The Saturday midnight deadline will come and go but there will be no new teacher and principal evaluation system for the teachers in New York City in the Transformation-Restart schools. This is a positive development. Any agreement that would have been hammered out with the Department of Education would be a disaster for teachers. Reports from Transformation schools say that the new evaluation system based on the Danielson framework that the DOE has been able to partially implement this fall is nothing more than an attempt to get rid of veteran teachers.
Without an agreement, the city risks losing millions of dollars of federal Race to the Top funds called School Improvement Grants. Since most of that money is earmarked for more of the same data driven nonsense that is destroying the public schools, I say keep your blood money. We don't want it.
Under the new evaluation system that is mandated by a state education law, instead of rating us satisfactory or unsatisfactory, the new ratings will be highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective. All schools will have to use the new evaluation system by next school year but the law mandates that details and a review procedure need to be negotiated with the teachers' unions.
The UFT agreed to let the new system partially start in Transformation-Restart schools and negotiate the details by the end of 2011. The schools received part of the federal money but State Education Commissioner John King announced this week that if there is no agreement on how to fully implement the new evaluation system in the Transformation-Restart schools, the schools will lose the money. Gothamschools.org reported that the UFT was holding out in negotiations for a fair review procedure for teachers rated ineffective. The UFT wants ineffective teachers to be able to appeal their rating to an independent arbitrator.
The DOE wanted to keep the kangaroo court system otherwise known as the U rating appeal in effect where teachers appeal unsatisfactory ratings to a DOE panel and then we almost always lose these appeals.
Gotham reported, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew confirmed, that the UFT was willing to go to binding arbitration over the details of the evaluation system but the DOE said no. This concerns me as the UFT's record in arbitration is not so strong where we could say with confidence that this would be an easy victory. For a reference just look at the 2005 contract that was mostly hammered out by arbitrators. Arbitrators are hired and paid for jointly by labor and management so they tend to split the baby in half and give something to both sides. I would not want our future evaluation system put into the hands of arbitrators. We need to keep it in our own hands.
In arbitration, the DOE would more than likely ask for the sun, the stars and the moon as they did in 2005. Remember the 8 page contract proposal that would've basically taken away all of our rights. The UFT would be reasonable and responsible and ask for a few gains and the arbitrators would split the baby and give the DOE half of what they wanted. That happened in 2005 and we are now suffering as multiple schools are closed and our members are shuffled around as Absent Teacher Reserves. Before, 2005, members who were excessed were placed in new positions and those coming from closing schools had preferred placement rights. In negotiations the DOE wanted all excessed people fired after a year and UFT wanted them placed as they were before. The arbitrators wouldn't fire the excessed teachers but they called for the new system that allows for teachers to be unassigned ATRs. It is a disaster that has gotten worse for ATRs with last June's agreement to allow them to be rotated to different schools each week.
I am imagining how arbitration would go on the evaluation system. The DOE will come in and say they want to keep the current U rating appeal process for teachers who are rated ineffective. The UFT will say that we want an appeal before an independent arbitrator and the arbitrator's dilemma will be how to split the baby down the middle.
The cynic in me has a plausible answer. Since a high volume of ineffective ratings is almost guaranteed by the Danielson framework. this would allow arbitrators to land many jobs and a boatload of cash if they agree with the UFT position. However, the arbitrator will not rule outright for the UFT as this would anger the DOE. Therefore, to make the DOE happy, our ever intrepid arbitrator would say yes the cases have to be heard by arbitrators but they will make the standard for us to show we are not ineffective so high that few, if any teachers, will have their ratings overturned.
DOE is then happy because they can fire more teachers and shut many more up through the fear of the dreaded ineffective rating. The UFT is happy because they can tell their members they won them an independent review process. The arbitrators are elated about having more work. In fact, everybody wins but the teachers.
A better strategy than arbitration for the UFT, NYSUT and the principals who will also be covered under the new evaluation system, is to demand that the state change this ridiculous law that will hurt children as many competent educators will be terminated if it fully goes into effect. The suburban principals are with us on this as their letter opposing the evaluation system shows.
As for people in schools, our position must be to educate our members about the dangers of the new system and put pressure on the UFT to not cave in under any circumstances.
Finally, I want to thank my daughter for taking a fairly long nap today so I could write this.
Happy New Year!