Thursday, January 19, 2012
Data, Evaluations, and "Bad" Teachers
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, each irate that a stalemate over teacher evaluations is endangering federal education aid, fixed their sights Monday on a shared opponent: what they derided as New York State’s education bureaucracy.
Both men said the state could no longer tolerate a public school system they said was failing students, invoked the ideals of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and appeared ready for a fight.
At separate observances commemorating Dr. King’s birthday, the governor and the mayor ratcheted up their attacks on teachers’ unions and school administrators.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, declared that “we have to realize that our schools are not an employment program” and vowed to press for the speedy establishment of a statewide teacher evaluation system.
“It is this simple: It is not about the adults; it is about the children,” Mr. Cuomo said, drawing loud applause from a mostly black audience at a state convention center in Albany.
Citing the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the governor lamented that because of failing public schools, “the great equalizer that was supposed to be the public education system can now be the great discriminator.”
Mr. Bloomberg, an independent, spoke later at the Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, offering an impassioned case for the education proposals that headlined his State of the City address last week, including firing up to half of the teachers in dozens of low-performing schools.
Mr. Bloomberg, whose plans were met with hostility by union leaders and most of the Democrats expected to run for mayor in 2013, said, “Special interests and defenders of the status quo are digging in for a fight.”
“Well, let me tell you, I’m ready to fight for our kids; I’m ready to stand up to special interests,” the mayor said, adding, “This school system shouldn’t be run for the people that work in the school system.”
Mr. Bloomberg was greeted with boos as he began to speak to the crowd; some of the criticism appeared to be about education, but some was associated with other issues, including concern over the New York Police Department’s practice of “stop and frisk.”
Mr. Cuomo, according to people who have been told of his plans, will announce on Tuesday, as part of his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, that he will require the creation of an evaluation system as a condition for school districts to receive a scheduled increase in state education aid.
Local school districts already evaluate teachers, but the reviews are often basic, and poor ones frequently carry few consequences for tenured teachers. In 2010, the State Legislature approved the framework of a new evaluation system that would be more specific and would allow for tougher sanctions against teachers who are rated ineffective, but efforts to put that system in place have stalled in New York City and elsewhere over issues like the appeals process for teachers and the role that student test scores would play in teacher evaluations.
On Monday, Mr. Cuomo vowed to force the evaluation issue to secure the $700 million that is in jeopardy because New York has not instituted an evaluation system, which it promised to do when it sought money through the federal Race to the Top program.
Under his plan, Mr. Cuomo will effectively order the statewide teachers’ union and the State Education Department to settle a continuing legal dispute over evaluations and to agree to standards for the evaluation system. If they cannot, he will seek to impose an evaluation system as part of the state budget, which must be approved by the end of March, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Cuomo’s budget was not yet public.
Once the evaluation system has been set up, either by agreement or by fiat, school districts would have until January 2013 to put it into effect. At that point, the official said, any district that had not done so would lose the promised increase in state education aid.
Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, said that while the union shared “the governor’s frustration over the implementation of the law,” tying teacher evaluations to state education aid was the “wrong approach.”
“We think supporting teachers and unions in their work is a much better approach,” Mr. Korn said.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents city teachers, focused his criticism on Mr. Bloomberg. “I believe he’s trying to use this as sort of political grandstanding,” he said.
Mr. Mulgrew, noting that his union had “no disagreement with the governor over the evaluations,” did not object to Mr. Cuomo’s tying the increase in education aid to the creation of the evaluation system.
“We’re just as frustrated as he is, and I publicly came out and asked him to get involved,” he said.