Wednesday, January 30, 2013


In spite of Mayor Michael Bloomberg blowing up a deal on teacher evaluations at the last minute on January 17th, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Education Department and leaders in the State Legislature are determined to make a deal so New York City teachers can be rated based in part on student test score growth. The system they want has no scientific validity so it has been termed junk science but it is the law. Rather than sending throngs of us up to Albany and down to DC to change the law, the UFT is once again ready to acquiesce.

This blog in our analysis of the failed negotiations on evaluations predicted that Mulgrew would go running to the state to get a new evaluation system. If you read Mulgrew's letter to Chapter Leaders, it will show how we were correct.

After being one of the few bloggers who predicted that an evaluation deal might not happen between the UFT and the city by the January 17 deadline, it was not that difficult to surmise that the UFT would not take no for an answer and would go right over Bloomberg's head to the state to get a new evaluation system. There's too much state and federal money out there for the union and politicians to grab. Add to this the fact that the UFT-NYSUT were instrumental in seeing to it that the evaluation law was changed to allow us to be rated on junk science and observations based on the Danielson framework and anyone could easily see that the negotiations were doomed to eventually succeed. To expect the UFT to change course and admit that this new system is a disaster waiting to happen was wishful thinking.

Jeff Kaufman, earlier this evening on this blog, already forecast what arbitration on the new evaluation system will be like so I will prognosticate the future under whatever system is finally agreed to. Most readers will not like these predictions but most of you probably would agree that they are likely to occur:

  • Since the city will still be implementing whatever evaluation system is negotiated by the UFT and the city or decided on by an arbitrator, you can bet your pension it will not be teacher friendly; it will not be about improving teaching in a great many schools; it will be used to play "gotcha" against teachers in countless schools and it will be unworkable as well as being overly complicated throughout the city.
  • The appeals process will be a joke like the PIP+ process. Validators will generally just rubber stamp ineffective ratings and those who are rated ineffective twice will have little recourse. Tenure as we know it is about to be a thing of the past.
  • The city Department of Education will try to get around whatever is negotiated and the UFT will scream about why it isn't working and they will tell us if only we had a better mayor, this would all be so wonderful.  

What should the Union be doing?  The UFT should be educating the membership on the pitfalls of junk science and the trouble with having the Danielson framework being used and probably abused by multiple administrators in the city.  Colleagues at Flushing and Bryant, where Danielson was used in 2011, tell me it was very easy to be rated ineffective.  Since we are by far the largest teacher union local in the country, we should take the lead in mobilizing members, parents and the communities in a huge battle against so called school reform which is just a cover for privatization and education profiteering.

Rating teachers based on student test score growth is absurd. Standardized tests for students were not designed to rate teachers. Teachers are only responsible for a tiny fraction of student outcomes and measuring our effectiveness based on student scores on standardized exams or other assessments is faulty and should be stopped. The UFT needs to expose how resources are distributed unfairly throughout the school system and this skews results as of course does the impact of poverty.

Blog readers should be telling Chapter Leaders, Delegates and other UFT members that the time to make concessions is over and the time to stand up to the teacher bashing is now.

However, since  the union's strategy appears to be to appease and concede just to get some money that probably will never see a classroom, we are in for some dismal days ahead.

We hope our predictions are totally off and that there are true safeguards built into the final system but fear we will be spot on right again.

Dear James,
Governor Cuomo said today that if the city won’t come to a teacher evaluation agreement with the UFT by a set date, he will direct the State Education Department to set up a binding arbitration process that will get us to an agreement.
We welcome Governor Cuomo’s involvement, and while we would prefer a negotiated settlement, it’s good to know that should the talks fail again, people who actually understand education will be part of the decision-making process. 
We are frustrated with this mayor and his games. We all understand that state law requires that New York City change its teacher evaluation system. Moving forward this way will mean that New York City schools will not risk further loss of state money.
We were open to binding arbitration last year, and this year — as the Jan. 17 deadline approached — we called for a mediator. In each case, it was the city that refused to go along. Given the total failure of the Bloomberg administration to negotiate in good faith, binding arbitration may be the only hope we have of getting to an agreement that helps teachers help students.
Michael  Mulgrew
Michael Mulgrew


Anonymous said...

Continue to fight and educate our fellow union brothers and sisters. If we only had a tenth of your knowledge and passion we would all be better for it.

James Eterno said...

Thank you for those very kind words. Keep spreading the word about what is going on please.