Friday, December 30, 2011


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. 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!


Jeff Kaufman said...

Thanks, James for an insightful piece. There is a small wrinkle which might cause unforeseen consequences to rejected the DOE evaluation offers. While the law is clear about union input it is less clear about impasse. Impasse might yield the DOE getting its own way as legislators blame the union or the courts side with traditional decision makers in evaluation systems. In most scenarios other than the loss of the money the City has calculated that it will ultimately prevail. The union must show overwhelming political strength to stop this...something they clearly are not prepared for.

James Eterno said...

Jeff-You are adding to this bleak picture. That is why the support from the suburban principals is so important. Bloomberg, King and company are now messing with school districts with money and power. They may be going too far.

Anonymous said...


Nicely explicated. As always.

Let's at least give Mulgrew and Co. some credit for trying to fashion something positive ( i.e. elimination of the "kangaroo court" appeals process currently in place) from this crisis.

Good to know they at least *care* about that.

BTW, Today's ( 12/31) NYT quotes Walcott as saying only 2% of teachers are U-rated in any single year. Where do you suppose he gets that stat from?


Anonymous said...

I agree with you Perry that the UFT does deserve credit for holding out to try to improve the system. However, under the current DOE regime this isn't going to happen unless we force the issue by a full scale rebellion against Danielson.

Anonymous said...

The two percent number comes out of his butt like everything else the DOE does.

proofoflife said...

I have gone to three or more "p.d.s" on Danielson. I'm sure this will come as no surprise, but not one of the teachers on the videos ( from last years MET program) were rated as highly effective. NOT ONE!! according to the framework and rubric one would have to be a Stepford Teacher with robot students to be rated as highly effective. I've been teaching for over twenty years and my admin said my lesson plans were vague. I reminded her they are for the sole use of the teacher and they are not vague to me. I was rated as developing. The entire thing makes me sick!

Anonymous said...

UFT supported the change in the law so should they now be credited for not sanctioning our total annihilation? Jeff says it may happen anyway. It is a bleak picture.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that many principals in schools that are not supposed to use Danielson are jumping the gun and using it to rate us ineffective, thus unsatisfactory. We need to force the UFT to stand up for us and stop playing footsie with management.

Anonymous said...

It is significant that it was management that walked out of negotiations. The UFT was probably ready to sell us out again but it wasn't enough of a sell out for Walcott and the other Bloomberg stooges.

Marjorie Stamberg said...

Excellent piece that ties together two of the UFT's most devastating sell-outs: the agreement to link teacher evals to student test scores, and the 2005 contract which eliminated seniority transfers and created the ATR crisis. The union will be greatly weakened by this.

Question -- we could use a thorough-going critique of "Danielson" method; maybe someone from the Transformation Schools is working on this.

Marjorie Stamberg

Anonymous said...

Danielson is a way to micromanage and then get teachers. It doesn't need much more explanation than that.

Anonymous said...


Danielson gets a free ride. There's little that I can find on the net that is uncomplimentary.

It's bit curious, because much of the framework is blatantly unworkable in the kind of schools many of us work in.

Example: D75 schools teaching severely/profoundly handicapped. How does the T foster small group work with kids that literally CANNOT speak ? How do such kids "assess" themselves and EACH OTHER?

And YES... D75 schools are in the pilot.

Good friggin' grief.


Anonymous said...

"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".
As you stated in the above paragraph, these are the usual tactics of the UFT; to negotiate something that sounds "new and improved", but actually just delays the pain and suffering a little longer. There is no genuine due process for the teachers ever since the superintendents lost their power of oversight with principals. The principal has all the power. You are literally at the mercy of the principal. That's the bottom line. No independent oversight. Since when should teachers ever be evaluated based on the opinion of one person who controls and manipulates his/her own AP's and staff with intimidation, and the teachers with the fear of being evaluated "ineffective".
I've been in schools where the AP liked me, but the principal didn't. So what power does an AP have other than to be at the mercy of his/her own principal?
Correct evaluations occur only in an atmosphere where there is respectful and honest communication, and good relationships among the members of staff. Teachers simply cannot flourish and properly utilize their skills in the present atmosphere of "dictatorial rule".