Tuesday, March 31, 2015


It looks as though good governance was sacrificed to make sure Governor Andrew Cuomo was able to get his fifth on time budget in succession.  I have read everything I could find on Facebook or on the internet concerning the budget agreement and basically what people need to know is there will be a sales tax exemption on the purchase of luxury yachts and small airplanes while the minimum wage won't be increased. That kind of sums up Albany these days. 

On education and specifically teacher evaluations, after examining the spin from Cuomo, UFT President Michael Mulgrew. and the surprisingly not upbeat assessment from NYSUT President Karen Magee, I am not overly optimistic that the changes in teacher evaluation are gains.

If we take Mulgrew at his word, we won a great victory.  However, it is always wise to take anything Michael Mulgrew says with a huge grain of salt.  His track record in negotiations is not very good. 

Here are Mulgrew's claims concerning changes to teacher evaluation that are in the budget agreement:

Teacher Evaluation

What the governor demanded:
Make test scores account for 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation, with even more test prep taking the place of meaningful learning.

What the agreement contains:
Rather than give more weight to state test scores, the Legislature proposed a new more rational scoring system. There must be multiple measures of student learning — more than just standardized test scores. Local measures of student learning must still be bargained at the local level.

Does that sound so bad?

Now for the governor's side from City and State:

A top administration official explained that the teacher evaluation system will no longer work by percentages. Instead it will be broken into two separate categories: state test results and classroom observation. In the testing category, localities can choose to administer only the state assessment to students, or they can request a second test to be given as well. If they choose the latter, the state will then design a second set of assessments for the locality to use.

If a teacher, tenured or not, is evaluated on students' performance on the official state test and is then rated “ineffective” by that metric, he or she cannot be graded “effective” on their overall evaluation score. The highest rating that teacher could receive is “developing.”

If a locality decides to use the two tests for the teacher evaluation, then a teacher who receives an “ineffective” composite score on those tests will have to be graded “ineffective” overall.

The observation component will be carried out by a principal and a second, "independent" source. The locality then has the option of including a peer review by a teacher that is rated “highly effective.”

The long-controversial 3020a process, used to remove tenured teachers whose performance is deemed unacceptable, has also been reformed. Now, if a tenured teacher receives an “ineffective” score two years in a row, the district can begin proceedings to remove them and have them out of the school within 90 days. If a teacher receives an “ineffective” score three years in a row, the district must bring charges against them and that teacher can be out within 30 days.

According to this version of the budget deal, it appears 50% of a teacher's rating will be based on the tests as Cuomo wanted and some of it will be based on tests that have not been created and the State Ed Department does not want to develop. This description of the agreement sounds awful.

It was also revealed last evening that it looks as though there might be three observations for teachers although one will be done by someone from outside the school.  Add to this that an increase in school aid is once again tied to changing teacher evaluations, something the Legislature was supposed to oppose, and it looks even worse.

Who do we believe: Mulgrew or the governor's people?

For a third opinion, let's go to New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee.  This is from Capitol Confidential

The main issue has been Cuomo’s proposal to make teacher evaluations count for half of teacher ratings in grades 3-8. That has apparently fallen off the table in budget talks and the current plan sticking to a lower number, including, perhaps, the original 20 percent.

Nonetheless, Magee said she believes parents should keep their kids away from those tests.

During her radio show and in the press scrum, Magee said people should avoid the tests, which are given at the start and end of the school year and designed to assess how much students have learned under a given teacher.

“We are encouraging parents to opt out,” Magee said explaining that instructions for an opt-out are on their website.

She also said “we will be taking further steps to make parents aware of this.”

I must admit to being surprised that the NYSUT President did not claim a huge victory like our esteemed Mr. Mulgrew.  NYSUT wants to keep up the pressure on the governor and is now encouraging parents to opt out of the state exams. That does not seem consistent with UFT policy which just recognizes parents have a right to opt out.

Are Magee and Mulgrew playing good cop-bad cop?  Are the two leaders not on the same page? If anyone can make heads or tales of any of this, please help us out.


Unitymustgo! said...

It sounds f'n awful. Where at a minimum is the up roar over having some outside agency observing teachers on the fly? How the F is the union not screaming that this is an insult to our profession. How is this all being paid for? Who will these people be? Will there be "specialists" in all the different specialties of teaching and who decides they are qualified? Who will they be beholden to? What will their quota be for failing teachers? Will observations be announced or unannounced? Will lesson plans have to be provided regardless of timing or circumstances of the observation? What percentage do they count? Our union should be making a public stand against this nonsense. Instead they claim victory and will begin preparing for Chapter elections and summer vacation.

James Eterno said...

Will anyone challenge vulnerable Unity Chapter Leaders? Up to us to make change happen.

Anonymous said...

Fly by observations - unbelievable. What if I am giving an exam that day? What if my students are mandated for extended time? What if my students are presenting individual work? What if I am absent that day? What if my co teacher is absent that day? Will this unknown person know the art of teaching those with disabilities? What if I am taking my class to a school event or festival that celebrates culture which my school does fortunately do any amazing job with? Please - the list goes on. The idea of an independent observer is an absolute absurd waste of time, money, energy and work! It's the DUMB brought to you by the DUMB.

Anonymous said...

Fly by observations - unbelievable. What if I am giving an exam that day? What if my students are mandated for extended time? What if my students are presenting individual work? What if I am absent that day? What if my co teacher is absent that day? Will this unknown person know the art of teaching those with disabilities? What if I am taking my class to a school event or festival that celebrates culture which my school does fortunately do any amazing job with? Please - the list goes on. The idea of an independent observer is an absolute absurd waste of time, money, energy and work! It's the DUMB brought to you by the DUMB.

Docwash said...

Well, we did not get 100% of what we wanted, but we're not finished. It was through the concerted efforts of thousands of union members at both the city and state levels that we accomplished as much as we did. The State Education Department has agreed to multiple measures of evaluation, but has not fleshed out what that means. From our perspective the door is open to further dialogue and influence. As other states which had 50% of teacher evaluation based on standardized tests are moving toward reducing the percentage, Gov. Cuomo was moving toward inceasing to 50%. We squashed that. He is not going to be able to raise the cap on charter schools. He is releasing some of the CFE money he owes the state and city schools. That's nice, but we will continue to fight for everything he owes us. Tenure has been extended to four years. Bummer. However, I have noticed in recent years that it has been moving in that direction de facto anyway; gone are the days when almost everyone was granted tenure without an extension of probation. At least we still gave tenure. Our court case will go forward, and we will win. The governor was so adamant about not budging. He has had to compromise.

As for Karen Magee and Michael Mulgrew being on the same page, they do get along and they do agree on most things, but it is important to remember that they are still two separate people with different, though overlapping, constituencies. NYC is the largest local in NYSUT, but there is still the rest of the state.

We must keep up our work of informing the public, informing and staying in touch with our legislators, blogging, posting on FB and tweeting, rallying and building our chapters. As they say about the Lottery, you've got to be in it to win it.

Anonymous said...

At least we...At least we...At least we...are the words of a paper tiger union leadership.

Anonymous said...

This teacher evaluation system has very little to do with "teacher quality" .Its really just a very clever ruse to get rid of tenure...and it looks like it's working.


Anonymous said...

I can help you out. Karen Magee is not the NYSUT president. The last president was Dick Iannuzzi and as he exerted himself as presidential and independent and concerned for the well being of the members of New York State, he was categorically thrown out by this Revive group, directed by Alan Lubin, whose motivation was to be the shadow president of this organization once again. So Karen in joining the Opt Out chorus, way too late, is showing you that she, like Dick before her, found out like the rest of us that Mulgrew and Weingarten, now aligned fully with Lubin and Pallotta had been negoitating this teacher evaluation deal all along behind her back. While Karen Magee is not a leader or person to respect (certainly one of the last people I would want to spend eternity with on a desert island),she is reacting right now to the sad reality that all NYSUT members will soon have to face. With three lame brain officers (Messner, Pecorale, and Catalina) who are nothing more than puppets fully on board with the UFT/Unity agenda, Karen stands alone and vulnerable. So James, this good cop bad cop appearance is not an appearance at all. Once the four previous officers were kicked out by Unity and their cronies, civility,loyalty and trust left NYSUT also and now what you are left with are urchins who eat each other and right now the meal is Karen Magee and once she is digested and spit out, the new president de jour will have been fully vetted by Lubin, Mulgrew and Weingarten and will be a Stepford Wife like all the rest. I speak the truth and this sad truth should eventually lead any upright union member to rise up or re-think affiliations. No other choice.

Anonymous said...

Paula Washington cannot be taken seriously. She thinks evaluating teachers on test scores is a good idea. She thinks Danielson is a reasonable evaluative tool. She doesn't think the UFT should fight to change Danielson. She doesn't believe that the UFT should fight for eliminating all test scores tied to teachers. She thinks what Mulgrew tells her to think. She has never disagreed with Mulgrew on anything. Roseanne McCosh

Anonymous said...

First and foremost, you should know that Dr. Paula Washington is a music teacher at Laguardia High School Of Music & Art And Performing Arts. Admission to her school is based on the outcome of a competitive audition and review of the students academic records. So it's a school where high achieving students would attend and teachers would not fear receiving developing or ineffective because of the type of student population. Secondly, Paula is a Unity Caucus member and unfortunately she has to be told what to do and what to say and how to vote. It doesn't matter that she has a PhD; intelligence does matter when you're a stepford unity member.

Moreover, what is her rating in her school? Is she highly effective or effective? Based on http://www.ratemyteachers.com/paula-washington/260078-t it would seem that she's developing and students are very displeased with her and had her performance been in a regular, over-crowded, high concentration of ELLs, special needs, truants, and level 1's/2's students her livelihood would be in jeopardy based on her rating by those students. So I say to Dr. Washington, wake up, stop being a Unity sycophant, and support teachers who are fighting against the madness that's coming from Albany. Our profession is at stake for goodness stake.

Anonymous said...

it should say the following -

"intelligence does NOT matter when you're a stepford unity member."

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:19pm: Thank you for providing the additional info regarding Paula Washington. I had figured out that she was Unity since she often reiterates Mulgrew's talking points every chance she gets and others have called her out on this. But I wasn't aware of the other info you provided---so thanks for helping to keep the discussion and motives behind it transparent.