Teacher evaluations in 33 schools subject of intensive negotiations
by Maisie McAdoo | published December 22, 2011
Though it will only be used in these 33 “restart” and “transformation” schools, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel stressed that an evaluation system that treats teachers unfairly or allows administrators to scapegoat their staffs will not see the light of day.
“We are negotiating in good faith, but we won’t agree to a bad deal,” Mendel said.
Mendel said that the evaluation system must be fair, objective, carried out in a safe, collaborative environment and provide for professional growth at the same time that it is being used for evaluation.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the press in early November that he would give up $60 million in federal School Improvement Grants rather than come to a bad decision on the program.
“At the end of the day if we have to return money, I will be willing to do that. I’m not going to be beholden to money as determining a decision,” he said.
Mendel said that he agreed wholeheartedly with the chancellor’s position. “We also will not do what we think is wrong just to get the money,” he said.
The DOE will receive up to $2 million per year per school over the next three years from the federal government if the 33 schools enact broad reforms, including a new evaluation system that goes beyond the simple U or S — unsatisfactory or satisfactory — ratings that are used now.
Though the specifics of negotiations are not public, the issues the two parties must resolve are no secret. Nor are they easy.
Measures of student learning will make up 20 percent of middle and high school teachers’ evaluations. So one major task will be negotiating what will be measured and how.
In addition, for middle schools only, math and English language arts teachers will have a second measure, worth an additional 20 percent, created by the state based on a statewide “growth” metric.
Negotiators must also work out how classroom observations — which make up the other 60 to 80 percent of the evaluation — will be carried out.
In addition, if the evaluations are to be helpful rather than used simply to label teachers, the law requires a teacher improvement plan be in place for teachers rated ineffective or developing. And there must be a negotiated appeals process.
"We hope it will be a good thing, and we hope to learn from it,” Mendel said of the evaluation system being negotiated for the 33 schools.
The issues are complex and potentially far-reaching.
“Prudence and thoughtful decision-making are called for,” Mendel said.
Michael Mulgrew is the designated successor to teachers union president Randi Weingarten, who will announce her departure from the union today. If union leaders select him to fill her shoes, as is expected, he will become the president of America’s largest union local and one of the most influential labor unions in the state.
Some of Mulgrew’s colleagues from his early days in the union saw him as an obvious choice for the UFT’s top job.
“I was calling him Mr. President about a year ago,” Dorso said. “I teach social studies, I know how politics works, he’s the fair-haired boy even though he shaves his head.”
Mulgrew declined to comment for this story.
“I think he’s a great person. I think he has a lot of guts,” Weingarten said. “He’s a great teacher, came up through the ranks. … He’s willing to break a lot of glass.”