Tuesday, June 05, 2018


The UFT often acts in ways that leave me scratching my head and saying, "What the f***?" Last night was one of those occasions as the Executive Board, with only one abstention, passed a resolution to support pushing a bill through the State Senate that barely tweaks the highly faulty teacher evaluation system.

It is not surprising that the resolution passed as Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus has a huge majority at the Executive Board. Members of the Unity Caucus agree they will support positions of the caucus in union and public forums.

What is shocking is that only one of the seven New Action-MORE-independent high school representatives abstained. Two were absent but the other four went right along with Unity supporting a resolution to promote a bill that changes very little in teacher evaluation. One of our seven reps wrote as recently as February these words about student test score based teacher evaluation: "It's funny because when junk science opponents (like me and Diane Ravitch) object to said junk science..." Here is a link to this piece which I agree with. Unfortunately, the bill the UFT and NYSUT are pushing continues the use of junk science in teacher evaluation. It just changes the options of the tests that can be used to evaluate us. Diane Ravitch correctly termed the bill a "sham" in her excellent analysis.

From Diane's blog:
Recently, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon issued a press release calling for the repeal of the state teacher evaluation system, which links teacher evaluation to state test scores of their students.

Almost immediately, the State Assembly (in Democratic control) announced that it was writing a bill to revise test-based teacher evaluation. The Assembly bill passed overwhelmingly, but it was a sham. Instead of repealing test-based teacher evaluation, it said that districts could use the test of their own choosing to evaluate teachers, so long as the test was approved by the State Commissioner. That does not repeal test-based evaluation, and critics warned that there might be “double-testing,” once for the state tests, another time for local tests.

In addition, the bill does absolutely nothing to stop or reduce the anti-teacher Danielson observations that teachers in NYC are forced to endure.

New York State Allies for Public Education, Leonie Haimson's New York City Parents blog, Democratic candidate for Governor Cynthia Nixon and now MORE's Jia Lee (who is also the Green Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor) want the entire evaluation system repealed. Jia correctly calls the bill going through the Legislature "smoke and mirrors."

The ICEUFT blog goes out of our way be fair to our union leaders to try to understand their point of view.

Here is what we learn from Arthur Goldstein's report from last night's Executive Board meeting on this issue:

Evelyn de Jesus—Bill sitting in Senate. Bill says should be local control over teacher eval. We know teachers want to get rid of mandate. Locals should have other options. If doesn’t pass, moratorium will expire. We want to control our own destiny. Please vote for resolution.

Mike Schirtzer—Why are we not calling for repeal of 3012d and c? Agree it should be local. Trusts UFT to work out system for us.

Schoor—Lot of moving parts, some state law, some local negotiations. Some will be on table, some not. We try to do things that can actually get passed. That’s why it’s part of law. Other part would not get past State Senate. Trying to get what we can passed. We feel it can get passed now, other things not.

Schirtzer—Would bring back some local control?

Schoor—control over tests. Will no longer mandate Regents.


Oh my word, the UFT is giving the "It's the best we can do" argument in support of their sham bill. Could  they at least come up with something better? It's the same thing they do in contract negotiations. How does the UFT know that they can't get the evaluation law fully repealed if they don't even try? 

It is obvious that tweaking a terrible law is not sufficient. If we go from using the Regents exams to rate teachers to an equally or more unreliable state approved city MOSL exam, this is still junk science. I would not support trading one version of junk science for another as it won't help our constituents in NYC.

If this bill does pass, the UFT and NYSUT will once again declare a major victory but teachers will return to school in the fall and realize virtually nothing has changed and they will become even more cynical about their union during their four Danielson drive-by observations.

It would be much better to ask now for a full repeal and make it a big issue in the campaign for governor, particularly with Cynthia Nixon running to the left of Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

The UFT and NYSUT are also opining that the moratorium on using the dreaded grade 3-8 state tests to rate teachers ends after the 2018-19 school year so if we don't have this bill, teachers will be judged on those tests in the 2019-20 school year.  That timeframe is all the more reason to make full repeal the goal now and if we have to, then settle for something next year when even if Cuomo wins reelection, he still needs to show his progressive credentials if he wants to be the Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2020. We might have maximum leverage when Cuomo tries to move left to win the nomination. Instead, if we get this bill passed now, we will look very pushy to be going to the Legislature a year after they gave us something on evaluation and trying for more. 

Sadly, I don't believe the UFT will go for repeal regardless of what happens in Albany now because the Union favors as Mulgrew says "the use of multiple measures..." to rate us. Translation, student assessments should be part of our ratings according to our President. We fundamentally disagree on this issue. 

Today, I am just a little heartbroken as we have worked so hard, particularly in the last few months, to put out and spread a petition to repeal of the evaluation law and hoped to get full support from the seven people we helped to get elected to the Executive Board. At least Mike Schirtzer abstained which I can respect. Two were not present but our other four high school representatives in my opinion made a mistake voting in favor of a resolution that calls for the UFT to push a bill the Union says will "fix the state's broken teacher evaluation system." That bill will do no such thing. We are stuck with test based teacher evaluation for a long time unless Nixon upsets Cuomo in the primary or something else drastically changes after Janus.


Anonymous said...

I agree, James. We need a repeal of the teacher evaluation law. The UFT-supported bill does little to change the toxic evaluations.

Mary Ahern

John G said...

I have to say that without the test scores, my own rating for the year would have dropped from a highly effective to a developing ..maybe ineffective. The difference? My supervisor liked me last year and has been unhappy with with me this year. That is a fact.

I read the petition and have carefully read all of the alternatives discussed over the past 7 or even 8 years now and I have never once heard of an alternative that would offset this. I read the discussions out there and I think to myself "mhmm. OK. I agree Danielson is bad probably the worst rubric in the state. And I agree supervisors use it as a retaliation against teachers and as a tool to satisfy their supes and Tweed. I agree that is no way to run a laundromat, much less a public school. And I agree that the city VAM formula for my discipline (which is a complete secret, by the way, not shared with anyone in the public) is horrendous. But I also think that capricious supervisors are capricious supervisors and I have heard no suggestions to offset a dark reality where those people have 100% power over teachers. I admit here, I take comfort in knowing that they no longer have 100% control over our rating.

In all my time in ICE and MORE, I never once felt the space was safe enough for me to ask "ok. But how do we make sure they don't have that kind of power over us?" (notwithstanding the standard "we al must organize and change the world" answers that were always absolutely meaningless as a solution to a singular problem. And I never heard once a suggestion from anyone in the dissent, including Ravitch, for a rating system that would take 1/2 of their power over our jobs away from Leadership Academy grads who don't know, don't care AND don't stay beyond three years anyway.

I'm sorry you're heartbroken. But I have been teaching for 18 years now. I have seen this APPR nonsense be born, then grow and now mature, so I know what I'm asking when I ask you to please understand, this thing you call a "sham" may well be saving my job this year.

Anonymous said...

Fuck MORE and fuck Mulgrew. It is obvious they do not have our backs in regard to evaluations. If we are going to be stuck with this new shitty evaluation law, we better at least get 2 observations for tenured teachers here in NYC. Notice how I wrote "choice". Mulgrew seems to like having 4 observations but 99% of teachers and admins do not. Thus, in the new contract, tenured teachers should have the option to choose to have 2, 3, or 4 observations at the start of the year. This is no-brainer. I am betting that every teacher who filled out the UFT contract survey mentioned that they want 2 observations. This better happen!

Anonymous said...

Anyone approached by your schools Janus team yet basically asking for a new loyalty oath? All yes or no questions, like will you keep paying?..no maybe option, they are purposefully deaf to us. I said no just to make a point, even if like me you plan to stay in the union we should all answer that survey question with a resounding NO to shake em up a bit, if that would even, now I am going to get in my car and hold back the tears and anxiety as I drive to the Bronx to be harassed by drug addled gang members who don't learn because I am a bad teacher, hope your day is better.

John G said...

I'm going to go ahead and add that were it not for these test scores, which I agree are horrible, then my end of year rating would be the same as anon 5:52

Anonymous said...

The UFT is hopelessly corrupt.
Only way to repeal the evaluation is to withhold dues. Then, and only then, the UFT will be forced to act on behalf of their members.

Anonymous said...

That is the only way.

James Eterno said...

I uppdated the post to reflect that one MORE and one NAC rep were absent. Sorry about that.

If John G is right and members are longing for test based evaluations to save their jobs, I am perfectly willing to have that debate. I will back down if the masses are for this system.

People here wanted the petition to scrap the whole system which we started. I was not aware there was any support among our people for an incremental bill for slight improvements in a terribly flawed system.

My understanding is that the test scores could be used in the olden days too in hearings to show someone was doing their job. However, what about the Sheri Lederman case where the test scores lowered a rating? Particularly in schools that have numerous kids with the greatest needs, it is easy for the test scores to sink someone. I saw it happen to someone I know where the MOSL marking was, let's just say we suspect, manipulated and we were not allowed to see the papers.

As for the argument that MOSL scores save jobs, someone else very close to me was moved from developing to effective overall through the MOSL score and was still discontinued.

I think the evaluation system is awful and I thought there was a consensus on this but apparently some of our people think we should go for incremental change so I guess it is time once again for me to lick my wounds and move on.

T.J. L said...

No, James, this MOSL and APPR stuff is pure junk science. Many teachers are not even graded on their own students' performance in their own classes or subjects.

Whoever gets bumped up this year from D to E could get bumped down next year from D to U.

These tests measure STUDENT performance, not TEACHER performance. Teacher performance can only be judged by observing what the TEACHER does.

James Eterno said...

I agree the test scores giveth and just as easily the test scores taketh away. At Jamaica all of us in 2014 had our ratings sunk in our closing school by the test scores from kids who were totally misprogrammed because we had special ed, ELL and mainstream all mixed because there weren't enough students left in the school to give them proper schedules.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

UFT members are too passive, gullible and obedient. These inferior attributes enable Mulgrew too throw the UFT membership under the bus, time after time as easy roadkill.

John G said...

Just wanted to quickly say that no one I know is longing for anything that I am aware of. I, nor no one I know, is advocating for anything. I feel the facts of my experience should be shared in order to illustrate the incredibly nuanced issues related to this system. Unsatisfactory ratings have been reduced to less than 1,000 under this system. They were well in the 1000s before 3012 was changed. Thise are facts. And yet it is an enormous mess that mocks the profession. I feel like that's as close to fact as anything.

I like the petition, not so much for any one thing it advocates, but that it represents pressure on the powers that be to not get comfortable with this mess, nor with any mess similar to it. But I am in the classroom and my superviors have control over only 1/2 of my rating. That shouldnt be something that's overlooked.

And that's only my 2 cents.

James Eterno said...

John G, As I said before, the test scores giveth and the test scores taketh away. All of us in 2014 had our ratings sunk by the test scores in Jamaica's last year. That is a fact.

Another fact is someone I know very well was developing on MOTP and effective on MOSL. They were effective overall but they were still discontinued. Who cares if there were only 200 ineffective if you are fired with an effective rating?

Discontinuances are not down nor are 3020a hearings to my knowledge so what is the advantage of the current system?

Anonymous said...

There is no advantage to this evaluation sytem or the new one being proposed by NYS politicians and NYSUT. Guilty until proven innocent or incompetent until proven competent is and always will be unacceptable. Tying anyone to someone else's test scores is illogical and unreasonable. If John G's school burned down and he was sent elsewhere, his students'scores might be his undoing. Either teachers accept the premise that students' scores are a reflection of our teaching ability or we don't. We can't accept it only when it makes our rating effective and then reject it only when it makes our rating go down. There is absolutely nothing fair and reasonable about Danielson either. I use the following example all the time: A teacher in my school got a developing in a component because 2 students known for their violent outbursts decided to charge at each other with fists flying. My colleague used a loud commanding voice and got them to stop in their tracks. Her supervisor told her the students are supposed to monitor and correct their own behavior so according to Danielson my colleague was developing because she stopped the fight. That's just one anecdotal absurdity with Danielson. I could list dozens more. Roseanne McCosh

James Eterno said...

Roseanne I agree 100% with what you stated so well.

Anonymous said...

We need to file PERB complaints against the UFT who us not doing their jobs.