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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Politics of Teacher Evaluations

The Politics of Teacher EvaluationsPDFPrintE-mail
Rchard C. Iannuzzi, President, New York State United Teachers
Rchard C. Iannuzzi, President, New York State United Teachers
January 31, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter

Some politicians are claiming that unless the state finalizes its teacher evaluation system, it is at risk of losing $700 million in Federal Race to the Top money. The state’s teachers union worked hard to create a comprehensive and fair evaluation system. But Governor Andrew Cuomo demanded more reliance on standardized testing. The full implementation now hinges on when an appeals court makes a decision in favor of the union’s version or Cuomo’s.

Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, said that even before President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, teachers complained to the union that evaluations were very subjective and also punitive, fostering something of a “gotcha mentality.”

“An assistant superintendent or principal sitting in the back of the classroom and observing a teacher were wrong as often as they were right. They didn’t bother to follow-up with ways to improve teacher effectiveness,” said Korn.

He acknowledged that standardized tests do provide a basis for student growth. “When a teacher gives a test, they are interested in the results because they want to learn how a student performed, which provides insight for altering future instruction if necessary.”

But, Korn stressed, student test data use should be limited. “Firstly, standardized testing is to measure student achievement and learning. They were never designed for evaluations. A good evaluation system, in contrast, uses multiple measures, which allows for local control and collaboration.”

Korn noted when the state was not awarded Race to the Top in the first round of funding, it served as a wake-up call to the State Education Department, Board of Regents and NYSUT. Consequently, they worked together to design and develop a new teacher evaluation system that was comprehensive, rigorous and fair in May 2010.

The significance of the collaboration contributed to the creation of the Annual Professional Performance Review that modified Section 3012 of the state’s education law. Korn explained that APPR did a few things.

“For the first time, student test data would be factored into teacher evaluations. But whereas the Regents and state education department wanted to base 40 percent of evaluations on a single standardized test, we expressed serious concern that an overreliance on one test, which isn’t good for students and not fair for teachers, could lead to increased test prepping.”

As a result, the state agreed to 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation shall be based on the state’s standardized test, and another 20 percent shall be based on locally developed measures of student achievement through collective bargaining, such as locally created tests.

“With locally designed measures, evaluations can be based on two, rather than one, data points,” Korn said.

The remaining 60 percent would also be based on locally designed measures, i.e., additional principal observations, portfolios, teacher classroom management skills and reflections. 

APPR also established four categories to rate teachers’ performance: Highly Effective, Effective, Developing and Ineffective. If a teacher receives an “Ineffective” rating, it is the district’s responsibility to implement a strategic improvement plan to help a struggling teacher.

But if the teacher receives a consecutive “Ineffective” rating, even after getting district help, he or she is likely to be removed from their position within 60 days.

Korn noted that NYSUT supports the provision because the union wants only effective teachers in front of children, although the teacher is essentially without recourse.

Korn said, “If we are going to be serious about ensuring the best teacher is in every classroom, it means a certain number of teachers will have to leave the profession.”

But Korn also mentioned that APPR builds in due process for the teacher to appeal the negative rating, and cited that historically only two percent of the city’s teaching force has had to leave the profession due to negative ratings.

According to Korn, federal education officials recognized APPR’s attributes as a sound framework for teacher evaluations. As a result of the efforts of NYSUT, the Board of Regents and State Education Department, the feds awarded $700 million in RTT funding to New York in August 2010.

The Board of Regents was then tasked to draft regulations to implement APPR in September 2010, which it completed in May 2011. Korn noted that at the last minute, however, Governor Cuomo demanded that the Regents Board incorporate into the regulations more reliance on standardized test scores.

The Regents agreed to Cuomo’s demand and adopted the regulations on May 15, 2011. In turn, NYSUT challenged the regulations by filing a lawsuit in June 2011, claiming that the regulations are “inconsistent with state law.”

The State Supreme Court agreed with NYSUT in August 2011. Of course, the state appealed and a decision now rests with an appellate court. NYSUT maintains that the delay in fully implementing APPR rests at the feet of the State Department of Education, which could potentially jeopardize, again, hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money.

Governor Cuomo said in his State of the State that because APPR is not being implemented, districts are foregoing teacher evaluations. But Korn refuted the claim by saying that there are 90 districts in the state that are using teacher evaluation plans, and in another 365 districts some or all teacher evaluation plans are being considered.

“What we’ve been saying is that it is very important to do this [evaluations] right. Not just to do it. The teachers’ union and school districts have been working hard to do it right, and now they’re looking for clarity from the department of education.”

Korn reiterated that there is a place for standardized testing in the realm of evaluations. “We don’t want to completely ignore that testing is a fact of life.”

He continued, “But what we’re talking about is ensuring that test data is used appropriately to avoid over relying on test data to the point it narrows the curriculum and leads to too much test prepping where students aren’t really learning but only getting good at bubbling-in.”

The NYC DOE Police/Safety Officer Scam

We know that when a teacher or parent goes to a police station in New York City and tries to file a complaint against a principal or other administrator at his or her [child's] school, the police will not take the complaint.
This leads to principal immunity.

There are very few reporters who report on this topic, but they should, as principals are getting away with illegal, harmful, and improper actions in public schools throughout the New York City area. See my summation in a case where a special needs boy was placed in a room at a suspension site without services, without any academic learning, and no lunch, for a year.

Anyone with any facts about child or staff abuse by a principal or Superintendent should email me at

There are many people and groups involved in making sure that principals have the Power in their schools to lie, cheat and steal at any time.

One player in this immunity racket is the New York City Police Department (NYPD). It is easy to see how the police are not willing to pursue charges against a principal, just try to file charges at any local police station against a principal who has harmed your child or you. You wont get very far. Here is an example of how this works (of course I mean doesnt work)

Several years ago two students were standing outside the main office at Sheepshead Bay High School waiting to see the program person about their schedules, when a man named Kenneth Jacobs came flying out of the office and he started beating up one of the girls. He tore her blouse open, beat her chest, and, when he realized that he was on the hallway video, picked up the girls' backpacks and ran into the office. The girls followed him, and he started hitting one of the girls again. The second girl tried to help her friend, and this man picked her up and threw her against one of the desks in the office. The two girls were taken from the school by ambulance, where their mothers met them. The girl who had been repeatedly hit by Jacobs had bruises all over her chest area. Her mother took pictures.

One of the mothers had my name as an advocate, so I and a colleague went to Brooklyn and met the mother, father, and brother of the girl who had the pictures from the wounds, at the police precinct near to the school. We all met with three detectives, and told them what happened. After two hours there, they told us that they could not take our complaint. Why? Because Jacobs had filed a complaint against the girls first, therefore the girls were just angry, and retaliating against him. the pictures were ignored. The next day I went to the Court and found a stack of police records filed under thename of Kenneth Jacobs, and there was a mug shot, and I knew it was the same man. Seems that jacobs was a friend of the Superintendent at the time, and he stayed in his job.

Both girls were suspended for a year. I helped one of the girls get into a Catholic High School and find an attorney when the DA's office called the parent and told her that she had to go to court for a misdemeanor charge filed by Jacobs. we got the charge dismissed.

I and the parents reported jacobs to the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI. We went to see Dennis Boyles. Dennis kept me in the room while he asked one of the girls questions about what happened. Then he told this girl to go to the next room and ask her friend to come in. While Boyles and I were in the room alone, Boyles told me, "You know my daughter got into trouble when she was 15 years old, and it only cost me $5000 to get her out of the mess. How about it?" I said I would not pay for any release, period. The second girl came in and brought copies of the pictures of her wounds, and Dennis was no longer interested in pursuing the matter. I believe he stopped his quest for "the truth" when he found out that neither i nor the girls' parents would pay him to take the charge against Jacobs. After we left, we never heard from him again.
We - I and the parents went to all the NYPD precincts in Brooklyn, not a single person would take a complaint against Jacobs.

At 3020-a, as NYSUT represents the Union and not the individual charged with misconduct, the NYSUT attorney will not look into what the Principal was doing in the school at the time the teacher was charged. They, the NYSUT Attorneys, say this is not relevant to the charged allegations.

Betsy Combier, Editor

FILE- In this May 6, 2011 file photo, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, left, talks with Paul Browne, the department's Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, at City Hall in New York. Lately, Brown has come under fire from local media as well as community activists for a series of flip-flops, hedges and retractions he has made on behalf of the Department. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

New York police spokesman comes under fire