Teacher Evaluation: Are Walcott and Mulgrew Moving Towards a Settlement? Are the “Political Gods” Whispering?

If you haven’t seen Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln take a few hours and watch how our greatest president used his political skills to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, the abolition of slavery.

Lincoln is an excellent example of an aphorism attributed to German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, “The things you don’t want to see in person is the making of sausages and laws,”

We are currently observing the “making of a law,” the negotiations between the city and the teachers union which will create a teacher evaluation law for pedagogical employees in New York City.

As the parties began the negotiation process in the spring the mayor rebuffed all efforts to engage in actual negotiations. The usual attacks on the union funneled through news and op ed stories in the Daily News, the Post, the Wall Street Journal and the John Gambling radio program.

According to the mayor all decisions regarding teacher evaluation must be made solely by the principal; the entire teacher observation/assessment process must be determined at the school site by the school leader.

The sides met from time to time – no progress.

Early this school year at a meeting of network staffs a deputy chancellor made a hopeful admission, “The purpose of the teacher evaluation law is to make teachers better, ineffective teachers will fire themselves.”

At a Wednesday morning Manhattan Institute (listen to Walcott’s remarks) sponsored panel, Breaking the Deadlock: Toward a Solution on Teacher Evaluations in New York City, Chancellor Walcott announced the department and the union had agreed to set a December 21st deadline for completing negotiations. Deputy Chancellor Marc Steinberg and Walcott constantly referred to the union “as our partners” in finding an agreement.

Deputy Chancellor David Weiner at a Teachers4Excellence meeting (as reported Gotham Schools) and at an informal meeting with the press talked about one of the actual issues – the procedures surrounding the teacher observation process. The process is currently embedded in Article 8J of the UFT Contract and department memoranda.

Article 8J part of the Agreement for many years, states.

… performance reviews are based on assessment/evaluation procedures which identify and recognize the range of abilities and experiences of teachers and link a teacher’s performance, a school’s educational goals and related professional development activities. The reviews must be based on the agreed upon characteristics of good teaching, including consideration of positive student learning outcomes and parent involvement.

The plan also provides the following:

  1. Where  appropriate, the performance review must include clear and specific recommendations for professional growth.
  2. Annual performance reviews may be based on either of two models:
  3. The first model,  known as Annual Performance Options (Component A), offers an individual  teacher, in consultation with his/her supervisor, the opportunity to set yearly goals and objectives and to choose the methods for demonstrating      professional growth. The annual performance options will be supported with appropriate follow-up professional development activities, as noted below.
  4. The second model, known as Formal Observations (Component B), is the traditional  classroom observation by a principal or supervisor which includes pre- and post-observation conferences and written feedback/comments.

The just ratified Newark Teacher Union contract includes teachers in the assessment process at the school level,

[Union president] Del Grosso said the key to the Newark deal was a provision in the contract that will allow teachers to serve on the committees evaluating colleagues’ performance in the classroom.

Each school will have a three-person evaluation committee that includes a school administrator, a principal and a teacher with equal power,

“We will have a say in our own destiny,” Del Grosso said. “We’re militant in that we want to control our own profession.”

Will the parties simply more forward with some iteration of the current language, or, follow the Newark example: involve teachers in a peer evaluation/assessment model?

Among the other major issues are Student Learning Objectives impacting teachers not teaching subject/grades subject to state exams and the “locally negotiated” twenty percent.

Has the mayor instructed his negotiators to actually engage in a negotiating process?

If so, why does he continue to trash the union? On a Friday radio program the mayor spewed.

Mayor Bloomberg said he’d rather lose the money — and make “painful cuts” to public schools or other agencies — than cut a deal that doesn’t “hold their feet to the fire.”

“If we can’t come to an agreement, it’s going to be very painful,” Bloomberg told host John Gambling on his weekly Friday radio show. “But the city’s certainly not going to sign on to any agreement that isn’t a real evaluation agreement, and one that can be monitored by the public.”

In his most strident language yet on the standoff, he said he wants all teacher evaluations released to the public, even though the state passed a law in June that would prohibit publishing teachers’ names with the ratings.

The mayor opposed the law at the time, but city officials say the mayor’s desire to release the ratings of individual teachers to the public isn’t part of negotiations with the union.

Has someone whispered in the mayor’s ear? Did he forget to take his meds on Friday? Why the dichotomy between Walcott and the Mayor?

Michael Mulgrew, the UFT president has grown considerably in his role.

* In the presidential race the UFT sent teachers into the key states of Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as thousands of phone calls into battleground states. Retired teachers Florida and Nevada worked full time in the Obama campaign.

* The UFT and NYSUT, the state teacher union spent over $4 million in races around New York State – the democratic majority in the Assembly grew and with two races undecided, the Democrats may end up with a majority in the Senate.

* The UFT is carefully engaging with the Democratic mayoral candidates, the union has not endorsed a candidate for mayor since the ill-fated multiple endorsements in 2001.

Mulgrew has skillfully made the union a major player on the political scene – not through bluster, not through negativity but through actions on the ground.

When State Senator Saland introduced ant- union legislation the union targeted Saland, poured dollars and foot soldiers into the campaign and defeated him. A lesson to other legislators; the union is a loyal friend and a difficult enemy.

Perhaps the power brokers want to resolve the teacher evaluation issue to remove a contentious, fractious controversy and move forward.

The day after a teacher evaluation law is agreed upon: nothing will happen, nothing will happen for two or three years, it will take that long for the first teacher to be discharged under the new law.

The law is so incredibly obtuse, so many moving parts, it will stumble along requiring fix after fix.

In the spirit of the Common Core a quote from “the bard” may accurately describe the teacher evaluation kerfuffle.

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

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3 responses to “Teacher Evaluation: Are Walcott and Mulgrew Moving Towards a Settlement? Are the “Political Gods” Whispering?

  1. Mulgrew’s hands are not clean. Without consulting the membership and against his own beliefs, he approved the 40% test score measure on teacher evaluations … for RTTT money. I was at the DA when he patted himself on the back for not making a worse deal. Since then, he sold us out on the discipline process for alleged incompetence. Eighty-seven (87) percent of accused teachers will have the burden of proof in 3020-a hearings, reversing the previous policy of putting all the burden all the time on the DOE.

  2. I totally agree!

  3. Sorry, but quoting The Bard defies the spirit and directions of the Common Core standards, which call for a preponderance of “informational texts.” Ms. Danielson, as interpreted by your Principal – who has probably taught for less time than you, and thus needs a checklist – will not approve.

    Apparently, according to David “nobody gives a sh#& what you think” Coleman, literature contains no information. In the eyes of Bill Gates, who helped fund the formulation of the Common Core Standards, the humanities transact at an extremely high discount.

    Perhaps better to include Federal Reserve Bank reports, which have been explicitly anointed by the Common Core.

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