There was prolonged applause at the April 9 Delegate Assembly when UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced that test scores will no longer be the deciding factor in student promotion decisions for grades 3 to 8.
“Chancellor Fariña did the right thing,” he said. “What a student does over 180 days is more important than what they do one day on a test.”
To critics who accuse the chancellor of dumbing down the standards, he responded, “When you are just using a test score, you can’t get any dumber.”
Fewer students repeated grades under Mayor Bloomberg’s test-based promotion policy, and more graduates went on to places like City University of New York requiring remediation because they weren’t prepared for college-level work, he noted.
The policy change will take effect this school year if the Panel for Educational Policy, as expected, approves it in May.
Mulgrew counseled patience with Fariña as she tackles all the problems she inherited.
“Remember, she took over a Department of Education office filled with lawyers, accountability experts and Michael Bloomberg acolytes,” he said.
Mulgrew advised the delegates and chapter leaders to calm their colleagues’ anxieties about the artifacts to be submitted as part of the new teacher evaluation and development system. He reminded members that it is their choice whether or not to submit artifacts. It is also their choice, he said, which artifacts they submit. Members are allowed to submit up to eight artifacts. Teachers who choose to submit artifacts can do so at their summative conference, he noted. Mulgrew urged those having difficulties with their principal on the matter to contact their UFT district representative.
Segueing to the state budget, he said it was an overall success and thanked everyone who had traveled to Albany on the UFT’s Lobby Day.
He noted the highlights, including an increase of 5.3 percent in school funding; $300 million for the mayor’s universal pre-K program that does not come out of the city’s school aid; a moratorium on attaching high-stakes consequences to the Common Core tests for students (although no action yet for teachers); the rejection of the student data program InBloom; and a ban on standardized testing for children in pre-K to 2nd grade.
On the down side, charter schools scored significant new space rights in the new budget. However, he noted, “it was not a complete victory” for charter operators because now the city comptroller’s office can audit charter schools.
Mulgrew noted that the Wall Street backers of Success Academy charter schools spent $5 million on television ads painting themselves as victims. “They saw a political opportunity and they seized it,” he said.
But he said he remained confident that the union and its allies would prevail in the end.
“We’ve always said, you can outspend us 10 to 1, but we have the feet on the ground, and now we have a more sympathetic mayor ... and parents are our friends,” he said.