Thursday, May 13, 2010

Report from the UFT Delegate Assembly

John Elfrank-Dana, Chapter Leader
Murry Bergtraum High School


I expected a rancorous evening and that’s what I got. With the news about the UFT agreeing to a teacher evaluation plan that includes student test scores I knew there would be a hard sell by Mulgrew to the independents present. Never a problem for the Unity Caucus faithful as they would be prepared to tow the line.

The report came out in the Times about the new scheme which describe a total test component of 40% of your evaluation (25% from state exams and 15% from local). Mulgrew went to work saying that was misleading ( I have attached the UFT’s summary of the agreement).

So, why the agreement? Mulgrew explained that Federal legislation was inevitable requiring districts to tie teacher evaluation with some form of testing in order to receive Title 1 and all the other forms of funding. He checked it out with his people in D.C. who confirmed there’s no stopping it. Since NYC depends heavily upon such finding we had to act. He stated that we are in a better climate now to discuss this rather than wait a year.

The attached summary was handed out and we were asked to vote on it. Objections came that we needed more time to review before making a decision. Also, that since this was done on Monday, why didn’t the UFT e-mail the chapter leaders the agreement so they’d have time to review? This is a common Unity practice of rushing things through so you don’t have time to think and ask the nuanced questions. It’s the old “The Sale Ends Today” approach, so you’d “better buy now”!

Nonetheless, Mulgrew claimed that the agreement meant only 20% of your assessment will come from tests while the rest from 8 other criteria (see in attached summary). Also, that it fixes a broken system of assessment which allowed principals to U-rate teachers based upon whim. Now they would have to produce more objective criteria. As expected, VP Michael Mendel and Grievance Director Howard Solomon spoke passionately in favor of it. For Mendel it was enough that the Chancellor was quoted in the press as unhappy with the agreement.

The agreement, Mulgrew went on, requires the DoE to negotiate the fine points with the UFT. This was another reason for supporting.

Concerns were raised. Bronx Science HS chapter leader urged caution, saying we need to get the right to grieve unfair letters in the file back. Also that he’s never seen a rubric (the new eval system has us graded by rubrics) that a principal couldn’t manipulate. He also said the details should be negotiated in public and not in secret. Marjorie Stamberg called the agreement “merit pay in drag” and a capitulation to the privatizers and union busters. This is because the agreement allows for special compensation for those of us who score high marks on our rubrics and student tests. Those special teachers may be given new titles (like Master Teacher) for which to anoint the higher pay. Therefore, according to Mulgrew, it’s not “merit pay” in the strict sense of the word.

I will mull over the summary and hope you do too. I have my reservations about all of this. I remember hearing the testing industry, which are the big winners in this, gave Obama a ton of money. This is probably payback. It’s a poisonous premise that we can measure student achievement via standardized test scores. Standardized tests were never developed for this but only to rank students. Plus, it starts out at 20% test scores. But, now that the foot is in the door, you can bet that percentage will only go up. Also, knowing firsthand how the UFT Grievance Department, and the corresponding boro grievance committees operate like health insurance companies, i.e. make it their business to deny service, I’m not confident this will end up a win for us. There will probably be a lack of enforcement of the provisions we do negotiate.

I had to leave early but David Gordon and Joel Puelle, your delegates were also there. You can ask them for their take. There was a conversation about budgets. I know we have to keep calling and demonstrating to avoid layoffs. More on that coming soon.

Remember, review the attachment and give me your thoughts.


John Elfrank-Dana
UFT Chapter Leader
Murry Bergtraum High School

ED NOTE: I have the pdf attachment but don't have time to process it. Email me if you need a copy.

Another report

I'm a chapter leader at the UFT DA right now and would like to report this anonymously:

The scene was surreal to start. The room was packed but the tone was hushed. It felt like the crowd had come to listen to Mulgrew explain himself and the recent overhaul of the evaluation system.

He began by going through what he called ''inaccurate'' reporting by the NY Times. He had prepared an FAQ sheet that answered some of the questions that members might have.

He mentioned that this new system only calls for 20 percent of overall score to come from tests. He also stated that there were parts that had yet to be negotiated by the Union-like the Value Added scores. He stated directly that this did not change the tenure system.

As he went on, you could feel the tide of the delegates turning - he was starting to bring comfort to those who were anxious about this deal.

There were good questions and voices of dissent from the crowd. Some asked why this had been brokered secretly without teacher input. According to Mulgrew they had done this to keep the DOE and Klein out of the negotiation. This was a deal with the state, he said


  1. Michael Mendel always speaks passionately in favor of agreements. He did the same with the ATRs agreement that did not fix anything. Just a few ATRs got jobs.
    With this agreement -- we can kiss goodbye to Seniority and Tenure.

  2. On the one hand, Klein's not happy. On the other hand, those little E4E twerps are ecstatic. And what do they care anyway, they'll quit in 2 more years.


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