… it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Macbeth
Understand we are all pawns on a limitless stage with the powerful vying for our adulation, and every few years, our votes.
After eight years Michael Bloomberg had fashioned a worldwide reputation – as a cynical New Yorker told me, “He turned New York into Copenhagen, whether we liked it or not,” pedestrian malls, bike lanes, new refurbished parks, low crime rates and an avalanche of tourists from around the world, the well-honed image, the diminutive, aloof manager-mayor at a press conference pointing at a reporter, “Miss, your question?” The apolitical mayor, neither democrat nor republican, running the greatest city in the world, who briefly flirted with running the nation.
Four years later he is an angry, reclusive billionaire spending his final months in a vengeful assault on teachers and their union.
In the early hours of January 17th, the final date the governor set for agreement the department and the union reached a handshake agreement. Hours later the mayor made a political judgment – he trashed the agreement and rolled out his media mavens. The mayor, editorials in the Daily News and the Post, the republican mayoral candidates and conservative pundits, all undoubtedly orchestrated by Howard Wolfson, the deputy Mayor for Political Skullduggery, all pounding away at a union who was “defending incompetent teachers.”
Anything short of building a guillotine on the steps of City Hall is unacceptable, tumbrels must be rolling from schools to the blade, and we must rid the city of the plague of bad teachers.
Sacrificing 250 million the penalty for not reaching a timely agreement, is a small price to pay to resuscitate a stumbling legacy and, John King, might be vulnerable, and might fear the slings and arrows of the Bloomberg regency.
The NY Post claims the decision is a victory for the mayor, sort of.
The department matches up city and union positions with the Commissioner’s decision and claims a win and crows that they won.
Gotham Schools cogently summarizes the plan with comments by Walcott and Mulgrew.
UFT President Mulgrew writes a letter to members explaining the positive components and worries about implementation.
Gotham Schools reminds us that the mayor had different expectations for the final plan,
In January and last year, Mayor Bloomberg rejected teacher evaluation deals because he said the systems that would go into place would not result in any teachers being fired.
King pushed back against that outlook today, in the first paragraph of his press release touting the new evaluation system.
“There are strong measures to help remove ineffective teachers and principals, but let’s be clear: New York is not going to fire its way to academic success,” King said.
One of aphorisms in the world of management is: as complexity increases the chances of achieving goals decreases – and teacher eval plan clearly is enormously complex.
Two years or so down the road, with a new, probably a democratic and teacher union friendly mayor in place, one wonders whether the “strum und drang” of the last year will have faded away, as the dismissal procedure for “double ineffective” teachers face an arbitrator for the first time.
Principals generally fall into two categories, the managers and the educators: some principals spend their time managing the school – discipline, guidance, and sorting through reams of paperwork, they can usually be found in their offices while others are constantly in and out of classrooms engaging in the teaching/learning process – a few are both.
The core of the plan, the 60%, are teacher observations,
Danielson (2013): 22 components must be observed annually via observations and teacher artifacts
Teachers will have a choice between two options and indicate which option they have chosen at their initial planning conference in the beginning of the school year:
• Option 1: (a) minimum of 1 formal; (b) minimum of 3 informal (at least 1 unannounced)
• Option 2: minimum of 6 informal (at least 1 unannounced)
Teacher may authorize observation by video
The department encourages principals to use a low inference protocol for teacher classroom observations – the observer scribes the lesson: pupil:teacher and pupil:pupil interactions and in the post observation conference discusses the lesson: How effective do you think the lesson was? How do you know? Why did you ask a particular question? Did it produce the expected answer? How could you have improved the question? How would you assess pupil engagement? etc., the post observation is a self-assessment as well as a principal assessment tool. The resultant report is a summary of the conversation – with a “grade” in the HEDI range (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing and Ineffective), no longer the S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) assessment. The lesson is viewed through the Danielson lens. See Danielson Evaluation Instrument (2013).
A Partnership Support Organization, New Visions for Public Schools produced a detailed guide for principals on teacher observations.
The Teacher Effective Project Handbook Teacher Effectiveness Program 2012-13 Handbook, a project in coordination with the union, is a detailed guide to teacher observations.
The overall teacher evaluation law is far too complex and the entire state will stumble.
In New York City, in addition to the complexity of the plan, I have grave doubts about whether the current leadership of the department can manage the teacher evaluation plan. A new leadership team, working together with the union, might be able to craft a collaborative instructional support program, engaging peers in the observation program, using new technologies to view lessons, use common planning time as lesson studies, the potential is great, and unfulfilled.
Sadly the first act of the department/mayor after the release of the plan was to gloat – they may not be gloating after 12/31/13.