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Sunday, January 20, 2013

L.A. Teachers Approve New Evaluation Method Not Similar To NYC Proposal

L.A. teachers union members OK new evaluation method

The plan will not use the so-called value-added system but will employ raw state test scores, high school exit exams and other measures of student performance to judge instructors' effectiveness.

Betty Forrester, left, Lisa Karahahlios and Pamela Gibberman tally ballots at United Teachers Los Angeles headquarters. (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times / January 19, 2013)

A landmark agreement to use student test scores for the first time in evaluating Los Angeles Unified teachers was approved by union members Saturday.
United Teachers Los Angeles reported that 66% of 16,892 members who voted approved the agreement with the nation's second-largest school district. L.A. Unified now joins Chicago, New York and many other cities in using testing data as one measure of a teacher's effect on student academic progress. About half the union's 34,000 members voted.
In a victory for the union, however, the pact limits the use of a controversial method of analyzing a teacher's impact on student learning known as value-added. Instead, the two sides agreed to evaluate teachers with such data as raw state test scores, district assessments, high school exit exams and rates of attendance, graduation, suspensions and course completion.
The agreement will force the district to alter its new evaluation system, which was to use a teacher's individual value-added score along with a rigorous new observation process, student and parent feedback and an educator's contribution to the school community. Parts of the new performance reviews are currently being tested in the district's 1,300 schools.
UTLA President Warren Fletcher hailed the vote as an endorsement of union efforts to prevent the use of individual value-added scores in evaluations. Schoolwide value-added scores will be used, however.
"We worked hard at the bargaining table to craft a system that intelligently uses student data in the evaluation of teachers," he said.
L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy said he was gratified by what he called a larger-than-expected margin of victory.
"It's a sign that members really want us to begin moving forward with a more improved way around evaluations," he said.
Deasy said he planned to unveil details of how testing data will be incorporated into teacher evaluations in the next week. The guidelines will include recommendations for how much weight to give test scores; he has said in the past that it should count for about 30%.
The agreement was prompted by a court order last year by Los Angeles County Superior Judge James C. Chalfant, who ruled that L.A. Unified's failure to use student test scores to help measure a teacher's performance violated state law.
At least some of those who voted for the agreement did so reluctantly.
Cheryl Ortega, the union's director of bilingual education, said she remained troubled by the inclusion of an even limited use of the value-added method, which L.A. Unified calls Academic Growth Over Time. That method uses a complex statistical formula to attempt to isolate a teacher's effect on student performance by controlling for such factors as poverty and English language ability.
Ortega called the method "unreliable and unscientific," reflecting a common view among teachers unions and some educators and researchers. But she ultimately voted for the pact because she feared the courts could impose an even worse system on teachers, she said.
"Everything in my being wanted to vote no," Ortega said. "But it was the best deal that could be gotten."
Monica Ratliff, a fifth-grade teacher at San Pedro Elementary, has similar concerns about value-added and voted no. Ratliff, a Los Angeles school board candidate who was recently elected to the union's House of Representatives, said she frequently reviews raw test scores for concrete information about specific skills her students are struggling with, such as grammar or reading comprehension. But she said value-added scores were useless in telling her where to improve and that she feared the agreement would open the door to wider use of them.
Ratliff said she was also concerned about using schoolwide test scores to judge her individual performance.
"I didn't necessarily think what was negotiated was beneficial for an individual teacher," she said.
Fletcher said the union chose to delay the ratification vote until after winter break to give members more than a month to study, discuss and debate the proposed agreement.
"We felt the agreement was the best route to comply with the court order," he said. "But some members had principled disagreement, and we wanted to get that out too."
Across the country, school districts are changing the way they review teachers using test scores as one measure of their effectiveness. The Obama administration has promoted the system, setting up a competitive grant program that encouraged the move. Unions, however, have only reluctantly obliged; they mostly have opposed weighting evaluations heavily on test scores.

A Math Teacher on Common Core Standards

I don't think the common core math standards are good for most kids, not just the Title I students. While they are certainly more focused than the previous NCTM-inspired state standards, which were a horrifying hodge-podge of material, they still basically put the intellectual cart before the horse. They pay lip service to actually practicing standard algorithms. Seriously, students don't have to be fluent in addition and subtraction with the standard algorithms until 4th grade?

I teach high school math. I took a break to work in the private sector from 2002 to 2009. Since my return, I have been stunned by my students' lack of basic skills. How can I teach algebra 2 students about rational expressions when they can't even deal with fractions with numbers?

Please don't tell me this is a result of the rote learning that goes on in grade- and middle-school math classes, because I'm pretty sure that's not what is happening at all. If that were true, I would have a room full of students who could divide fractions. But for some reason, most of them can't, and don't even know where to start.

I find it fascinating that students who have been looking at fractions from 3rd grade through 8th grade still can't actually do anything with them. Yet I can ask adults over 35 how to add fractions and most can tell me. And do it. And I'm fairly certain they get the concept. There is something to be said for "traditional" methods and curriculum when looked at from this perspective.

Grade schools have been using Everyday Math and other incarnations for a good 5 to 10 years now, even more in some parts of the country. These are kids who have been taught the concept way before the algorithm, which is basically what the Common Core seems to promote. I have a 4th grade son who attends a school using Everyday Math. Luckily, he's sharp enough to overcome the deficits inherent in the program. When asked to convert 568 inches to feet, he told me he needed to divide by 12, since he had to split the 568 into groups of 12. Yippee. He gets the concept. So I said to him, well, do it already! He explained that he couldn't, since he only knew up to 12 times 12. But he did, after 7 agonizing minutes of developing his own iterated-subtraction-while-tallying system, tell me that 568 inches was 47 feet, 4 inches. Well, he got it right. But to be honest, I was mad; he could've done in a minute what ended up taking 7. And he already got the concept, since he knew he had to divide; he just needed to know how to actually do it. From my reading of the common core, that's a great story. I can't say I feel the same.

If Everyday Math and similar programs are what is in store for implementing the common core standards for math, then I think we will continue to see an increase in remedial math instruction in high schools and colleges. Or at least an increase in the clientele of the private tutoring centers, which do teach basic math skills.

Lisa Nielsen, Newest (And Only) NYC DOE Heroine

Department of Education official rips standardized testing, tells students to skip school

  • Last Updated: 10:49 AM, January 20, 2013
  • Posted: 11:15 PM, January 19, 2013
  •  LINK
Forget the city’s standardized tests — skip school!
That’s the shocking advice publicly offered by Lisa Nielsen, 44, a high-ranking city Department of Education official recently promoted to the newly created, six-figure position of “director of digital literacy and citizenship.”
In her spare time, Nielsen is an administrator of the Facebook group Opt Out of State Standardized Tests — New York, which promotes boycotting the very same standardized tests her agency administers.
“More and more parents are speaking out and standing up for their parental rights by opting their children out of standardized tests,” she wrote last week on her blog, “The Innovative Educator: Way Out of the Box!”
Lisa Nielsen
Lisa Nielsen
On Friday, she recommended that teachers assign students who opt out to other activities, including reading, writing and drawing — or taking a snooze.
“The test might just be a perfect time to catch some zzz’s,” she wrote.
On Thursday, she blogged that kids would learn more by cutting class on exam day instead of being “sentenced to sit and start [sic] into space.”
Instead, Nielsen — co-author of “Teaching Generation Text: Using Cellphones to Enhance Learning” — recommends that parents or volunteers plan group activities and “put together a fun pass book for testing days with discounts to local zoos, museums, theater, etc.”
She adds, “They’ll all be empty since most young people will be locked up taking tests.”
Blasting the powers-that-be and their “ineffective measures,” the Las Vegas-born Nielsen referenced Occupy Wall Street in another post.
“These protesters aren’t occupying the real culprit behind the unfair economic system that benefits the rich and corporations at the expense of the rest of us . . . our public schools,” she blogged. “Occupy Wall Streeters: It’s time to change direction . . . Occupy those schools.”
On Facebook, she urges people to sign a petition to Gov. Cuomo to “End High Stakes Testing,” started by Carol Burris, a “fearless principal” in Rockville Centre, LI.
Nielsen also agrees with critics who denounce the Common Core — national standards New York has adopted that spell out what kids should know and when — as a scheme to enrich testing companies.
The newly minted DOE executive also advocates for home schooling, saying people she knows who were taught at home “seemed to be really smart, passionate, successful and satisfied with their lives. All that and they never had to be tortured in an algebra, history, science or English class!”
Nielsen said she has been developing teacher-training materials since starting her DOE job in September.
“We show teachers how to use social media, like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Wikis,” she told The Hechinger Report, an education news Web site.
“We give teachers a ‘digital makeover’ so that they can control how they want to be seen online. And finally, they get practice creating their own social-media page or group,” she said.
She said the DOE created her post after issuing guidelines for teachers on the proper use of social media and how to avoid getting into trouble.
According to a DOE job description, the position came with a salary of up to $170,000.

She last worked as director of technology innovation, earning $117,929 a year, 2010 records show.
She has worked on and off for the DOE since 1997 in a variety of jobs, including teacher, librarian, reading coach and teacher trainer.
The DOE would not say whether it had been aware of her rebellious views when they named her to the new post.
“The department is always open to working with people with different ideas,” said spokeswoman Erin Hughes.

Teachers, Students, and Parents Boycott MAP Tests in Seattle

Op-ed: Why Garfield teachers boycotted the MAP test


Garfield teachers believe students should be evaluated based on what they are learning in the classroom, writes guest columnist Jesse Hagopian.
Special to The Times
I agree. Teachers should not have to administer an ethics violation. Standardized tests...  MORE
I used to be a big supporter of the MAPS test. In fact, based on what it was supposed... MORE
I would like to offer a glimpse at what teachers from the entire district think of MAP... MORE
WALKING the same halls once trod by Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Bruce Lee, Brandon Roy and Macklemore makes teaching at Garfield High School exhilarating.
When I look at the students in my history classes, I see young people who may be the next to turn the world inside out. Garfield has a long tradition of cultivating abstract thinking, lyrical innovation, trenchant debate, civic leadership, moral courage and myriad other qualities for which our society is desperate, yet which cannot be measured, or inspired, by bubbling answer choice “E.”
Garfield teachers voted last week, without a single “no” vote, to refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test on ethical and professional grounds. Our student government and PTSA both voted to support us.
Why did we take this stand, now, against this test?
I graduated from Garfield in 1997, went to college, did Teach for America in Washington, D.C., came home, got my masters in teaching at the University of Washington and returned to teach in the “Dog House.”
The standardized tests I took as a student at Garfield were moments of great misery, because they made me feel unintelligent. I had talents, but there were no test questions on whether I could play piano, coach my little sister in pitching, or identify a problem in my community that needed action and write a letter to the editor about it.
Seattle’s ninth- and 10th-grade students already take five state-required standardized tests, with 11th- and 12th-graders taking three. Seattle Public Schools staff admitted to a Garfield teacher the MAP test is not valid at the high-school level, because the margin of error is greater than expected gains.
In addition, teachers are forbidden to see contents of the MAP test so they can’t prepare students. Teachers who have looked over the shoulders of students taking the test can tell you that it asks questions students are not expected by state standards to learn until later grades.
This test especially hurts students receiving extra academic support — English-language learners and those enrolled in special education. These are the kids who lose the most each time they waste five hours on the test. Our computer labs are commandeered for weeks when the MAP is on, so students working on research projects can’t get near them. The students without home computers are hurt the most.
Students don’t take the MAP seriously because they know their scores don’t factor into their grades or graduation status. They approach it less seriously each time they take it, so their scores decline. Our district uses MAP scores in teacher evaluations, even though the MAP company recommends against using it to evaluate teacher effectiveness and it’s not mandated in our union contract.
Former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson brought the MAP to Seattle at a cost of some $4 million while she was serving on the board of the company that sells it. The state auditor called this an ethics violation because she did not disclose it until after the district approved the company’s contract. After Goodloe-Johnson was fired, the MAP somehow survived the housecleaning. Garfield teachers refuse to administer an ethics violation.
We at Garfield are not against accountability or demonstrating student progress. We do insist on a form of assessment relevant to what we’re teaching in the classroom. Some of my colleagues would propose replacing the MAP with a test that is aligned to our curriculum.
Many others, myself included, believe that portfolios, which collect student work and demonstrate yearlong student growth, would be a good replacement for the MAP. Such assessments would be directly tied to our curriculum and would demonstrate improvement over time rather than a random snapshot of a student on one particular day.
America faces incredible challenges: endless war, climate change and worldwide economic implosion. Our kids will need both traditional academic abilities and innovative critical-thinking skills to solve these real problems. If we inundate our students with standardized testing year-round, these larger lessons are lost.
Garfield’s teachers are preparing students for the real-life tests they will face, and reject the computer multiple-choice rituals that fail to measure grade-level content — not to mention character, commitment, courage or talent.
Jesse Hagopian has taught in Seattle Public Schools since 2006, serves as the Black Student Union’s faculty adviser and is the recipient of the Abe Keller Peace Education Award.

ORCA K-8 teachers join boycott of district-required (MAP) exams


Linda Shaw:
Eleven teachers and instructional assistants at ORCA K-8 have decided that they, too, will boycott district-required tests known as the MAP, according to ORCA teacher Matt Carter.

The Orca staffers join the staff at Garfield High, where all teachers who were scheduled to administer the Measures of Academic Progress exams are refusing, with the backing of nearly all their colleagues, who signed a letter supporting them. In the letter to district administrators, the Garfield staff members listed nine reasons why they oppose the test, which range from how few students take it seriously to how much time it takes away from class instruction and whether it measures what teachers are supposed to be teaching.

The middle school teachers at ORCA will not refuse to give the tests because they hope to get a grant from the city that requires that they give them, Carter said. But 11 of the 16 teachers and instructional assistants in kindergarten through grade 5 have decided to do so, Carter said. ORCA is an alternative school in the Rainier Valley.

If ORCA parents want their children to take the MAP exams anyway, the principal has told them that she will find other people to proctor the test, Carter said.Posted by Jim Zellmer at January 16, 2013 2:04 AM 

Bill De Blasio Sues NY For Hurting Small Businesses

The Public Advocate of New York Sues New York over “Fines” Hurting Small Business


On Thursday, the Public Advocate of New York, Bill de Blasio, filed an Article 78 petition in the Manhattan state court to determine whether city agencies were engaged in “overzealous enforcement” in an effort to boost revenue for the city. De Blasio claims that he has been stonewalled in his investigation and filed the petition to obtain data for determining allegations over “excessive” fines hurting small businesses.

The petition asks for a breakdown of fines issued by the six city agencies of New York including the departments of Consumer Affairs, Finance, Buildings, Health, Transportation and Sanitation. The departments are named as defendants in the suit along with the office of the mayor.

De Blasio said that his review of New York City financial reports showed that between 2000 and 2011 revenues of the city from fines doubled from $400 million to $800 million. He said that small businesses were flooding his office with complaints for being forced to pay “excessive” fines over minor offenses.

In a statement, De Blasio said, “We need answers about what this ‘fine first, ask questions later’ enforcement is doing to our small businesses and their ability to survive in this economy.” He said that his point was underscored by the nearly 40 percent increase in revenues from fines over the last decade, and that city agencies were “raising money by ticketing for anything and everything.”

In May, de Blasio asked the six city agencies to hand over data on the number of violations over the last decade, where they were issued, what type of violations were involved, and the amount of the fines and the list of businesses who paid such fines. The PA also requested information about goals or quotas if any for issuing fines.

De Blasio said in his lawsuit that there has been no response from the concerned city departments for months and the non-response is a “clear violation” of the charter by which the office of the PA was created.

As an instance of over-enforcement, de Blasio cited a family-run grocery store in Brooklyn that was fined $750 by the Department of Consumer Affairs for violating rules about posting return policies on its cash registers. De Blasio also said that small businesses often lacked the resources and means to fight violations, unlike large companies, and are less resilient to the effects of repeated penalties.

From Betsy Combier:

Bill is running for Mayor on a platform that keeps Mayoral control, and he has not demanded a school board in which its members are elected, not appointed. Therefore, I do not support his run for that office.

Bad Acts Need To Have A Notice of Claim Filed Within 90 Days

 Under General Municipal Law 50-H, any person who is allegedly harmed by the personnel or acts of a city agency or person must file a Notice of Claim before 90 days following the alleged harm. The UFT and NYSUT used to tell members this at the start of any harassment or discrimination grievance. They dont do this anymore.

As you can see from the article posted below, being timely, and filing a lawsuit based upon the Notice of Claim within 1 year + 90 days is very important.      Notice of Claim Does Not Cover Subsequent ActsLINK

 In a case brought by another law firm, Plaintiff filed a notice of claim about discriminatory acts under New York State Executive Law §296 in 2003. After lengthy absence plaintiff resumed his position with the school district in his suit plaintiff claimed there were discriminatory acts after the notice of claim was filed the Appellate Division, Second Department held that the plaintiff could not recover for acts subsequent to the notice of claim because the school district did not have notice of those subsequent acts. You can read about this discrimination case by clicking here or see below:

Agostinello v Great Neck Union Free Sch. Dist.
2013 NY Slip Op 00052
Decided on January 9, 2013
Appellate Division, Second Department
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.
Decided on January 9, 2013 
(Index No. 15144/09) 

[*1]Joseph Agostinello, respondent, 


Great Neck Union Free School District, appellant.

Sokoloff Stern LLP, Westbury, N.Y. (Adam I. Kleinberg and 
Melissa L. Holtzer of counsel), for appellant. 
Wolin & Wolin, Jericho, N.Y. (Alan E. Wolin of counsel), for 


In an action, inter alia, pursuant to Executive Law § 296 to recover damages for discrimination in the privileges, terms, and conditions of employment on the basis of physical disability, the defendant appeals, as limited by its brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (Cozzens, Jr., J.), dated January 30, 2012, as denied that branch of its motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the cause of action alleging its failure to reasonably accommodate the plaintiff's physical disability.
ORDERED that the order is modified, on the law, by deleting the provision thereof denying that branch of the defendant's motion which was for summary judgment dismissing so much of the cause of action alleging a failure to reasonably accommodate the plaintiff's physical disability as is based on the defendant's conduct allegedly occurring after February 4, 2003, and substituting therefor a provision granting that branch of the motion; as so modified, the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with costs to the appellant.
From 1993 to 2006, the plaintiff was employed on the custodial staff of the defendant, Great Neck Union Free School District (hereinafter the school district). The plaintiff served a notice of claim upon the school district, dated February 4, 2003, alleging, inter alia, that the school district discriminated against him by failing to reasonably accommodate his physical disability resulting from a back injury. Following a lengthy, injury-related absence from work, the plaintiff returned to his employment duties in 2005, before resigning his position in 2006 and accepting employment with another school district.
In July 2009, the plaintiff commenced this employment discrimination action, alleging the school district's distinct failures to accommodate his physical disability through 2006. Following discovery, the school district moved for summary judgment, contending, inter alia, that the cause of action alleging a failure to reasonably accommodate should be dismissed to the extent that it was premised on events occurring after February 4, 2003, since the notice of claim did not provide the school district with notice of those events. The Supreme Court denied that branch of the school district's motion. [*2]
As a condition precedent to the maintenance of this action, the plaintiff was required to serve a notice of claim upon the school district within three months after his underlying claim arose (see Education Law § 3813[1]; Munro v Ossining Union Free School Dist., 55 AD3d 697, 698; Cavanaugh v Board of Educ. of Huntington Union Free School Dist., 296 AD2d 369). Since the plaintiff had served a notice of claim dated February 4, 2003, that notice of claim did not satisfy the statutory requirement of placing the school district on notice of those allegedly discriminatory acts which took place subsequent to the date of the notice (see Varsity Tr., Inc. v Board of Educ. of City of N.Y., 5 NY3d 532). Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have granted that branch of the school district's motion which was for summary judgment dismissing so much of the cause of action alleging a failure to reasonably accommodate the plaintiff's physical disability as was based upon acts occurring after the date of the notice of claim.
The school district's remaining contentions either are without merit or need not be reached in view of the foregoing. 
Aprilanne Agostino
Clerk of the Court

Leo Casey's Account of The Teacher Evaluations Negotiations

not the entire story, for sure.

Caught In Their Own Web Of Deception and Deceit: 
Bloomberg, the DOE and Teacher Evaluation Negotiations

 by Leo Casey, former VP, UFT Executive Board
Former UFT VP Leo Casey

After he blew up the teacher evaluation agreement that had been reached between the UFT and his own NYC DOE negotiating team, Mayor Bloomberg appeared at a hastily called press conference yesterday to spin an entirely fictional account of what had transpired. The UFT had made agreement impossible, he claimed, because of our unreasonable demands for more arbitration dates that would make it impossible to “fire bad teachers,” our “last minute” insistence upon a sunset clause that would have made the entire system a “joke,” and a “middle of the night” effort to change the scoring metrics for teacher evaluation so “no teacher” would be rated ineffective. Each of these claims is a lie, pure and simple. Here I will address the last two of Bloomberg claims, as I was personally involved in the negotiations around them.*
To finalize an agreement over teacher evaluations in New York, two different documents must be developed: a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which lays out in legal language the agreement between district and the union over the new evaluation system, and an application from the local school district to the New York State Education Department which provides scores of assurances that the specific evaluation plans laid out in the MOU conform to state law. Both the head of the school district and the head of the union must sign the local school district’s application. During the last week, as the UFT and the DOE met long into the night in an effort to reach agreement on the terms of the MOU, we asked, again and again, more insistently at each turn, to see the DOE’s draft of their application. It was not until late into Wednesday evening, barely 24 hours before the deadline, that the DOE finally gave us their draft of the application. When we read the draft, it quickly became apparent why they had resisted sharing it with us. Included in the draft were  numerous scoring tables and conversion charts which the UFT was now seeing for the very first time. These tables and charts were very important: embedded in them were fundamental decisions about the shape of the evaluation system. By waiting until the very last minute to provide the union with these numbers, the DOE was trying to sandbag us: it was now impossible to properly vet those numbers before the deadline.
The UFT would have been completely justified in ending the negotiations, then and there. But we did not. Our Measures of Student Learning team met with our DOE counterparts and I met one-on-one with Deputy Chancellor Shael Suransky in efforts on our part to put together an agreement over the scoring numbers and ratings that would ensure that teachers would receive fair and accurate scores and ratings. Bloomberg’s description of these discussions could not be further from the truth: far from a last minute effort on the part of the UFT to change agreed upon scoring metrics, the union was doing everything it could to rescue the negotiations from a bad faith maneuver on the part of the DOE that could have easily derailed any agreement. We agreed to a three part solution: a joint UFT-DOE committee would have to approve the growth formulas which would be used for all of the measures of student learning; any scoring metric which unfairly skewed ratings would have to be recalibrated; and a special expedited appeals process would be established for final ratings which were not concordant with the different component ratings. On Thursday morning, I confirmed this three part agreement in a telephone conversation with Suransky. Over many years of working with the Bloomberg DOE, through the chancellorships of Joel Klein, Cathy Black and Dennis Walcott, I have seen a great deal of cynicism on the part of the mayor and the top DOE leadership, but Bloomberg’s lie that the UFT engaged in an 11th hour effort to undo agreed upon scoring metrics in an effort to protect “bad teachers” is surely a new low in misrepresentation.
The Mayor’s claim that the UFT introduced a “last minute” demand for a sunset clause on the agreement is refuted by the very draft application shared with us. On the very last line of this section of the draft application, the DOE itself had written that the agreement would only last through the 2013-2014 school year. The preponderance of applications from school districts around New York approved had similar sunset clauses: given the sheer complexity of the new teacher evaluation systems required by New York State law, they reasoned that it was only prudent to revisit their implementation in a year or two. All of these applications have been approved by the New York State Education Department. It was the Mayor who, after an agreement had been reached with a sunset clause, insisted on undoing that clause and blowing up the entire agreement. The Council of Supervisors and Administrators, negotiating for a new principal evaluation, also had their agreement blown up by Bloomberg on the very same issue.
After two years of continuous efforts on the part of the UFT to negotiate a teacher evaluation system which would provide New York City public school teachers with the means to hone our skills and craft, and provide our students with the highest quality education, it is now painfully clear that Mayor Bloomberg has no intention of negotiating such an agreement.
* When the negotiations on teacher evaluation began two years ago, I was a UFT Vice President, and I served as co-chair of the union’s Teacher Evaluation Negotiations Committee. Last September I resigned my position as UFT Vice President to become the Executive Director of the Albert Shanker Institute at the American Federation of Teachers, the UFT’s national union, but I made a commitment to the UFT to see these negotiations to completion and remained involved in them.

Why did the negotiations fall apart at the last minute? A Vengeful Mayor? Next Steps?

Why did the Mayor v. Mulgrew, aka, City v. Teacher Union negotiation crash at seemingly the last moment?
As I noted in a previous blog “the last 10%” is the steepest part of any negotiation – the parties must address the most intractable issues. In the current set of negotiations over the teacher evaluation plan required by state law the parties had been in almost round the clock talks for a week with a January 17th deadline set by the governor.
The negotiation process is “hurry up and wait,” one side makes an offer, the other side mulls the offer, discusses among themselves and eventually crafts a counteroffer, the “mulling” will take hours. At the end each session that parties agree on what they previously agreed upon.
The goal is to sign off on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and, submit a plan to the state in a rigid template format.
The current teacher evaluation law requires that the parties negotiate the “local 20%,” and the implementation of the 60% based on principal observations.
While critics of teacher evaluation plans rail against the use of assessments based on student test scores, commonly referred to as Value-Added Modeling (VAM) the New York State law requires that 20% of the score will be determined by the teacher VAM scores, or, in non-tested subjects, school/school district created Student Learning Objectives; the use of VAM is not part of the current negotiations.
The state approved plans are long and complex- most are well over a hundred pages long.
After thousands of hours the parties apparently reached an agreement Wednesday night only to have the mayor veto the plan.
Strangely, the two issues the mayor objects to are not “hot button” issues to the rest of the education world.
The June, 2015 sunset date:
Over 90% of the approved plans, emphasize, plans approved by the commissioner, include a one or two year sunset clause. When asked about the impact of a sunset clause Commissioner King and Regent Tisch both did not foresee an issue. Regent Tisch proffered that the law would undergo changes, tweaks, over the months and years ahead. When the mayor explained that the union will allow the plan to sunset, to expire, thereby undercutting the intent of the law, he is alone, the other 700 plus plans accepted a sunset clause, as well as the state commissioner and the governor.
Is he more perceptive than all others, or, just seeking a reason to reject the plan?
Expedited processes to resolve disputes:
Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process that avoids going through lengthy and expensive litigation. In labor and commercial contracts the parties to the agreement commonly establish a process utilizing jointly selected arbitrator(s); s/he renders a final and binding decision within parameters established among the parties.
The Department, by design, has clogged the current contractual grievance process by forcing the union to take virtually all disputes before an arbitrator – there are so many cases that the process commonly takes more than a year. Once before the arbitrator the Department frequently settles the case – agrees to a non-precedential settlement. The union insisted on embedding a process that would take weeks instead of years.
Expedited arbitrations are commonplace. Under the School-Based Option Staffing and Transfer Plan that was part of the contract in the pre-Bloomberg years teachers could file grievances argued before an arbitrator in an expedited process.
The union and the department agreed on an expedited procedure to resolve disputes – an agreement that the mayor refused to accept.
The mayor has attacked the arbitration process – attacked arbitrators – which is outrageous. Arbitrators are jointly selected and can be removed from the panel by either party. To revile an arbitration process is to revile the rule of law.
January 17th has come and gone – the governor will move forward to reduce city school funding by $250m, which will lead to midyear reductions in school funding and, perhaps, the city will threaten midyear teacher layoffs.
The mayor has raised the ante.
The print media will continue to pillory the union.
Next steps: draconian midyear cuts, with possible staffing layoffs creating anger and finger pointing in the school community. Is the union responsible? Are they simply undermining an evaluation plan that is intensely unpopular among union members? Is the mayor, vengefully, going to battle the union each and every day, regardless of the consequences, until his term ends, with the support of the Post, the Daily News and the Wall Street Journal?
Will the governor allow the city and the union to dangle? To wrestle in the mud? Or, will he pressure both sides, threatening to support the elimination of “last in, first out” seniority laws? Or drag the Mikes to Albany … to Canossa … forcing them to pay homage to Andrew and hammer out a settlement?
An irony: a plan would result in supervisors and teachers engaging in a process to measure student growth at the school level – ongoing discussions about the process of teaching and learning – exactly what chancellors and union presidents want. The teacher evaluation process will identify ineffective teachers, more importantly, if implemented fairly and honestly, it will create a dialogue between school leaders and teachers and among teachers – the “talk” that is at the heart of effective teaching.
* Today, “Canossa” refers to an act of penance or submission. To “go to Canossa” is an expression – to describe doing penance, often with the connotation that it is unwilling or coerced