News stories

Negotiations on teacher evaluations go down to wire

UFT member Anna Howard (left) hands a flier to a commuter at 161st Street and Gr Dave Sanders

UFT member Anna Howard (left) hands a flier to a commuter at 161st Street and Grand Concourse in the Bronx, while Tina Silverman (right), an art teacher at PS 54, holds a poster that makes her view known.

Alexandra Itskovich, who teaches English as a second language at IS 52, Manhatta Pat Arnow

Alexandra Itskovich, who teaches English as a second language at IS 52, Manhattan, gets the union’s message to a couple near an Inwood transit hub.

Jennifer Jaeger, a teacher at PS 239 in Queens, stops passer-by Louis Migar on h Miller Photography

Jennifer Jaeger, a teacher at PS 239 in Queens, stops passer-by Louis Migar on his scooter to hand him a flier on a citywide Day of Action on Jan. 14.


Negotiators for the UFT and the city Department of Education resumed talks on Jan. 8 in an intensive effort to try to hammer out a fair teacher evaluation system by the governor’s Jan. 17 deadline.

As New York Teacher went to press on Jan. 14, negotiations were continuing and the outcome was still uncertain, with serious issues dividing the two sides. UFT President Michael Mulgrew remained insistent that he would not agree to any deal that did not “help teachers help kids.”

“The UFT’s position remains unchanged: The current evaluation system is inadequate,” Mulgrew said in a Jan. 11 email to members. “Teachers need a new evaluation system — one in which the Department of Education is responsible for supporting the schools and administrators in the schools are responsible for supporting the work that we do in the classroom.”

The Delegate Assembly, the union’s highest decision-making body, must approve any agreement.

State money at stake

Since New York won $700 million in federal Race to the Top funding in 2010, the state has been working to create an evaluation system to comply with the grant’s requirements, which include using student scores on state tests to assess teacher effectiveness. Districts may not sign collective-bargaining agreements without new evaluation systems in place.

UFT representatives have participated actively in designing the statewide guidelines, which call for a formula that evaluates teachers based 20 percent on students’ annual growth on state tests when available, 20 percent on other locally selected measures of student achievement and 60 percent on classroom-based observations of teacher practice.

At stake is a 4 percent increase, or $250 million, in state funding for New York City schools. In his State of the State address on Jan. 9, Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeated that there would be no extensions on his Jan. 17 deadline, and that without an evaluation plan in place, agreed to by the union and the school district and approved by the state, districts would lose the increase.

End runs and stalls

In the fall, the DOE attempted to implement evaluations in some schools without an agreement, using untrained evaluators. Mulgrew sent a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Dec. 19 saying the UFT would meet only to discuss a planning and rollout process for an evaluation system — if one is successfully bargained — but would not continue to bargain the content of the evaluations.

“We have little faith that the DOE will be able to put a new evaluation system in place once we have an agreement,” he said. “Their track record is terrible. It doesn’t matter how good an evaluation system may be on paper if you botch the rollout and implementation.”

In an unusual step, the DOE then filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board, alleging the union was not bargaining in good faith. Mulgrew fired back, calling the filing a blatant stalling tactic.

A week later, the UFT launched a TV ad campaign that called on the mayor to put politics aside and agree to a fair evaluation system.

The mayor responded by publicly likening the UFT to the National Rifle Association. But a surge of public outrage put pressure on the city, and it indicated a new willingness to return to the table.

If an agreement is reached, the union will publish a special edition of the New York Teacher with the details.

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Related topics: evaluation
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