Thursday, February 16, 2012


The UFT and New York State United Teachers (All of the local unions in the state) gave away the store in today's agreements with the city and the State Education Department concerning teacher evaluations. This is part of a 2010 law that New York State passed to try to get Federal Race to the Top money. Details had to be negotiated with unions.  While we still don't have a final agreement on a new evaluation system in New York City, what is emerging is a system with few safeguards that has the potential to allow the Department of Education to terminate many tenured teachers starting in 2014.

At the state level, the NYSUT lawsuit on evaluations was resolved by today's agreement with the state. 40% of a teacher's annual rating will be based upon student performance on tests, with half of that 40% being standardized tests and the other half being locally developed assessments (whatever that means) that the State Education Department must approve.  The other 60% will be based on subjective measures such as principal observations and they can throw in some peer review, parent review or student review if the local district and union want to.  

The overall grade to achieve a passing rating for the year will be 65. Scores of 0-64 will result in an ineffective rating, 65-74 will mean a developing rating, 75-90 will mean an effective rating and 91-100 will translate into highly effective.  However, if a teacher is rated ineffective in the student test score portion, the teacher cannot get a passing grade.  Also, if a principal doesn't like a teacher and does hatchet jobs in observations, it appears to me that huge test score gains will not save the teacher.  There are so many ways to fail teachers here. 

People say we shouldn't worry because we have tenure but two ineffective ratings in a row shifts the burden of proof onto the teacher to prove that he/she is not incompetent.  That will not be easy. One wonders why NYSUT would agree to any of this and not just tell the State to turn down the federal money that we would lose if there was no agreement.

As for New York City, the UFT held out in negotiations with the city for a stronger appeal process for teachers rated ineffective.  The DOE walked out of negotiations during the Christmas break and proceeded to announce that they would close most of the transformation-restart schools that were supposed to be the first to use the new evaluation system.  The UFT wanted teachers rated ineffective to have a review before an independent arbitrator while the DOE held that teachers should have a review by the Chancellor like the U rating appeal process where teachers lose 99.6% of these appeals. 

The compromise that was reached today was, as usual, an almost total capitulation by the union.  13% of teachers rated ineffective can have an appeal before a three person panel. One of the panel members will be chosen by the union, one by DOE and the third person will be selected by the first two.  That is truly an independent appeal process but according to President Mulgrew's email to us, "The union can identify up to 13% of all ineffective ratings each year to challenge on grounds of harassment or other matters not related to performance."  It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove harassment if the students didn't succeed on the tests or a teacher's performance in class was rated ineffective by the principal.  Also, it is the UFT who decides which teachers get to have their case heard by the independent panel.  There will be no favoritism there right? It gets worse.

The other 87% rated ineffective can only appeal to the chancellor just like the current U rating appeal process.  One does not need a crystal ball to predict that teachers will continue to have virtually no chance in these hearings.  However the UFT says don't worry because, "A teacher who has an ineffective rating the following year will receive an independent validator.  (The person is chosen through a joint process and will not be a UFT or DOE employee.)  The independent evaluator will observe the teacher at least three times during the school year and issue a report with his or her rating of the teacher."  

This process sounds eerily like Peer Intervention Plus to me.  In PIP+ people not employed by UFT or DOE observe U rated teachers and basically rubber stamp the U's in most cases. In the new system if the validator agrees that the teacher is not ineffective, then that evidence can be used in a 3020A hearing (tenure process) to help the teacher as the burden of proof would then fall on the DOE but if the validator validates the ineffective rating as they usually do in PIP+, then the teacher would carry the burden of proof in the tenure hearing and the chances of staying on the job will be slim and none in my opinion. 

Tenure will be significantly weakened if this evaluation system is finalized.  The local assessments and other details still have to be negotiated by the UFT and DOE.  A best case scenario is that there will never be an agreement on the local assessments and this whole new evaluation process will then collapse under the weight of its stupidity.  What are going to be the assessments for teachers in non regents subjects in the high school for example? 

The only way to stop any of this from going into effect is for us to raise our collective voices loudly and say that we're not going to voluntarily walk into the guillotine.  If today's agreement becomes our actual teacher evaluation system, then there will more than likely be massive teacher firings beginning in 2014.  

If there is anything positive to take from today's events, it's that President Mulgrew was there with the governor announcing the deal and maybe they are developing the kind of bond we can use to influence the state to pass legislation to end mayoral control now before the school system is completely destroyed.

PS-For those expecting our monthly Delegate Assembly report, I was stuck on the platform waiting for the 7 train for a long time yesterday, as a train was stuck one station ahead, so I missed most of the DA.  The resolutions that passed were not controversial and some of the Presidents' report, I am told, was about the evaluation issue so I am skipping doing a report which today is obsolete.  If anyone else wants to do it, email me at and I will post it.


Anonymous said...

A few sincere questions.
A: Who exactly is the PIP+ evaluator? What credentials would he or she have that deems them fit to observe a teacher?
B: James, I am going on my 15th year in the system - most at one of the few remaining big high schools in Queens. Although not a delagate or a chapter representative for my department, I am vocal in the sense that I do let many others I work with know what is truly going on - I'm sure it would not surprise you how many in a relatively safe school do not know the full picture of mayoral control or what this evaluation may mean. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO? I mean it - who better to ask than you? What other things can the everyday rank and file do? I want to here from someone who has been fighting for a long time. Thank you.

Unitymustgo! said...

I say we all cancel our COPE. It's immediate and something the union will take very seriously. Yes it's risky because it's like cutting off your own nose, but at this point they are completely useless. I'm elementary I can assure you my preference cheat will K, 1, 2 accompanied by an application for every cluster position in the school. Of course doing so will red flag me and make me a target as a troublemaker. The only chance any teacher has of keeping their job over time is to completely kiss ass, suck up, and be you administrations bitch and lie and cheat. Or become an administrator yourself and sell your sole as you are forced to target teachers and fulfill ineffective rating quotas.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood the reliance on observation reports to evaluate teachers. What good are these BS reports? And what about "Teaching for the 21st Century"?

Anonymous said...

I agree with this post but not the title. It's not just "tenured" teachers. It's all teachers.

If new teachers are dropping out within the first 5 years, we will get to a point where very few will enter the field.

Unity did their theatrical thing again pretending to disagree with this, yet they caved in.

I still have questions about this 13% for the first year only and who will get to the arbitrators?

Anonymous said...

Rationing due process? Why 13 percent? Why not 20 percent? What accountability will there be for principals who erroneously call too many teachers "ineffective"? If they lose too many cases (probably not likely, but still...)will there be consequences for them? What' to prevent them from being reckless with U rating teachers?

We have our union leadership to thank for this because they supported mayoral control. Doesn't Mulgrew get it? Or won't the Unity Caucus allow him to? It's hard to admit for them they "F----ed" up.

Anonymous said...

Now you see the importance of passing the increase in the number of retirees in UFT elections. This evaluation system will permit large numbers of teachers rated ineffective because we know the real problem in public schools are the students. Unity leadership anticipated this agreement and loaded up the membership with retiree and day care provider votes.

Anonymous said...

I just returned from Florida visiting retired UFT members, and frankly, they don't care about this. Their concern is for their pension and social security, so they will vote with Mulgrew because none of these issues are discussed with retirees. And if they are, the "spin" in deep.

ed notes online said...

I've maintained for years that the single most important thing for teachers to do is establish an effective opposition force to Unity in the UFT. Even if it's an opposition that wouldn't win what is a rigged election in favor of Unity, an opposition reaching deep into the schools by capturing chapter leader and delegate positions would be able to provide pressure. But with a guarantee of little opposition at any level the Unity gang can pretty much give up the store. Why do they care if we have a transient teaching force that turns over every 5 years? They get their dues money no matter what.

If New Action hadn't sold out and instead worked on using the network it had built up over 30 years to build itself into an effective opposition we might have seen a different story. Since 2004 ICE and TJC started from ground zero in trying to build an opposition but have never gotten much traction. Recently, many of the critical forces and groups within the UFT have started gathering and held a state of the union conference to explore options on Feb. 4 that attracted over 200 people. Hopefully, that is only the beginning. But it won't go much further until many of the rank and file see the need for an effective opposition which must include new blood beyond the usual suspects.

Anonymous said...

The real problems lies in the faith we have on the system, that elects our so called "elected leaders", both in our unions and politicians, like Bloomberg, Cuomo. In the last election of the UFT, teachers voted in large numbers for the incumbent Unity party, thinking that they will somehow be equal to the task, saving public education, representing the teachers, jobs, tenure, working conditions, etc.

We the activists in the opposition even went to the extend of trying to convince the UFT Unity caucus leadership to join us in the struggle against school closings, the PEP.

Teachers in individual schools made calls to the leaders to come to speak to the members in their schools, the UFT leadership came to a few schools to invite teachers to meet in local UFT offices to the develop a "plan of action", that some how Mulgrew will bring to the mayor, and the mayor will gladly accept.

Sometimes we even went to the executive committee meetings or other meetings with Weingarten when she was president or some other local meeting where the leadership spoke to the Chapter Leaders and delegates and friends about other issues but not the issues relevant to the teachers. For example, in one of these, Weingarten spoke about police presence in the schools, "safety issue", the members present ate it all up. The issue of police presence in the school is related to democracy in the public schools, no one took up the question even to question it.Then they gave us cookies and coffee and went home happy.

There are many examples of "leaders" visiting schools, with a captive audience who said very little or even presented mild criticism of their leadership.

Today within the opposition to Mulgrew Unity team, we have some members who say that we should not criticize them, the leadership,that we have to defend the Union against the attacks on unionism. But what is real unionism? Why not campaigns about what is the role of a Union, in todays present state of affairs?

Is the UFT Unity caucus in leadership of our Union,that supported Bloomberg for Mayoralty control, and now are selling us out across the board, the latest on the question of evaluations, 13%, independent evaluators, 40% etc on and on, our real representatives?

How long are we going to wait to wage a real campaign against these leaders, so call "Union leaders" and so called "elected representatives" and begin to speak in our name once and for all?

Anonymous said...

Great discussion starting here. We are in real trouble and people reading this seem to get it.This is a matter of our jobs.

Anonymous said...

Teaching for the 21st century is so nineties. Now it's the Danielson framework.

jed said...

So what is going to be different? We have a system where over 90 percent of U appeals are upheld for the DoE against teachers. Do we have any reason to believe the evaluators will be any different? I agree with the previous poster that "rationing due process" is a poor precedent for a union.

We have some momentum with the Occupy movements. Let's embrace their principles. Stop running the UFT like a corporation, and democratize it. Elections for all reps by direct constituents only instead of executive appointments (no more "at large"), no caucus monopoly on NY Teacher or address information on retirees. Who knows, maybe we might get respectable turnouts at union elections instead of electing the President of the UFT with about 18 percent of the membership, or the High School Vice President being elected by elementary school teachers.

Sandra said...

This is not bad news! I'm sorry but I'm tired of seeing ineffective teachers in my school riding their fat waves to retirement. Today one of those "riders" asked me to keep my agenda/aim/do now on our shared classroom board because he wanted to appear as if it was his. He doesn't even teach the same subject as I do. Then later I walked into his room just before the bell rang as a student exclaimed: "You're unprepared, you made us do this work that I don't even understand at the last minute, you're a terrible teacher!!!" The problem is not with the kids, they want to learn! They need real leadership and hard working teachers. I don't feel one bit of pity to those teachers who were gifted tenure back in those days of desperation and think that that should save them from a true evaluation of their effectiveness especially in high school and especially if they are assigned to teach a regents course. It's about time that teaching is recognized as a legitimate profession and that will only happen when the we cut the rope from the dead weight in our urban school systems! Thank you to the UFT for working hard to reach an agreement and get the ball rolling. We hard working and truly dedicated teachers deserve it!

Sandra said...

Additionally, there are teachers who legitimately want to do better and cannot get the helpful feedback do to so in our current situation. Teacher evaluations are designed to offer that (not just to give bad teachers the boot). There is nothing to fear about a system for evaluation. We must begin our conversation somewhere because this is a problem that can no longer be ignored.

Fight The Power said...

Mulgrew HAD to agree to this because what Cuomo would have forced upon us would have been worse.

What we have to do is document everything. For example, I keep anecdotals on my principal. She has made cracks like "Do you have enough years to retire?" In December, somehow an ad for AARP was placed in my mailbox. A few times my timecard was moved to "Out" by someone. Then the principal observed me in the school's worst class. Oh, I just turned 50. Surprise, surprise.

BTW, videotape your observations. Then sue the bastards.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the merit pay proposal? We now have a termination system in place. 2 U ratings and the burden of proof switches to the teacher-that is major. The ratings will be reviewed first. The arbitrators will defer to those reviewing the ratings just like they now defer to PIP Plus. The 3020-a tenure hearing process has been watered down to nothing.
Now teachers are going to fight each other or at least not help each other so that their grades are not lower than others.
The question that needs to be asked is what to do. We can't except help from the UFT. Someone needs to organize a large mass of people (here this ICE) to challenge the constitutionality of all of this. This is still America I hope.

Anonymous said...

Sandra is the future. Teachers bashing their colleagues. And, she applauds the UFT. Mulgrew could have just said no and fought like hell.

Anonymous said...

Observations to improve instruction. By the assistant principal or principal who know nothing about the subject I teach and couldn't teach to save their lives. Are you kidding me?

Anonymous said...

Arnold Dodge, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Long Island University, said it was a “political deal” that would reduce the complexities of teaching to a simple number. “It’s not fair, it’s not reliable, and it’s not stable,” he said, adding, “You’re going to get a superficial number that has virtually no meaning for the long term.”

veteran teacher said...

one thing i do know is that i will not give my children a dime for their college education if they want to major in education. it is truly a waste.

Anonymous said...

Sandra must be more than a little dense if she doesn't see the inherent faultiness of this new deal. Yes, Saint Sandra, even YOU may get an "I" next year if your data isn't up to, at this time,an unknown par.

Anonymous said...

It looks as though all the people who hate teachers love this deal. Need I say more about how bad it is.

Anonymous said...

It looks as though all the people who hate teachers love this deal. Need I say more about how bad it is.

kab said...

Unfortunately Unitymustgo! did not proofread his or her comment. The comment is full of grammatical errors. He or she claims to be an early elementary grades teacher. Who better than to be a role model for correct writing? Sorry to be off topic here, but I am an English teacher in HS, and if that comment is an example of the typical writing level in elementary schools, then Unitymustgo! should rethink his or her (not their) career choice.
(James, you're a great guy, but not every teacher deserves defending.)

Anonymous said...

On the last pathetic English teacher grammar police comment on Unity Must go. This is a comment on a blog for christ sakes not a thesis. Actually I must be pretty dense myself since all I can see is a word and one letter left out. I pity the kids you teach.

By the way, did you proofread this?
Who better than to be a role model for correct writing?

Anonymous said...

Grammar police aside, this agreement is terrible.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who believes that this evaluator will really be impartial needs to look into the DOE's (not UFT's) peer intervention program. They come in, design a plan for you, and observe you ten times during the year, systematically rating you unsatisfactory each time...I have seen this program in action. A former coach with no administrative experience was the evaluator and, yes, they worked for an outside vendor. The vendor, however, was (and will be, in this case) paid by DOE.

kab said...

How dare you presume to judge my teaching ability? You have no right to disparage my teaching or how I treat my students. My students are not writing for publication; I do not expect perfection. Whoever wrote the comment I responded to IS writing for publication. And it is attitudes like yours, in which nothing matters anymore, that have led city administrators to run roughshod over the teachers. They would not dare treat the poiice or firefighters this way, because they would fight back. In the years since Mulgrew took office, the UFT has turned into a joke. Every protection that has been won is now long gone. Perhaps the UFT position back then was that it "didn't matter" that much. I guess it did, huh?