Friday, February 24, 2012


UFT and NYSUT leaders (basically the same people) are obviously alarmed that their deal on evaluations for teachers is not going over that well with their members or education activists.  Besides Long Island Principal Carol Burris, who co-wrote the principal's letter objecting to the new evaluation system, and notable educational historian Diane Ravitch, who also has major concerns about teachers being rated ineffective because of student test scores, and the amazing parent activist Leonie Haimson who is out there defending teachers, we now have a NYSUT local president upstate questioning the deal and wondering why his members have to pay NYSUT dues.  The UFT leadership answers this by trotting out Leo Casey, to assuage fears and reassure everyone that all is well because the new evaluation system is actually a major step forward for the state's teachers. In New York City we have seen this movie before and it does not end well for teachers.

I read Leo's post over at EdWize and I encourage people to do the same.  He basically attacks  the work of Carol Burris, a principal who is fighting to defend teachers, particularly New York City teachers, who stand to lose the most if the new evaluation system is implemented.

Casey's main thesis seems to be that state standardized tests will only be used for 20% of the rating for many teachers but that for everything else there is nothing to be alarmed about because the entire system must be negotiated locally by each school district and their union local (NYC is one city district according to state law and the UFT is our local).

Assailed Teacher gets into the data weeds with Casey and dissects his argument in a very detailed way.  He concludes, and I agree, that Casey was not able to refute one of Carol Burris' main arguments which is that if a teacher is rated ineffective on the student growth portions (translation high stakes tests or some other nonsense evaluation that the State Education Commissioner must approve), then that teacher will be    rated ineffective overall.  I have to admit that my head is spinning trying to understand all of the minutia used by Casey, Burris, and other people as they crunch the numbers but I have concluded that it will be easier to rate teachers ineffective under the new system and that it will be much simpler to fire us as two ineffective ratings leads to a presumption of incompetence.  Many competent professionals will be terminated unless this is stopped.

In some districts throughout the state, where they have collaborative working relationships between labor and management, they might be able to come to an arrangement so that teachers won't be teaching in a climate of fear.  However, in New York City where there is a mayor who is on record saying if he had his way he would fire half of the teachers, there is basically no chance of anything being negotiated that will be fair for principals, teachers or students. Unless the next mayor is willing to clean house by getting rid of virtually all of Bloomberg's education department, there probably will not be much hope even after Bloomberg is gone.

My worst case scenario is for the UFT to finalize a deal with the City on the evaluations.  We need to tell the UFT that they should tell the mayor, governor and president that they can keep their Race to the Top money.  We want no part of it.  The alternative is the two sides negotiating a final evaluation agreement. History tells us that whenever the UFT goes into negotiations with Bloomberg, we lose. The evidence supporting this statement is overwhelming over the last decade.  For salary increases that have not even kept up with the cost of living, we have seen teaching and learning conditions deteriorate dramatically through collective bargaining with Bloomberg.

Look at 2002 where a contract agreement extended the school day and left the extended time up to management.  The deal was so bad it had to be renegotiated several times in subsequent years.  2002 also brought us the counseling memo, the ability of arbitrators to rewrite letters in the file and weakened due process.

Then, in 2005, the UFT agreed to a contract with a long list of givebacks such as a longer day with an extra small group instruction period, a return of lunch and hall duty for teachers, an end to grievances for unfair/inaccurate material in teacher files, further weakening of due process so teachers could be suspended without pay based on a probable cause hearing, expedited time and attendance 3020A hearings, and of course the end to seniority and School Based Option transfers, which paved the way for the perpetual Absent Teacher Reserve crisis. Last year the UFT exacerbated this problem by agreeing to allow ATRS to be moved on a weekly basis from school to school to avoid layoffs (We also gave up sabbaticals for next year).

Does anyone really believe that the Department of Education will negotiate a fair evaluation process that is teacher friendly and promotes professional growth?  As the saying goes, "Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them." Reading Leo Casey defend this indefensible evaluation system gives me that eerie sense of deja vu.  In 2005, Leo attacked people like me for criticizing the 2005 giveback laden contract. History has vindicated our view but Casey is at it again.

Let us examine some of what Mr. Casey said in 2005 when he was promoting that awful contract.  He claimed: "Seniority in lay-offs is a core union principle. We could not accept a contract which did not secure the rights of senior excessed teachers to a position in another school."  Tell that to the ATRs.

I ask Leo to look at his next statement justifying the 2005 contract in a section called "What Did We Turn Back?" closely before he writes his next piece on evaluations:

"The DOE demanded an end to tenure, an end to the ‘just cause’ standard for a teacher’s dismissal, and an end to having independent arbitrators hear and decide cases for a teacher’s dismissal. The Chancellor wanted the burden of proof in dismissal cases to be shifted to the teacher, who would have to demonstrate that she was a satisfactory teacher who should not be dismissed, rather than the DOE having to show that she was unsatisfactory and should not be dismissed." (Bold added by me.)

Didn't NYSUT support the  change in law that shifts the burden of proof to teachers just as former Chancellor Joel Klein wanted back in 2005 and won't the bulk of our appeals under the new system be exactly as Klein wanted them?

Leo has flip-flopped on using student test scores to rate teachers as well.  Leo's previous position on using student test scores to rate teachers is in this piece from 2008, that I thank Phillip Nobile for finding. Leo stated: "The DoE has no contractual or legal authority to use test score data in the evaluation of teachers, and the UFT will oppose it with all the means at our disposal. This is a line in the sand for the UFT."  I guess the line shifted a bit.  

It goes on and on.  

The NY Post, the Daily News, E 4 ME (Educators for Excellence) and all of the anti teacher and anti union forces are coming out in favor of the new evaluation agreement.  People like Diane Ravitch, Aaron Pallas, Leonie Haimson, Carol Burris and other enlightened thinkers are raising the red flags all over the place.  You would think the UFT would be smart enough to know where to line up.

However, that would contradict the doctrine of Unity Caucus (UFT leadership) Infallibility so instead of doing what is right by the membership, Leo Casey is out again playing the role of Defender of the Faith, telling us why the new evaluation agreement is a victory for us.  I can't wait to see his encyclical on how  the appeal process is such a big win too.

This is in no way a personal attack on Leo Casey.  In fact it is quite the opposite.  Having to defend the indefensible as Leo has done is not an easy task but someone in Unity has to do it every time they make our working lives worse, which unfortunately is way too often. Judging by results in UFT elections, where Unity always wins big, he is doing his job very well. However after having to stand up to numerous criticisms of his latest piece on EdWize, hopefully he will go back to President Mulgrew and the NYSUT people and call for a change of direction.


Anonymous said...

If in fact teachers can be rated as ineffective by the 20% of test data,and after two consecutive ratings be brought up on charges 2030A and must now prove their competence, then this agreement has ended tenure. There is no defense for this agreement, and the UFT leadership and NYSUT leadership have followed the path that Randi Weingarten has allowed that will destroy the teaching profession. Shame on all who have collaborated with the corporate raider reformers.

NYCDOEnuts said...

Great post. Just one observation. There is only one portion that actually measures student growth (the state's portion). The other part is something is supposed to pan out to something a little different, called 'local' or 'local measures'.
That's the way it's supposed to be anyway. You're very right about one thing: these 'Great Leaps Forward' don't turn out well for city teachers.

Anonymous said...

Do you remember how Edwize first came out against mayoral control and then was for it (twice!!)?

Do you remember how Edwize hated the idea of The Open Market system and was against the ATR provision and then embraced it?

Do you remember Leo's defending the ATR agreement? Did you expect him not to defend this agreement?

Do you remember Leo's defending VAM when it first came out??

The thing about Leo is he defends these measures, but when they fail miserably and hurt good teachers, there is no apology from Leo. He still has a job that our dues provide--and I am sure paid extremely well to stretch the truth. The man has no conscience.

How many ways did Klein find to circumvent the contract? Or should I say, why did Randi write a contract that indeed could be circumvented?


James Eterno said...

I think it is the 40% (20% state and 20% local but approved by state) where you have to fail that leads to the automatic ineffective rating. Then two ineffective ratings definitely leads to a presumption of incompetence. Jeff Kaufman and I have already dealt with how impossible those hearings will be to win as did Leo Casey in 2005. That's why I quoted him.

Anonymous said...

Please write to Arne Duncan and tell him how you feel about Race to the Top. I let him know that Rick Santorum's wife isn't receiving a value-added assessment, and that Santorum's views on education alone, align more with those of teachers than do President Obama's!

Anonymous said...

What are Santorum's views?

Anonymous said...

Haven't looked closely, because his views on other issues are ultra-conservative. But at the debate last week, he said that children are "individuals," and he disparaged standardized tests. As you know, he and his wife home school their seven children, probably for religious reasons. In my letter to Mr. Duncan, I wrote that Santorum's wife wouldn't be receiving a public, "value-added" assessment as have NYC teachers. It's a crazy world, where an anti-union conservative understands how ridiculous this charade is, while our Democratic leaders continue to point out how wonderful the Emperor's new clothes (value-added assessment) look.

Anonymous said...

The new evaluation system will be a boon to opposition groups looking to score political gains against the UFT. As anger and resentment increases, teachers will be seeking new leadership.

A comment on ICE mail. If only it would happen.

Anonymous said...

Never forget

Under Leo Casey

The entire high school division

Has been decimated

Anonymous said...

I recently read the email sent out by Michael Mulgrew (UFT president), about the
Teacher Data Reports-that were just made public, and it starts with "As the
Bloomberg era nears its end." Really?!

Bloomberg is only half way through this third term. What is Mulgrew thinking? He
is thinking that we can hang in there and hold out for two more years...that's
his strategy!

Wow, no fight back, just hold out...for what? Obama, Cuomo and politicians
around the country are attacking teachers...the next mayor will do the same...

This UFT Administration is out of touch with reality and must go! The sooner
the better!

Anonymous said...

It appears as if teachers' names along with their ratings of "highly effective," "effective," "developing," or "ineffective" will be considered as public information.

Likewise, the factual basis for these ratings will also be public.

It is recommended that you research the following summary of Freedom of Information law case decisions:

Here are two interesting cases.

The NYS Committee on Open Government considers this one to be a "significant" decision:

United Federation of Teachers v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, 428 NYS2d 823 (1980) --

Union granted access to some fifteen-hundred grievances and decisions rendered on grievances filed by nurses represented by a competing union; agency could not prove that disclosure would impair imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations; shortage of manpower to comply with request is no defense, for denial on that basis would "thwart the very purpose of the Freedom of Information Law", disclosure of grievances and grievance decisions or dispositions would not result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Current Law: §§87(2)(b), (c) and 89(2)(b)

The Committee considers this one to be a "minor" decision:

Blecher v. Board of Education, City of New York, Supreme Court, Kings County, NYLJ, October 25, 1979 --

Complaints, reprimands, and evaluations contained in a personnel file relevant to the duties of an agency and constitute "final determinations", available under §87(2)(g) of the Freedom of Information Law. Current Law: §§87(2)(b), (g) and 89(2)(b)

Anonymous said...

Lots of good information in here. Thank you, James. Loretta Prisco

Anonymous said...


You might want to check out the following link to a petition started by the President of the Lancaster Teachers Association, Eric Pryzkuta and other union presidents, including the president of my local Ray Hodges.

The petition has the support of Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch. It already has over 1,100 signatures in just two days of being live.

If it is something you could support, then I would ask you to post it to your site.

Yours in solidarity,
Darrell McElroy, NBCT
Executive VP Monroe-Woodbury TA