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:
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.