Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Note: The GEM Conference on the evaluation agreement scheduled for March 15 aimed at formulating a plan to redirect the debate on this issue – with LI Principal Carol Burris, Francis Lewis HS Ch Ldr Arthur Goldstein and Class Size Matters Leonie Haimson is being rescheduled. Look for updated info here and on the blog.

This post is based on a James Eterno Feb. 16 piece on the ICE blog:


Vera Pavone modified it for this post to include info on the publication of TDRs.


The UFT and New York State United Teachers gave away the store in their initial agreements with the city and the State Education Department concerning teacher evaluations. While there’s no final agreement on a new evaluation system in New York City, what is emerging is a system with few safeguards that has the potential to allow the Department of Education to terminate hundreds or possibly thousands of tenured teachers starting in 2014.

The agreement with the state has 40% of a teacher's annual rating based upon student performance on tests. Half of that will be state-wide standardized tests and the other half will be locally developed assessments (whatever that turns out to be) that the State Education Department must approve. The other 60% will be based on subjective measures such as principal observations and possibly some peer review, parent review or student review. However, if a teacher is rated ineffective in the student test score portion, the teacher cannot get a passing grade. Also, if a principal gives a teacher a poor rating even substantial test score gains will not save the teacher. There are so many ways to give teachers a failing grade.

UFT negotiators had been holding out in negotiations with the city for a stronger appeal process—a review before an independent arbitrator instead of the present appeal process for U ratings in which teachers lose over 99% of the time. But the DOE walked out of negotiations during the Christmas break and announced that they would close most of the transformation-restart schools that were supposed to be the first to use the new evaluation system

The “compromise” is a mere face-saving change and will affect only 13% of teachers who the UFT leaders determine were rated ineffective in the first year due to harassment rather than performance. These 13% can have an appeal before a three person panel, one union-selected, one DOE-selected, and one agreed on by both. But given the various ways principals can be unfair to teachers, many of which impact on performance and student outcomes, this is hardly a way to protect teachers. What remains in place for the other 87% of ineffective-rated teachers is an appeals process which will offer them virtually no chance of winning.

UFT leaders tell us not worry because a teacher with an ineffective rating will be monitored by an “independent validator” who will observe the teacher at least three times during the following school year and issue a report rating the teacher. This evaluator is assumed to be independent because he or she cannot be employed by the UFT or the DOE and will be chosen through a joint process. If the validator disagrees with the principal on the ineffective rating, then the burden of proof will fall on the DOE at the 3020A (tenure process) hearing. But if the validator agrees with the principal’s rating, then the teacher would carry the burden of proof in the tenure hearing. Since this is basically a recycling of the Peer Intervention Plus program, which has a history of mostly rubber stamping U ratings by principals, we believe it is highly unlikely for a teacher to prevail over two ineffective ratings by principals.

If this evaluation system is finalized, it will mark the end of tenure. Tenure is the right to due process, which means a teacher is assumed to be competent unless the DOE proves otherwise. In this agreement the burden of proof is shifted. If you are rated ineffective, and the so-called independent evaluator concurs with this rating, you will have to prove that you are not ineffective. Even assuming the validators are independent and neutral they will most likely have neither the capabilities nor the time to fairly evaluate teachers, especially those who principals may have set up for failure by giving them difficult classes and bad programs.

The recent publication of the NY City’s Value Added Model ratings has left teachers, administrators and parents appalled at the shamefulness of the DOE and press, but also astonished at the total disconnect between the “grades” and the actual abilities of the teachers. The newspapers, the DOE and the union were well aware of the research that has shown that the margin of error in these VAM ratings is 75% in math and 87% in English, and that there are large swings in variability for each teacher. Yet the so-called data was published, and according to the agreement similar data (slightly different tests and tweaks in the mathematical equation) will be the basis of evaluating and firing teachers with the process beginning next year. What makes this especially dangerous is the statements of state education political appointees that the teachers’ scores will be projected on a Bell Curve which will target 10% of our teachers to be rated ineffective and terminated. In addition to a wholesale attack on teachers, the entire evaluation system, which will necessitate tests in every subject area, including multiple tests a year to enable value added to be calculated, is a costly bureaucratic nightmare and a fatal blow to teaching and learning.

In the wake of a great deal of anger and fear on the part of teachers as well as parents, community and political leaders, UFT leaders have been reacting on the one hand with concern (Mulgrew stated that he is “not confident” that the state model will avoid the pitfalls of the city reports) and on the other with defense and even celebration of their agreement with Governor Cuomo. High School Vice-President has been working overtime trying to get us to believe that our union leaders, who have caved in on every negotiation over our rights in recent years (longer school day, seniority/SBO transfers, creation and mistreatment of ATRs, letter in file grievances) will prevail in getting the city and the state to be reasonable when it comes to teacher evaluations.

There are still many details to be negotiated by the UFT and DOE. It is entirely possible that there will never be an agreement on the local assessments and this whole new evaluation process will then collapse under the weight of its stupidity. But we can’t count on things like stupidity, unfairness, expense, educational malfeasance, and massive firings of teachers to stop our union leaders from going ahead with this disastrous agreement.

It is up to us to stop them.



See Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on the right for important bits.

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