principals across New York City to evaluate teachers? Here is an outline of what her framework looks like.

Neat little categories? Check. Nifty little rubrics? Check. Thick educational buzzwords like “reflecting” and “pedagogy”? Check. It’s almost as if a monkey could rate a teacher using Danielson.

Ah, that’s it! Monkeys are using the framework. The monkeys in question are the Bloomberg-era administrators who have spent no more than three years in an actual classroom.

A framework crafted by a non-educator to be used by non-educators in order to judge actual educators. This makes perfect sense in the crazyland that is the NYC DOE.

This is part and parcel of the deskilling of education. Not only are teachers in danger of being deskilled by being subject to Danielson but principals now are being deskilled by mindlessly ticking off a checklist. It seems as if many administrators are embracing this deskilling.

And never forget who helped to bring Danielson into our schools. It was our union and their Unity leadership who allowed Danielson to be used in 33 “struggling schools”. When administrators in other schools started using it, the union cried and complained.

Why did they complain? When you open the window you shouldn’t be annoyed when flies get in.

The Movement of Rank and File Educators want to hear from you, the rank-and-file educators of New York City. What are your experiences with Danielson? How are administrators in your building using and/or misusing this framework to evaluate you?

Danielson is not supposed to be used by these administrators until the city and the union agree to a new evaluation deal. Take a look at what the implications for such a deal are for our schools:

a) Standardized Testing – Deskilling the curriculum for both students and teachers

b) Danielson – Deskilling the practice of educating for both teachers and administrators.

Looks like the flies are getting in and leaving larvae in our brains.

This is just another reason why Mulgrew needs to do nothing during this evaluation debacle.


One of my favorite historical figures of all time, the great French diplomat Talleyrand. Talleyrand may have been a snake but he had the good sense to know when to do nothing.

One of my favorite historical figures of all time, the great French diplomat Talleyrand. Talleyrand may have been a snake but he had the good sense to know when to do nothing.

New York City is the largest school system in the nation. For the past few weeks the eyes of the education world have been focused on whether or not the city and the union can agree to a new evaluation deal. If they are able to do so, it will be touted as a great “achievement” for public schools and serve as a model for other school districts around the country.

Contrary to what many of us expected, the round-the-clock negotiations between the city and union two weeks ago was not the endgame. New York State Education Commissioner John King has set a new deadline of February 14 so the city can “submit a plan that shows it is prepared to implement large portions of an evaluation system.”

This does not mean the same thing as setting a deadline for the city and union to agree on a plan. King is clearly giving the city a few weeks to turn in a blueprint on what a plan would look like.

It gets confusing right about here:

If the city fails to submit a plan by Feb. 14 that shows it is prepared to implement an evaluation by March 1, King said he has the authority to take over more than $800 million in federal Title I and II funding and withhold more than $300 million in Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants. King said the Title I and II money would still be spent in New York City classrooms, but that he would have control over how it is spent.

Say what? So the blueprint the city must submit by February 14 must show “it is prepared to implement an evaluation by March 1.” Again, this does not seem to mean the same as having an evaluation in place by March 1, only that the city must show it is “prepared” to do so.

If not, King says he has the power to take over 800 million dollars of Title I funding for schools and he can outright withhold 300 million dollars. What King intends to do with the 800 million is not clear, although he says it will “still be spent in New York City classrooms.”

I think they call this “bluster”. In reality, both February 14 and March 1 can come and go without much happening. The amount of money King can actually withhold (which seems to be around $345 million altogether), is not going to kill us. The 800 million in Title I funding does not seem to be very malleable in King’s hands, despite his threats to “take control” of it. What can King actually do if the March 1 deadline is not reached? Not a whole lot it seems, at least not now.

Meanwhile, the union wants an evaluation plan to have a sunset of 2 years and Bloomberg wants a plan that will go on indefinitely. How do the two sides compromise on this?

Bloomberg, never the greatest politician, painted himself into a corner by stating publicly he wanted an indefinite evaluation deal. He cannot now compromise on this because he will look incredibly weak and foolish. That is to say, he cannot compromise on this until the public forgets about it, which would certainly be longer than the March 1 deadline. However, Bloomberg is obsessed with his “legacy” and what better permanent legacy than a putative evaluation system that finally holds these lazy teachers accountable? Bloomberg will not moderate his stance on this anytime soon.

The union’s president, Michael Mulgrew, holds all the cards here. His agreement to a two-year evaluation deal, which would have been the longest-running in the state, makes him look like a conciliator. The interminable school bus strike and Bloomberg’s failed negotiations with the CSA hums in the background as a reminder of Bloomberg’s intractable stance during negotiations in general. King’s comments generally have given Mulgrew cover and corroborated his version of why the negotiations were torpedoed. The mayoral campaign will keep people like Christine Quinn off of his back for the foreseeable future, lest she wants to lose the ever-important UFT endorsement.

Mulgrew holds all of the cards. He holds all of the cards in the largest school district in the nation. If he had any morals, any conscience, if he cared about the teaching profession at all or cared about the type of precedent any type of evaluation deal would set around the country he would do one thing and one thing only: nothing.

Sure, he might “talk” here and there with the district about an evaluation but he would have no intention of agreeing to one. Outside of any nominal negotiations, Mulgrew would do absolutely, positively nothing.

February 14 will come and go. March 1 will come and go. June will come and go. The start of the next school year will come and go. King will continue to threaten, to wave his arms, to talk about “taking control” of funds and he will use every threat in the book to get Mulgrew and Bloomberg to play ball.

And all Mulgrew has to do is nothing.

Bloomberg will not pull back from his demand for a perpetual evaluation regime. He is a lame-duck, a billionaire, a media mogul and he cares not what he does or how he is perceived over the next year. Mulgrew can do nothing with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that Bloomberg will never pull back from the precipice.

So why would Michael Mulgrew, president of the largest teachers’ union in the country, do anything?

Perhaps over the summer, after everyone has forgotten about the failed negotiations of a few weeks ago, Bloomberg might moderate his stance on not having any type of sunset clause. He might moderate about some other things as well. He might be so overly obsessed with his “legacy” that he feels some sort of deal is better than no deal at all. At that point, Mulgrew would be well-served to head back to the negotiating table again with the intention of not coming to an agreement.

After all, how much will Bloomberg moderate his stance? He definitely will want an evaluation system more extreme than anything else in New York State. When negotiations fail, Mulgrew can say again that Bloomberg is being unreasonable by calling for unprecedented and unreasonable reforms. Who is going to call him out? The mayoral candidates? Not likely. King? What can he do? Cuomo? Is Cuomo going to take the side of an increasingly unpopular mayor when he has one eye on the White House?

Mulgrew holds all of the cards and he needs to do nothing. He needs to do nothing to set the first positive precedent to come out of New York City in decades. He needs to do nothing because the backlash to education reform is afoot all across the country, as the Movement of Rank and File Educators has illustrated. He needs to do nothing because it is the right and righteous thing to do. Doing nothing will ensure that the schools of NYC will not become testing factories and the teachers in NYC will not be subject to endless harassment thanks to “value added” and “Danielson”. On a nationwide scale, the failure of Race to the Top here in the country’s largest school district would be a black eye on Arne Duncan and his entire effort to “reform” education.

Unfortunately, teachers here in New York City know that he will eventually do something. He has done something at every stage of this process so far. He was willing to consent to an evaluation framework that made tests the vital part of a teacher’s yearly evaluation. He was willing to agree to an evaluation framework that would see thousands of teachers hauled into 3020a hearings to prove that they are not incompetent. He was willing to accept an evaluation that went on for two years, which is about twice as long as most other school districts in NY State have. He was willing to do these things despite the fact that his teachers’ union has no contract. He was willing to do these things despite the fact that what he agreed to was essentially an end-run around tenure rules that his very same union had won for us many moons ago.

In short, us teachers in NYC are too jaded to believe that Mulgrew will not end up caving to the dictates of education deform. This has been his and the rest of UFT leadership’s “strategy” for many years. There is no sense in believing that anything will change now.

Despite the fact that Mulgrew holds the cards. This despite the fact that he has a long track record to prove that he is not some intractable union hack out to protect “incompetent” teachers. Despite the fact that doing nothing is the right thing to do in this case, he will end up doing something and something means disaster.

If the House of Mulgrew does not eventually fall, then the rest of us surely will.



I think we can all agree that the New York print media leaves a stadium parking lot to be desired. At the bottom of the pile is the New York Post which is little more than a daily snuff flick set to words. At the top is the New York Times, the supposed paper of record, whose coverage of current events is as deep as a kiddie pool. Somewhere between the two is the New York Daily News: half snuff, half fluff and all puff.

Take the Daily News’ coverage of the teacher evaluation fiasco between the UFT and DOE for instance. It hasn’t merely been bad or biased in its usual way. It has been downright uninformed. The unnamed author of this opinion piece, entitled Doomed to Fail, seemed to go out of their way to avoid doing even the most basic research on what the UFT and DOE were negotiating, why they were doing so and who played what role.

“What?”, “Why?” and “Who?”, as we were taught in grammar school, are three of the five basic questions journalists set out to answer when writing a story. The fact that the Daily News got 60% of it wrong is nothing short of a disgrace.

What’s worse is that Gotham Schools linked to this piece in yesterday morning’s “Rise and Shine” section. Am I just expressing sour grapes over the fact that Gotham Schools has never, not once, linked to my blog or otherwise acknowledged my existence? Yes it is but I will fry that kettle of fish another time. Much like my banishment from DOE broadband I take Gotham Schools’ derision of this website as a badge of honor.

But back to the appropriately named Doomed to Fail, which could just as easily be a description of the unnamed author’s efforts to write an intelligent piece about a basic bit of education news. The ignorance starts from the very first sentence:

The futile head-butting that passed for negotiations between United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on a state-mandated teacher evaluation deal laid bare the fatal flaw in Gov. Cuomo’s approach: letting districts and unions negotiate their plans rather than imposing one from the start.

“Letting school districts and unions negotiate their plans” was not “Gov. Cuomo’s approach”. These negotiations, along with all of the other evaluation talks across the state, are mandated by the federal Race to the Top program.  New York State applied to the federal government for Race to the Top money. One of the conditions that must be fulfilled before receiving this money is the institution of new teacher evaluations. At least part of these evaluations must be agreed upon in collective bargaining (see: negotiation between unions and school districts).

Therefore, it is not Governor Cuomo’s approach. It is President Barack Obama’s and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s approach. This is the “who?” that the Daily News embarrassingly gets wrong. (And Gotham Schools thought worthy enough to hyperlink.)

Third sentence:

Because while the governor set up a basic framework — teachers to be ranked on a four-tier scale based on student test score gains and other performance measures; professional help for those rated poorly; the boot for those who couldn’t improve after two years — he left it to the districts and their unions to work out the details.

Wrong. The governor alone did not set up the basic framework. The framework was agreed upon in collective bargaining between the State of New York (which includes Cuomo, State Education Commissioner John King and State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch) and New York State United Teachers (which includes NYSUT President Richard Ianuzzi and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew).

Again, the Daily News gets the basic “Who?” wrong.

Furthermore, the framework does not provide for giving “the boot” to “those (teachers) who couldn’t improve after two years.” Instead, teachers who don’t “improve” after two years would be subject to a 3020 (add the “a” to that number if you’re in NYC) hearing in which an arbitrator would decide whether or not to terminate said teachers. A teacher whose incompetence has been vouched for by an independent validator will have the burden of proof at the hearing to show they are not incompetent. A teacher whose incompetence has not been vouched for by an independent validator will have to be proven to be so by the school district.

This is a “What?” the Daily News gets wrong in this case.

Fourth and fifth sentences:

Which, as everyone knows, is where the devil is. Especially given the chronically obstinate UFT.

Sure, Mulgrew says he supports better evaluations. But at negotiation time, he’s all elbows.

Um, Mulgrew was one of the parties that agreed to this framework for “better evaluations” in the first place, a framework that has already been made official in most other school districts in this state. Is this the work of someone “chronically obstinate” or “all elbows” during “negotiation time”?

Essentially, the Daily News is accusing Mulgrew of torpedoing an evaluation framework that he helped create in the first place. Does this count as a “Why?” the Daily News gets wrong? I say it does.

Sentences six through nine:

Even so, it looked like a deal was in reach until early Thursday — hours before Cuomo’s deadline. Then, Mulgrew insisted on a two-year sunset on the evaluation program that would pull the plug just before the worst of the worst would get the ax.

Not to mention brand new arbitration procedures above and beyond the hard-won streamlined process currently in place.

I presume the “hard-won streamlined” arbitration process currently in place refers to the supposed abolition of New York City’s infamous rubber rooms. Whoever wrote this article has never heard of Francesco Portellos who has been languishing in a rubber room for the better part of a year.

Mulgrew could not have possibly insisted on “new arbitration procedures above and beyond” the system currently in place. The procedures in place now, as tepid as they are, require the school district to prove the incompetence of a teacher. As we have seen, Mulgrew already agreed to a basic framework with New York State that effectively short-circuits this by placing the burden of proof on the teacher. In short, he couldn’t have proposed anything to make terminating teachers more difficult than it is now since doing so would have violated the basic framework to which he already agreed at the state level.

Again, when it comes to the “Why?” of the failure of these negotiations the Daily News gets it wrong. Hey, at least it was good enough for Gotham Schools.

The rest of the article:

How could a mayor committed to school reform ever accept a system that purported to elevate teacher quality but would vanish before it could actually do some good? He couldn’t. Mayor Bloomberg had no choice but to say no.

Amazingly, some 90% of the approved plans negotiated by the 682 districts around the state sunset after one year, not two — a provision that Bloomberg dismissed as a sham.

He’s got that right.

Perhaps those districts merely felt the need to reevaluate in a year’s time, not go back to the drawing board. But in the city? Don’t count on it.

Here — with contract talks looming and a new mayor set to take office in January — it’s a sure bet that, had Bloomberg buckled, no teacher would ever be let go under tough new standards.

So, here we are: The kids lose. The teachers lose. The city loses. Only Mulgrew, able to say he stood up to a tough-guy mayor, thinks he wins.

Bully for him.

Right. This is your opinion and you’re entitled to it.

Why should your opinion matter when you fail to get the most rudimentary aspects of these negotiations straight, aspects that you could have gleaned from a simple Google search? Moreover, why should you get space in a major market newspaper when you obviously have not been following this story? Finally, why should Gotham Schools find this uninformed drivel poignant enough to hyperlink when there were easily dozens more insightful articles out there to highlight about this and other New York City school matters?

The answers are “it doesn’t”, “you shouldn’t” and “they shouldn’t” respectively.

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.

Cuomo Wastes More Taxpayer Money

From Edweek:

Want to see if New York state school districts are literally checking the right boxes on new teacher evaluations? The Empire State has you covered.

The website, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, allows parents and others to follow the progress of districts in hashing out the new evaluations, in the wake of the Feb. 16 agreement on the basic shape of those evaluations between the state education department and the state teachers union, New York State United Teachers.

At the NY Students First site, you can click on a link to “Track Your School District’s Progress,” which takes you to a map of New York by county that resembles a teacher’s chalkboard. Scrolling over a county brings up a box with each of the school districts in that county. If a district were to submit a new teacher evaluation plan to the state education department, a box would checked next to its name. If the plan were to be approved by the department, the district would get another check mark (this time in bright red).

The website, which you can see here, promises that you can “track your schools district’s progress” towards agreeing to a new evaluation.

It only tells you that a district has come up with a plan, it does not tell you what the plan is. In other words, parents who care about how an evaluation will change the face of their children’s education will find this site less than useless.

So why have the site at all? The article continues:

“I hope the countless parents and advocates who have been demanding accountability in our schools will use http://www.nystudentsfirst.com to get involved in our efforts to put students first and reform our education system,” Cuomo said in a March 6 statement announcing the site.

The online effort represents Cuomo’s eagerness to use parental and other community pressure to ensure districts get evaluations done that are agreed to by local teachers unions and given the seal of approval by State Education Commissioner John B. King.

In other words, more shaming of the teacher’s unions. It is to get parents to pressure “districts” to come up with a plan, giving the districts the ability to apply that public pressure to the unions so that they will accept something less than fair.

The longer a box remains unchecked, the more likely that the “union” will be seen as a barrier to “progress”. It is a gross oversimplification of what promises to be very complex negotiations.

The political hokum continues:

NY Students First has a chart, replete with more check marks, that allows viewers to compare the state’s overhaul efforts on teacher evaluations with those in other states, including the use of student achievement data. It also saves some space for political rhetoric.

A statement on the main page reads in part, “Our system has suffered because Albany has spent more time worrying about the business of education—contracts, salaries, and benefits—than they have worrying about the children.”

And those comparisons between NY’s evaluations and those of other states? You guessed it, more simplistic check boxes.

Parents in the know are aware that these new evaluations have nothing to do with students. As a new NY State parent opt-out site puts it:

Millions of our tax dollars go to the Pearson Corporation to develop the entire assessment program for NYS.  Pearson also sells our schools the many workbooks and review books that your children use daily in school.  Look at the work your child brings home, you will most likely Pearson or McGraw-Hill stamped on the bottom. This corporate intrusion into our schools is draining scarce financial resources and is leading to cuts in the arts and larger class sizes.

Yes, “students first”, even after you shut 33 of their schools down in NYC. “Students first”, even though art, music and drama programs are being slashed in poor districts all over the state. “Students first”, even though the exams that students will be forced to take every single year have nothing to do with helping students learn, and everything to do with evaluating teachers.

I wonder how many enrichment programs were slashed so that Cuomo could pay for this useless website.



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.

20%: The Difference Between Sucking and Really Sucking

What a difference 20% makes.

So many things being said about our new teacher evaluations here in NYC.

Let us start with what we know:

I. 60% will be based on teacher performance.

A. 31% on principal observations wherein the principal must use a “research-based” rubric like Danielson. Particular rubric to be negotiated in collective bargaining and approved by the State Education Department (SED).

B. 29% will be based on other, non-principal-related evidence of teacher performance. Whatever this will be must be worked out in collective bargaining. Some suggestions that have been floated are peer observations and artifacts of student work.

II. 40% will be based on student learning.

A. 20% will use state-wide standardized exams for every subject and every grade. The teacher will be assigned a grade based upon a value added model.

B. 20% will be based on a local assessment to be worked out in collective bargaining.

A teacher found ineffective on the 40% part will be found ineffective overall.

This has led teachers to wonder what in the world that other 20% will be.

People like me, Arthur Goldstein, Peter Lamphere and others believe it will be a city-wide exam.

Yet, Leo Casey has stated here on this blog that it will not be an exam. Last night on Mind of a Bronx Teacher (which you can still listen to here.), Leo Casey stated unequivocally that it will not be an exam and will not be value-added.

Instead, he was confident that alternative forms of assessment will be used on the local level. Furthermore, he made the claim that, whatever these assessments turn out to be, teachers will be grading it themselves. No outside agency will put a number on it.

Obviously, those of us who fear a citywide exam and Leo Casey who is adamant about having no citywide exam cannot both be correct. Something has to give here.

Everything seems to hinge on this last 20%.

If people on my side are correct, our children will be given over to King Test. The most important part of our evaluations will hinge upon very arbitrary numbers that have proven time and again to be unreliable.

If Leo Casey is correct, it is a whole different ballgame.

Imagine that other 20% being an assessment that we administer and grade ourselves. These assessments would make up an important portion of our evaluations. It could mean the difference between keeping our livelihoods or “selling pencils” as Arthur Goldstein says.

If that is the case, what teacher would ever fail their students? It would institutionalize cheating across the city.

Think about it. The publication of the Teacher Data Reports this past weekend exposed how unreliable and wild value added data is. We know for a fact that this unreliable value-added crap will make up 20% of our evaluations.

If we have so much control over that other 20%, teachers are going to do their darndest to make sure students do not fail it. This includes everything up to and including blatant cheating. After all, if we have no control over the outcome of one 20% chunk (value added), then we will compensate by taking as much control as possible over the other 20% (local assessment).

So we have two visions of what the future of education in NYC will look like. One is all testing all the time. The other is a lot of testing along with incentives to cheat.

I am still inclined to believe that it will be all testing. The only reason we have to believe otherwise is the words of Leo Casey and the UFT. After the 2005 contract debacle (among many other things), rank-and-file teachers have reason to lack faith in what their union leadership tells them.

One thing is for certain: no matter what ends up happening, it is going to suck.