News stories

At 11th hour, mayor torpedoes evaluation deal

Bruce Cotler

Manhattan Special Representative Zina Burton-Myrick (left) and HS for Health Careers and Sciences Chapter Leader Sam Morris (right) engage two commuters as they pass out leaflets outside the Lincoln Center subway stop. More photos >>

Twelve teachers from Lower East Side Prep, a transfer school, join forces with members from nearby PS 20 to picket and hand out leaflets on the Lower East Side after school on Jan. 14.

Gary Schoichet

Teacher Tollyne Dickerson (right) of IS 142 discusses the mayor’s failures with a shopper at Bay Plaza shopping center in Co-op City, the Bronx, after school on Jan. 24.

In the end, the mayor could not accept a new evaluation system that supported teachers.

At 3 a.m. on Jan. 17, the day of the state deadline, the UFT and the Department of Education had reached an agreement in principle on a new evaluation plan that would have given teachers better working conditions, more voice in how they are evaluated and support for continued professional growth throughout their careers.

A key part of those conversations were centered on student learning measures, which empower teachers to take ownership of their work in the classroom rather than leave their fate in the hands of potentially biased administrators and a subjective ratings process.

But seeing that the agreement gave teachers voice and support, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stepped in to sabotage the deal, and in the process forfeited at least $240 million in state education aid for city schools.

“What we agreed on this morning was a good thing. It would have helped you in your schools,” Mulgrew told the Delegate Assembly, which had gathered at union headquarters that afternoon expecting to review and vote on the complex agreement.

Bloomberg, in a press conference earlier that day, tried to deflect blame by erroneously accusing the union of putting on the table at the last minute a two-year “sunset” clause that he said would have rendered the evaluation system toothless.

A similar sunset clause is included in more than 90 percent of the 681 approved evaluation plans across the state, and even State Education Commissioner John King acknowledged that it was mentioned in earlier conversations with the DOE and included in the DOE’s draft application that the DOE asked the state to review. [See “State ed commish reads DOE the riot act” on page 4.]

“For the mayor to say we brought it up at the last minute, he’s lying,” Mulgrew told the Delegate Assembly.


DOE sank principals’ agreement, too

Ernest Logan, the president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said his union had a one-year expiration date on its own evaluation deal, which was also scuttled by the mayor.

“It is important to know that the overwhelming majority of school systems throughout the state have reached a one-year agreement in order to evaluate and modify it later to better serve our children,” Logan said. “The state law provides for a one-year evaluation plan, and the mayor supported the enactment of this legislation.”

The mayor underplayed the loss of $240 million in state aid, which was contingent on state approval of a new evaluation system, along with millions more in other grants and state funds. But Mulgrew warned that schools would take a hit. “The loss of any funds is extremely serious for us, which is why I’m so frustrated, angry and sad all at the same time,” he told the Delegate Assembly.


Union blocks mayor’s ‘gotcha’ system

Every school district in New York State is required by state law to create a new evaluation system for teachers. But much to the chagrin of Mayor Bloomberg, that new evaluation system must be supportive of teachers and help them learn and grow throughout their careers. It can’t be a “gotcha” system.

New York City was one of only a handful unable to reach agreement by the governor’s deadline, a testament in part to how the negotiating climate has been soured by the mayor’s strategy of humiliating and scapegoating teachers and vilifying unions.

The Delegate Assembly gave Mulgrew a standing ovation as he entered Shanker Hall, and many expressed satisfaction that he had held firm against a mayor bent on penalizing teachers.

But Mulgrew reminded delegates that a new evaluation system will eventually be reached because state law requires it. He also said the tentative agreement that had been reached would have been beneficial to members. He noted that it offered teachers real “choice and voice” on how to assess student learning and provided safeguards to ensure the process was fair and transparent.

The agreement would also have improved members’ lives with regard to reducing paperwork and providing curriculum aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards, he said.

“It would have made members’ lives better,” he said, “and in turn helped us help kids.”

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