Staring at electeds and the folk in New York State are yawning budget deficits approaching 20 billion dollars. Tax receipts are stagnant and the stimulus funds end next year. Health and education make up 40% of state expenses. The state Senate is in meltdown and agreement on the day of the week is elusive. They steadfastly refuse to vote for any cuts to education.
The Governor, a lame duck governor, although he may not know it, has announced unilateral cuts that will filter down across the state to local communities.
As he looks to his third term Mayor Bloomberg sees the same nightmare scenario facing New York City. City revenues are way down and revenues from New York State will decline sharply
The lure of the Race to the Top (RttT) Obama/Duncan dollars are driving education policy.
A few months ago it looked like the Mayor and the UFT would agree to a contract, NYC Labor Commissioner Hanley testified that the City had put aside 4% + 4% for a two year agreement. The UFT support of mayoral control and standing on the sidelines in the mayoral election had the scent of a deal. As the budget cracks widened to an abyss the possibility of a timely contract waned.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, a really, really slow news day, Mayor Bloomberg laid out an education agenda at a forum in DC, with Arne Duncan sitting next to him. The header to the press release reads,
MAYOR BLOOMBERG CHALLENGES ALBANY TO LIFT SEVEN ROADBLOCKS PREVENTING NEW YORK FROM WINNING THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S ‘RACE TO THE TOP’ EDUCATION REFORM COMPETITION.
Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker responded quickly, suggesting that the mayor would not find satisfaction in Albany. “These are all contractual issues that should be decided at the bargaining table.”
The mayor did “order” the chancellor to use student performance data in decisions governing the granting of tenure this year. David Bloomfield, in a Community post on Gotham Schools panned plans to use performance data to evaluate probationary teachers, his solution: increase the probationary period from three to five years. David, I’m disappointed.
Districts were called upon to review their teacher evaluation processes, re-design where needed, and file District Professional Performance Review Plans. A district must include in its Professional Performance Review Plan: Criteria for evaluating teachers;
- Assessment approaches;
- Teacher improvement plans; and
- Training in performance evaluation
The element of this regulation particularly germane to the statutory intent of the new tenure section of Education Law is the criteria upon which all districts must evaluate teachers in their employ. The existing APPR regulation includes, but does not limit the factors to, the following:
Preparation of instruction
Knowledge of student development
Reflective and responsive practice
What has been totally ignored is the issue of peer review, that was added to the law.
peer review by other teachers, as far as practicable
Peer Review is a tough issue, it exists in a handful of schools in the city. In one school it has been embedded for over ten years. If we want to create schools that have an aura of professionalism, schools in which teachers have a voice in the creation and implementation of the instructional program, teachers must play a role in the hiring of new colleagues as well as in the evaluation of their newer colleagues, it’s the essence of professionalism.
Rather than this absurd discussion on the use of student performance data we are missing an opportunity if this current set of negotiations does not set aside a group of schools in which teachers and teacher leaders can work in a collaborative setting, and yes, let’s measure their effectiveness.
Perhaps the silence of Joel Klein presages negotiations that will quietly proceed and produce a contract that is good for kids and teachers, a contract that encourages school systems and teacher unions to work together. Unfortunately Arne Duncan sees pay for performance, data-based teacher evaluation and charter schools as the path to better schools.
Maybe, just maybe, Tisch, Steiner, Bloomberg, Klein and Mulgrew, with a little wisdom from Weingarten, can produce a “new” path for teacher contracts in New York.