Tag Archives: Michael Mulgrew

The UFT Contract Proposal: Can a Teacher Contract Rebuild Trust in Public Schools: An Aggressive Agreement Confronts Teacher Shortages, Teacher Collaboration and High Poverty/At Risk Schools

As Hurricane Michael whistled by the city the Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza and Union President Mulgrew announced a proposed union contract months before the mid February contract expiration, and, none too soon for a chancellor faced with one inherited crisis after another.

This afternoon hundreds of union delegates will convene  to hear details, ask questions, and, after what I expect will be vigorous debate vote on the contract. If approved, as I expect, it will move to the members, who, in a secret ballot, will vote to approve or reject the agreement. As with every contract there will be naysayers: not enough money, class size should have been addressed, etc., I expect an overwhelming approval by members. In 1995 the members did vote to reject a contract, a five year contract with no raises in the first two years, months later virtually the same contract was approved.

Public employee negotiations are guided by the Public Employees Relation Board (PERB) regulations, and salary is governed by the principles of “Ability to Pay” and “Pattern Bargaining;” (see an earlier blog for more detailed discussion).

The tentative 43-month contract provides a 2 percent salary increase on Feb. 14, 2019, followed by an increase of 2.5 percent on May 14, 2020, and 3 percent on May 14, 2021.  After the May, 2021 increase, the maximum teacher salary will jump to $128,657 from today’s high of $119,472. Starting teacher salaries will go from the current $56,711 to $61,070.

UFT-represented employees will still receive the lump-sum payments scheduled for this October and the following two Octobers that were negotiated in the 2014 contract.

For the chancellor the contract proposed contract settlement is crucial, he was drowning in inherited crises that have been bubbling for years.

The education headlines: thousands of students left stranded as school buses failed to arrive, a $100,000 rabbi with the $50,000 driver, working for the Department, to supervise publicly funded buses for Yeshivas , staggering numbers of special education qualified students without services (Read NYTimes story here), and, of course, the lingering and contentious specialized schools segregation conundrum.pitting students of color against Asian students.

The contract is complex and the implementation difficult, it attempts to blend the needs of the union and the needs of the school system.

 Teaching shortages and teacher retention: enrollment in teacher education programs is sharply down, and, teacher retention in high needs schools, more than half the teachers leave within five years, creates a cycle of constant teacher shortages. Are we selecting the “proper” candidates?   The department will begin to pre-screen potential candidates. When I worked as a consultant in the Chancellor’s District in the late 90’s we pre-screened candidates before we sent possible candidates on to be interviewed by principals, a similar model will be implemented for selective schools.

A subset of high needs schools, mostly in the Bronx, will have the opportunity to participate in a carefully structured local decision-making model.

 The tentative contract establishes a Bronx Collaborative Schools Model for up to 120 high-needs schools, mostly in the Bronx. Schools will be identified based on staff turnover, student achievement and other criteria, but the chapter leader and the principal must both agree to participate. These schools will form joint labor-management committees and be provided with support to make significant changes in school operations. Each school will make its own decisions on how to improve school climate, reduce teacher turnover and increase academic achievement. The changes could include an additional $5,000 to $8,000 per year for teachers in a hard-to-staff license or title.

  A continuing frustration has been obdurate school leaders who cannot/will not engage staff in the school decision-making process. The contract addresses the issue,

The agreement will expand the authority of school-based UFT consultation committees, empowering them to raise and address issues of professional development, basic instructional supplies, curriculum, inadequate space and workload. Those issues will be raised first at the school, but the chapter leader can escalate them to the district and central levels if resolution isn’t reached. The contract also provides stronger protection for members who voice concerns from attempts by a supervisor to retaliate against or harass them.

The tentative settlement includes a major victory for paraprofessionals,  due process rights not previously in the agreement.

In a major victory for paras, the tentative contract provides due-process rights for paras that are similar to those of teachers. You remain on the payroll while the case is adjudicated.

ATRs, teachers who were excessed from their schools into a pool of teachers without a permanent placement will be placed by local superintendents into vacancies from day one of the school year.

The number and length of teachers observations will be reduced for “effective” and “highly effective” rated teachers.

Read a Contract at a Glance here and full text of the Memorandum here.

In Los Angeles, a city with an elected central board, teachers have voted to strike and are currently in state-directed mediation, the central board hired a hedge fund despoiler as superintendent who wants to turn all of Los Angeles into a portfolio model; driven by charter school choice. Chicago, a mayoral control city has been battling their mayor and their governor for years, with very limited success as schools continue to be closed.

Elections have consequences, huge consequences for teachers and schools; negotiating a contract in a nation led by Trump and Betsy DeVoss is beyond challenging.

Both leaders, Mulgrew and Carranza have taken risks: can they create a truly collaborative climate at the school level; can they build a culture of trust?

Marc Tucker, in Education Week, explores the loss of trust in our schools and how we can rebuild trust,

… the distrust of school administrators by teachers, the distrust of teachers unions by governors and legislators, the distrust of state government by school district administrations, the distrust of parents by school professionals and vice-versa…well it seems to go on and on.

Where did trust go?  How can we get it back?

A union leader and a school district leader have used the vehicle of a collective bargaining agreement to address issues that hopefully will begin to rebuild trust in our public schools.

Michael Mulgrew: Tip-toeing between Cuomo and de Blasio, the Scylla and Charybdis of Education Politics in New York

Michael Mulgrew: Tip-toeing between Cuomo and de Blasio, the Scylla and Charybdis   of Education Politics in New York

New York City is a mayoral control city, meaning that the school leader, called the chancellor, is appointed by school board members (the Panel for Educational Priorities), a majority of whom are appointed by the mayor.  The chancellor is actually the deputy to the mayor for education. Chancellor Carranza’s tenure begins today – managing over 1800 schools, 1.1 million students and over 100,000 unionized employees. The chancellor’s chief of staff is Ursulina Ramirez who served in same role for the mayor in his previous elected office, Public Advocate. The agenda of the chancellor is the agenda of the mayor: both succeed or neither succeeds. Management models vary, from mayoral control (New York, Chicago, Boston, etc.) to Los Angeles, an elected board with millions spent on the elections to Houston, a divided nine-member board elected by geographic areas competing for resources; there is no right or wrong model.

The Mayor of New York City is an outspoken progressive who won a hotly contested 4-way primary election in 2013 and rolled to easy victories in the general elections in 2013 and 2017. Although de Blasio is firmly in the progressive camp the 51-member City Council is much further to the left. De Blasio is term limited, meaning he is building a national reputation for his next run for office, whatever it might be.

A hundred and twenty miles to the north is Albany, the state capital and the political home of Andrew Cuomo, running for his third term as governor. In spite a Republican-controlled Senate Cuomo signed one of the first Marriage Equality laws as well as the strictest gun control laws in the nation. No matter: he is being challenged from the left by Cynthia Nixon, an actor with a long resume of political activism.

De Blasio and Cuomo, both with progressive creds, are bitter enemies, each claiming the progressive mantle.

Tip-toeing between the two most powerful electeds in New York State is the leader of the New York City teacher union (UFT), Michael Mulgrew, who began his career as a carpenter and rather surprisingly became the fifth president of the UFT in 2009. Under constant attack from Mayor Bloomberg Mulgrew not only successfully thwarted the mayor’s attempts to erode the union’s contract, the public trusted the union more than the mayor. Sol Stern in the conservative City Journal reported,

… according to a poll of city voters … sixty-four percent of respondents rated school performance as either fair or poor, with only 27 percent proclaiming it excellent or good; 69 percent said that students in the city’s schools weren’t ready for the twenty-first-century economy. New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

 While the UFT did not endorse de Blasio in the primary Mulgrew has developed an excellent relationship with the mayor. After more than four years without a contract Mulgrew and de Blasio negotiated a contract with full back pay, de Blasio appointed Carmen Farina, a Department of Education lifer, created the 70,000 student pre-K for All program, and reaped constant praise on teachers. De Blasio and Mulgrew clearly like each other and de Blasio’s appearance at the UFT Delegate Assembly, a huge success – teachers like him.

The brand new de Blasio-Carranza administration faces negotiating a teacher contract; the current agreement expires on November 30th, although in New York State expired agreements remain in force until the successor agreement is agreed upon. One issue is paid maternity/child care leaves; teachers have to use sick days, there is no paid leave. Under Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) policies contracts must comply with “ability to pay” and “patterning bargaining.” Simply put: the union and the city will have to find dollars apart from the base salary increase or reduce the negotiated salary increase, which is unlikely.  Another major issue that applies only to the UFT is the Absent Teacher Reserve, 700 plus teachers who were excessed from closed schools, each year every closed school pumps more teachers into the pool: a bad Bloomberg policy and an expensive policy. If the ATRs are returned to schools can the dollars saved be used for a paid maternity/child care leave settlement?  Just speculating!  I imagine this week, while teachers are on spring break, the new chancellor will be meeting with all the players on the NYC education scene.

The union’s relationship with Cuomo is far more complicated.

The UFT is the largest local in NYSUT, the state teacher union organization. There are 700 school districts, 700 local teacher unions in the state. From New York City, to the other “Big Five” (Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Yonkers), to the high tax, high wealth suburban districts to the hundreds of low wealth rural districts that struggle to pay heating bills. The gap in funding among school districts in New York State is among the greatest in the nation.  That’s right: we lead the nation in racially segregated schools and the inequality of school funding.

NYSUT represents all the locals and lobbies for more education dollars for all schools, Cuomo added a section to the budget requiring districts to phase in a dollar by dollar accounting of all education expenditures: a first step to equalizing state education dollars?

Bruce Baker in his superb School Finance 101 blog  is concise,

            To be blunt, money does matter. Schools and districts with more money clearly have greater ability to provide higher-quality, broader, and deeper educational opportunities to the children they serve. Furthermore, in the absence of money, or in the aftermath of deep cuts to existing funding, schools are unable to do many of the things they need to do in order to maintain quality educational opportunities. Without funding, efficiency tradeoffs and innovations being broadly endorsed are suspect. One cannot tradeoff spending money on class size reductions against increasing teacher salaries to improve teacher quality if funding is not there for either – if class sizes are already large and teacher salaries non-competitive. While these are not the conditions faced by all districts, they are faced by many.

While good for New York City, equity in school funding could set school district against school district across the state and “wealthier” local teacher unions versus “poorer” local teacher unions.

NYSUT opposes the use of student data to assess teacher performance, the current matrix system that combines supervisory observations with measures of student learning is supported by UFT, the new system sharply reversed the Bloomberg era – over 3000 adverse rating.

NYSUT comes close to endorsing the opt-out movement, 20% of parents, heavily concentrated in the suburbs are the opt-out base, very few opt-out schools in NYC and the UFT position is: a parental choice.

The elephants will continue to trample the grass: Is Cuomo maneuvering for a 2020 presidential run, and, if so, how will he situate himself on progressive, educational and teacher union issues?

De Blasio is term-limited, what are his political aspirations?

Although de Blasio is on the left; the furthest left since La Guardia, not far enough to the left for his political rivals within the Democratic Party.

Cuomo has a progressive resume and continues to push toward more and more anti-gun measures and has forced the city to cough up millions for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and to repair the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), aka low-income housing, using the budgetary powers of the governor to pre-empt the powers of the NYC mayor.

There is a long history of political rivalry in New York; back in 1804 after tossing insults back and forth Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton “settled” their dispute on the Palisades. While dueling pistols are now museum pieces the modern equivalent is alive and well. Joe Prococo, Cuomo’s closest assistant, whose father Mario called my “third son,” is convicted of taking bribes while working as son Andrew’s closest confident, A strong supporter of de Blasio, Cynthia Nixon, is running against Cuomo in the September democratic primary. Cuomo forces de Blasio to budget hundreds of millions for MTA repairs even though the MTA is a state agency, and, also forces de Blasio to budget 250 million for NYCHA repairs overseen by an outside monitor.

In midst of the boulder throwing Mulgrew has to work with the two Megatrons, a daunting task.

Even within the union the political caucuses urge moving to the left, supporting or opposing this candidate or that candidate. The union meetings, the monthly Delegate Assemblies give Mulgrew and opportunity to “teach,” to float ideas, to interact with local school union leadership.

In my early days as a school district union leader a new superintendent, with a tough reputation was selected, some school union leaders argued we should picket his office on his first day, show him we’re as tough as he was reputed to be. I was fortunate, I was mentored by union leadership who spent a career in the foxholes of politics, dodging bullets and bombs from both sides. I realized I didn’t only represent the militants, I represented all the members. My day-to-day job was responding to their needs: getting a salary or health plan issue resolved, an emergency leave approved, getting a principal off a teacher’s back, and I needed a nod from the superintendent. We worked out a “mature” relationship, we “agreed to disagree” on issues, no surprises, always gave him a heads up if I was going to be publicly critical, and public acclaim for doing “the right thing,” and, not to slighted, we were both avid Mets fans.

On a much larger stage Mulgrew has navigated the political landscape, both praising and criticizing city and state leadership, and, teaching his membership, politics is a romance with good days and not so good days.

If he can get de Blasio and Cuomo to hug, I have a problem in the Middle East he can tackle next.

A Quiet Revolution: The Education Law, ESSA, May Change the Face of Education (If You’re in the Right State!!)

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

One of recurring themes in American history is the conflict between the powers of Washington versus the powers of the states. The 10th Amendment underlines powers “delegated” to Washington and “reserved” to the states; however, over time Washington has inexorably eroded the powers of states, especially in education.

In Brown v Board of Education (1954) the Court decided, ”separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and in the Court’s second decision in Brown II only ordered states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed”.

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provided funds to primary and secondary education.in high poverty schools; Title 1 of the statue emphasizes equal access to education and accountability. In addition, the law aims to shorten the achievement between students by providing each child with “fair and equal opportunities to achieve an exceptional education.”

The courts and the federal government were intruding where the states were failing in their responsibilities.

The 10th Amendment Center reports, “Since 1980 (the establishment of the US Department of Education), during the Carter Administration, America’s K-12 education system has come under increasing control by the dictates of the federal Department of Education (DOE) with failing results, taxing states and filtering the money through Washington to return a portion of it back to the states.”

The Brookings Institute calls the 2002.No Child Left Behind “… the most important legislation in American education since the 1960s. The law requires states to put into place a set of standards together with a comprehensive testing plan designed to ensure these standards are met. Students at schools that fail to meet those standards may leave for other schools, and schools not progressing adequately become subject to reorganization.”  The bipartisan law was praised across the political spectrum. As the years progressed the law was increasingly criticized, especially the testing regime required sanctions.

The Obama administration continued and expanded the federal role, the Common Core State Standards, sponsored by the National Governors’ Association, and adopted by 46 states, resulted in the formation of two testing consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balance, with funding from the feds. In effect, we now had a set of national standards.

The Race to the Top, over $4 billion in competitive grants required schools to commit to the Common Core, expand charter schools and create a student test score-based teacher evaluation system

Every classroom was influenced by Washington imposed regulations and parents, teachers and school leaders pushed back. In New York State twenty percent of parents opted out of the state tests. The opposition, supported by teachers and their union, bled into day-to-day politics. Electeds and candidates jumped on board sharply opposing the Obama education initiatives.

Slowly the opposition to Obama and NCLB resulted in the creation of bills, at first Republican bills in the House that died in the Senate, Senators Patty Murray (D) and Lamar Alexander (R) crafted a Senate bill that crept through both houses and was signed by the President. The law, the Every School Succeeds Act (ESSA) rolls back the federal role in education policy-making.

While the law continues the required grades 3-8 testing the law delegates to the states the creation of school accountability plans. The fifty states are in the process of creating plans; while the law grants states wide discretion the plans must meet rigorous evidenced-based standards.

Read draft ESSA regulations: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/31/2016-12451/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-of-1965-as-amended-by-the-every-student-succeeds.

New York State started quickly, targeting the March submission date, and, at the October Board of Regents meeting slowed down, agreeing to move to the July date.

The Commissioner has created a ESSA Think Tank made up of a wide range of stakeholders to participate in developing pathways. View the October Regents Meeting PowerPoint description of the process to date:  http://www.regents.nysed.gov/common/regents/files/ESSA.pdf

Read a lengthier description of the process:  http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/essa.html ,

ESSA retains many of the core provisions of No Child Left Behind (the previous reauthorization of ESEA) related to standards, assessments, accountability, and use of Federal funds. However, ESSA does provide states with much greater flexibility in many areas, including the methodologies for differentiating the performance of schools and the supports and interventions to provide when schools are in need of improvement.

View the beginning of the state plan: the Guiding Principles, the Characteristics of Highly Effective Schools and the High Concept Ideas at the links below.

Draft Guiding Principles

Draft Characteristics of Highly Effective Schools

High Concept Ideas

Among the controversial sections of the draft New York State plan is the question of proficiency versus growth. Should schools be “judged” based on the percentages of students, and subgroups of students that meet state-established proficiency or should growth play a major role: the percentage of students who show year to year growth on the state tests? Or should the accountability metric combine proficiency and growth, and, if so, what should the mix look like? For example, 85% proficiency or 85% growth?

The proficiency v growth issue is being hotly debated among the stakeholders and the advocacy community. For example, Education Trust – New York is supporting a proficiency-based model as well as vigorous interventions at the school level.

Ensure that academic achievement drives school performance determinations and improvement strategies. This should be done by maintaining high standards; ensuring that academic measures represent more than 75 percent of a school’s rating; and limiting the number of accountability indicators.

Require immediate action when schools are not meeting rigorous expectations for any group of students. Ambitious performance and gap-closing goals should be set for all groups of students, and — following a needs assessment and with school district and, where necessary, state support — evidence-based strategies implemented when those goals are not met.

See Ed Trust position papers here  and here.

At the October UFT Delegate Meeting UFT President Mulgrew supported the growth concept. He asked, “Why punish teachers in high poverty schools if the children are making progress?”

This will be a major point of contention as the Regents move toward crafting a final plan.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has produced a valuable document, a look at what a number of states and advocacy organizations are working on and advocating.

View Overview of Proposed Accountability Models: http://www.ccsso.org/Documents/2016/ESSA/OverviewofProposedAccountabilityModels.pdf

Another organization, Chiefs for Change is working with fifteen states, in the creation of state plans. In a policy paper entitled, “ESSA Indicators of School Quality and Student Success” the Chiefs explore the research, for example, student attendance, teacher attendance, student suspensions, school climate, non-cognitive skills, etc., how do they impact student achievement? The Chiefs also have an interesting paper on evidence, ESSA requires that all plan meet high standards of evidence and Chief’s explore the question of what constitutes evidence. View paper: http://chiefsforchange.org/policy-paper/3096/

New Hampshire continues to move toward performance tasks in lieu of state tests, Vermont will explore portfolios, in the 1990’s they abandoned plans, an outside evaluation reviewer criticized their plans; it was not possible to create inter rater reliability. Will a portfolio reviewer in Scarsdale grade the same as a portfolio reviewer in East New York?

From coast to coast states are exploring evidence-based accountability proposals. Some will stick with the current PARCC or Smarter Balance tests or tests developed specifically for the individual states, some will move away from proficiency towards growth, a few will explore performance tasks and other authentic assessments. All have to pass the stringent evidence-based requirements of the law.

Perhaps for the first time in many decades educational decisions, reserved for the states, will be made by the states.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Convention: Days 1 and 2: Hillary, Randi, ESSA, Governors, Senators, Debate and Guests.

Wow!! What a day…

Sunday night: The convention begins with a Progressive Caucus meeting; over a decade ago there were opposing political caucuses within the AFT, currently the majority, the vast majority caucus is the Progressive Caucus. Although the Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teacher Union (CTU) defeated an incumbent slate in Chicago, at the AFT most of the Chicago delegates are in the Progressive Caucus, the same for the Los Angeles (UTLA), the union president defeated the incumbent slate; however, at the AFT his local is inside the Progressive Caucus umbrella. About 2/3 of the delegates are within the Progressive Caucus – the opposition caucus, from what I can see representing teachers in Berkeley and a few in Detroit is very small in number; although, they speak on the floor every chance they get. The Progressive Caucus took positions on about a dozen of the ninety-one resolutions.

Monday morning: A UFT delegation breakfast meeting at 7 am over watery scrambled eggs and lukewarm bacon Mulgrew gave an update and a preview. The union and the Department still have to negotiate a teacher evaluation plan, without the use of student test scores in grade 3-8 by the end of the year, or, lose half a billion dollars in state aid: probably SLOs, MOSLs and the like … Although there are now almost 150 PROSE schools many other schools struggle with school leadership, especially school leaders who fail to include the union chapter in the planning of educational policies – the union contract, Article 24, calls for mediation if the school leader fails to involve the chapter – the clause was only used three times last year. The union will pursue a major initiative to increase teacher participation at the school level.

Off to the first convention session: Randi Weingarten’s State of the Union address. One of Randi’s best speeches, she spoke about her path to becoming a passionate advocate, the role of her mother who was a teacher, her father who was laid off from a job as an engineer, and introduced her partner, Sharon Kleinbaum, the rabbi at the largest LGBTQI congregation in the nation. For those of you who have heard Randi speak at times she begins to shout, almost shrill, she simply said that’s the way she is … and wondered whether male speakers received the same criticism. The core of the speech:  the most critical election of our lifetimes.  Watch and listen to the speech on the AFT.org website.

Off to the Divisional Meetings, the AFT represents, in addition to teachers, health care workers, colleges and universities, school-related personnel and other public employees. Linda Darling-Hammond, at the K-12 session, hopefully the next Secretary of Education in a Clinton Administration described her new gig – CEO of the Learning Policy Institute : the goal is to publicize evidence-based approaches to the major issues confronting schools, authentic assessment of student performance as well as teacher assessment/evaluation.

The Learning Policy Institute has been created to answer this new moment’s call to action. The Institute conducts and communicates independent, high-quality research to improve education policy and practice. Working with policymakers, researchers, educators, community groups, and others, the Institute seeks to advance evidence-based policies that support empowering and equitable learning for each and every child. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the Institute connects policymakers and stakeholders at the local, state, and federal levels with the evidence, ideas, and actions needed to strengthen the education system from preschool through college and career readiness.

Next, the thirteen committees meet to debate the ninety-one resolutions. This year the Education Issues committee attracted about 800 delegates, I chair the International Affairs Committee, usually quite rambunctious, this year much milder. The committees concur, concur with amendments or recommend non-concurrence to the convention and select the three priorities that will be debated on the convention floor.

Waiting for Hillary:  the 4:30 Hillary speech is delayed, she is coming from the NAACP Convention in Cincinnati. About an hour later the Minnesota Senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobushar speak to the convention – both played major roles in dumping NCLB and crafting the new ESSA law. BTW, they’re wonderful speakers – Franken is self-deprecating, and, as you would expect, funny. Klobushar’s mother was a union teacher in Minnesota who worked as a classroom teacher until she was seventy!

We later find out Hillary was meeting with the family of the food-services worker, Phil Castillo, who was murdered at a traffic stop in St Paul, before her address to the convention. As I entered my hotel I was amazed by a sign. “No firearms allowed on this premise,” Minnesota is a concealed carry state!

Hillary’s speech was “workmanlike,” she covered all the bases, addressed every issue, and was interrupted endlessly by spontaneous applause. At the beginning of the speech some Black Lives Matter folk, it turns out guests, not delegates, were chanting slogans. My Bernie friends were totally on board, the critical nature of November was apparent to all. The convention endorsed Hillary with enormous enthusiasm; with the Republican convention in the process of endorsing Trump a Hillary victory is clear to everyone. Whatever reluctance or Bernie pangs are gone – the defeat of Trump is the goal.

The convention adjourned about 8 pm – a long, long day.

 

Tuesday: Day 2

 

The Tuesday agenda: speeches, videos and business.

 

Governor Mark Dayton – a wonderful governor who has been a spectacular supporter of public schools with a close relationship with the teacher union in Minnesota – a merged NEA-AFT state. Leo Gerard, the president of the Steelworkers Union, the AFT and the Steelworkers are working together on infrastructure projects around the nation. School building average age is 43 years – Gerard supports a major investment in school infrastructure.

 

Representatives from organizations with which the AFT collaborates spoke and gave examples of collaborative initiatives across the country: the Color of Change http://www.colorofchange.org/about/ and the Alliance to Reclaim Our School (AROS).

 

A resolution to endorse Hillary Clinton: speaker lined up at the eight microphones with passionate plea after plea – a generation defining election. One speaker, a teacher from Detroit, opposed endorsing any candidates and I think supported militant, disruptive opposition. The resolution passed with only a handful of dissents. Some of the most adamant Bernie supporters gave vigorous endorsements to Hillary.

 

A couple of committees reported out and we adjourn – closing in on 7 pm – another long day ends.

A Conundrum: How Do You Create a Teacher Evaluation Process That Satisfies Teachers, Principals, Parents, the Legislature and the Governor? (Hint: With Difficulty)

No one’s life, liberty or property is safe while the New York State Legislature is in session.” Anonymous, 19th century.

Diane Ravitch convened her third annual Network for Public Education conference in Raleigh with hundreds of teachers, parents and public school advocates.  The attendees do not represent organizations; they dug into their own pockets to meet with like-minded public education devotees from across the nation. I met a band director from Fort Worth, a second-career math teacher from Jacksonville, a literacy coach from North Carolina; we chatted and shared experiences, we all face incredible challenges and legislatures and privateers intent on eroding the public in public education.

We stood and cheered as Reverend Barber, the leader of the North Carolina NAACP, called a modern day Martin Luther King, preached and taught us – both a history lesson and a sermon.  Bob Herbert challenged us to vote, and emphasized that while coming to the polls in 2008 and 2012 elected Barack Obama, staying away from the polls allowed the Tea Party to seize control of the House, the Senate and state legislatures in 2010 and 2014. A subtle message to the Bernie voters – staying away from the polls in November could lead to a Trump presidency.

Fifty workshops allowed us to meet together in smaller groups. One theme was teacher evaluation: in school districts across the nation student test scores play a significant role in the evaluation of teachers; a Report  by the Network for Public Education is summarized,

72% of respondents also reported that the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluation had a negative impact on sharing instructional strategies.

Over 41% of black and 30% of Latino/a educators reported racial bias in evaluations.

About 84% of respondents report a significant increase in the amount of teacher time spent on evaluations.

84% of respondents said that the new evaluation system in their state had negatively changed the conversations about instruction between their supervisors and themselves.

75% of respondents stated that these new evaluation systems incorrectly label many good teachers as being ineffective.

Nearly 85% of respondents stated that these evaluation systems do not lead to high-quality professional growth for teachers.

Nearly 82% of teachers reported that test scores are a significant component of their evaluation.

Opposition to the use of student test data to rate/measure/assess teachers has united teachers from across the nation.

At the conference one of the sessions pitted Jennifer Berkshire, aka EduShyster against Peter Cunningham, the Executive Director of Education Post. Jennifer and Peter are on opposite ends of the teacher evaluation spectrum – forty-five minutes of thrust, parry and riposte – spellbinding!!

Critics pointed to research that avers teachers only account for 14% of a student’s test score, family and income account for the largest percentage, therefore, rating teachers by test scores is invalid, Cunningham responded that teachers are the crucial factor in student achievement, we cannot change a family or income, we can change teachers and highly effective teachers have significant impacts on children, as other research shows. Meeting with teachers from across the nation was invigorating; listening to the anti-teacher stories from state after state was discouraging.

A week earlier the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) annual convention took place in Rochester, Teachers from hundreds of school districts across the state met to debate and set policy for NYSUT. The state is incredibly diverse, New York City and the Big Four (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers), the high tax, high wealth suburban districts, the hundreds of rural low tax, low wealth districts, facing sharply different problems. The delegates representing the teachers within the state university system, (SUNY) and the teachers in the city university system (CUNY); CUNY teachers have not had a raise in six years.

Speeches from Karen Magee, the leader of NYSUT as well as Randi Weingarten, the AFT president and a rousing in-person speech by candidate Hillary Clinton (Watch and listen to Clinton’s speech here). The most vigorous debate: teacher evaluation. Although the state is in the first year of a four year moratorium on the use of student test scores to assess teacher performance the debate was hot and heavy.

Watch videos of convention speeches: http://www.nysut.org/resources/special-resources-sites/representative-assembly

From the NYSUT website,

“Sending a strong message to Albany that more needs to be done to stop the harmful over-testing of students, some 2,000 delegates approved resolutions calling for a complete overhaul of the state’s grades 3–8 testing program; swift implementation of the Common Core Task Force’s recommendations; and new assessments that are created with true educator input to provide timely and accurate appraisals of student learning.”.

A few days after the NYSUT convention the UFT Delegate Assembly held its monthly meeting; a thousand or so delegates, elected in each school by staffs, meeting to listen to a report by UFT President Mulgrew and debate and set policy.  Mulgrew gives updates on the national scene: retired teachers were ringing doorbells in Pennsylvania supporting Hillary; the California Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision in the Vergara case, supporting tenure and reminded delegates that while the US Supreme Court deadlocked on the anti-union Fredericks decision attacks from the right will not end. Mulgrew criticized the use of test scores to rate teachers; however, he reminded teachers that under the Bloomberg administration principals had the sole voice in teacher assessment. In the last year of Bloomberg 2.7% of teachers received “unsatisfactory” ratings, under the current multiple measures system only 1% of teachers received “ineffective” ratings. Almost all schools in New York City use Measures of Student Learnings (MOSL), dense  algorithms that assess student growth attributed to each teacher – there are hundreds of algorithms  to account for the many different school situations. The system, that includes an appeal process, melds principal observations and MOSLs appears to work well.

At the first meeting of the Board of Regents under the leadership of new Chancellor Betty Rosa a lengthy discussion over teacher evaluation took place. Chancellor Rosa appointed Regent Johnson to chair a Work Group to link research to policy decisions.

The 700 school districts in New York State are currently negotiating teacher evaluation plans under the four year moratorium, the use of grade 3-8 test scores are prohibited.  A few members of the Board suggested asking the legislature to clarify exactly what they wanted the Regents to do in reference to teacher evaluation, others argued that the decision was given to the Regents members and it would be wrong to punt back to the legislature. Clearly, the newly constituted Board has a ways to go to reach consensus.

Even Charlotte Danielson, the doyen of teacher assessment has her doubts about the current policies across the nation,

The idea of tracking teacher accountability started with the best of intentions and a well-accepted understanding about the critical role teachers play in promoting student learning. The focus on teacher accountability has been rooted in the belief that every child deserves no less than good teaching to realize his or her potential.

But as clear, compelling, and noncontroversial as these fundamental ideas were, the assurance of great teaching for every student has proved exceedingly difficult to capture in either policy or practice…

There is also little consensus on how the profession should define “good teaching.” Many state systems require districts to evaluate teachers on the learning gains of their students. These policies have been implemented despite the objections from many in the measurement community regarding the limitations of available tests and the challenge of accurately attributing student learning to individual teachers.

I strongly urge you to read the entire Danielson essay: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/04/20/charlotte-danielson-on-rethinking-teacher-evaluation.html

There are a few schools that have created teacher assessment processes that are valuable because they both assess teaching and encourage teachers to grow in their profession. There is insightful research; unfortunately we do not know how to “scale up.”  There is no inter-rater reliability, in some districts every teacher received a “highly effective” score, which also means so did the rater. Teachers in high wealth, high achieving districts receive higher scores than teachers in low wealth lower achieving districts. (Check out research studies  from the Chicago Consortium on School Research here  and here).

Getting teacher evaluation/assessment right is exceedingly complex in a highly emotional climate.

The Regents have a challenging task.

Bad Dreams, Nightmares, Nausea as the First Day of School Approaches for Teachers

Mother: “Johnny, wake up, you’ll be late to school.”
Johnny: “I don’t want to go – the kids hate me, the teachers hate me.”
Mother: “you have to go – you’re the principal.

What happened to the summer? It seemed like yesterday that teachers were poised on the last day of school. For some, a few days off and teaching summer school – gotta pay off those student loans or pay for the wedding. For others back to school yourself to finish up the college credits needed for certification, and, a few flying off to faraway places – to hike the Himalayas or bike across Europe or taking an intensive Spanish class in Central America.

Eight short weeks later the days are getting shorter and the anxiety begins.

“The last few nights I woke up in a cold sweat – what a vivid dream! I had the lowest teacher evaluation score in the school and the other teachers were laughing at me.”

Another teacher, “I keep stressing out about how my kids did on the state tests – I’ve avoided calling my principal – I’m so nervous and it’s driving me nuts.”

A teacher tells me she wants to file a grievance -the principal changed her room. “I’ve been in the room for six years – it’s my room – s/he can’t do that!!”

As the clock ticks down teachers, all teachers, from the first year rookies to the veterans, the pulse beats more quickly, the stomach churns, you try and think of everything – you want that opening day to be perfect.

Many elementary school teachers were in this week working on their rooms – getting ready for the all- important first day. Other schools are spending a day at a staff retreat – working on curriculum maps.

Principals have been in since Monday – dealing with endless e-requests for this or that “compliance” document.

A principal: “The first email I opened was from a math teacher – she apologized for the late notice – she was leaving for another job – I wished her well, and have been scrambling to find a replacement.” Another principal recounted a call from a probation officer – two kids were being released from incarceration and assigned to his school – he was less than joyful.

Teaching is moments of exaltation and moments of misery.

It’s hard to describe that feeling when a tyke wraps his arms around you and whispers, “I love you.” That moment when the light bulb goes off – the kid’s face lights up as he grasps the concept.

A day later a kid cries all day – a parent left, or, his family had to move, again. Her clothes are scruffy and dirty every day – how do you bring in clothes without embarrassing her or her family?

Each teacher is a tiny peg in the 1.1 million student system – the “powers that be” are interested in the mega-scene – those test scores and graduation rates – as a teacher you are singularly focused on the smiling faces each and every day, as a principal you are part psychologist, part social worker, part coach and part disciplinarian – leading a school community and protecting the staff from the frequent insanities of the Tweed plutocracy.

If you read the press you wonder if the New York City school system is only Universal Pre-K, if you’re in the trenches, it’s the first year without a mayor and chancellor trashing the union and the profession – no “dumb” ideas – a chancellor who actually likes teachers.

We’ll be getting off to a good start … can the system keep up the momentum? … can the chancellor and the union keep working together? can the education community find better school assessment metrics? and, the bottom line: will the “new relationship” lead to better results?

“Tenure Protects Bad Teachers” and Branding: The Fight for the Hearts and Minds of the Public

We never order a gelatin dessert, we order Jell-O, we don’t ask for a petroleum gel, we buy Vaseline, the advertising gurus successfully brand products. A political application: only dyed in the wool democrats refer to the Affordable Care Act, we call the law Obamacare, branding a law by tying it to an increasingly unpopular president is an effective strategy.

The branding of a product is the embedding of a “sticky idea.”

According to Chip and Dan Heath in Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die there are six principles that help you craft a sticky message:

Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, and Stories

By Simplicity the Heath’s mean, keep it simple and profound.

“We must relentlessly prioritize. Saying something short is not the mission — sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that the individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.”

Tap into emotions to convey your point. We’re wired to feel things for people, not abstractions:

“How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something … Research that we are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions.”

Tell stories to get people to act on your ideas:

“How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. … Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps up perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.”

“Tenure protects bad teachers” has been embedded in the minds of the public, it is a sticky idea. The Silicon Valley billionaire and the judge hearing the case are victims of a successful campaign, they have allowed an idea, a deeply flawed idea, to enter and embed in their subconscious.

Diane Ravitch, in her inimitable fashion, tells us that the data that the judge relied upon is fatally flawed, Jesse Rothstein, in a NY Times op ed (“Taking on Teacher Tenure Backfires” writes,

… Eliminating tenure will do little to address the real barriers to effective teaching in impoverished schools, and may even make them worse.

The lack of effective teachers in impoverished schools contributes to [the achievement] gap, but tenure isn’t the cause. Teaching in those schools is a hard job, and many teachers prefer (slightly) easier jobs in less troubled settings. That leads to high turnover and difficulty in filling positions. Left with a dwindling pool of teachers, principals are unlikely to dismiss them, whether they have tenure or not.

A NY Times editorial (“A New Battle for Equal Education”) supports the decision, and, sort of begrudgingly, supports “reasonable due process rights for teachers,”

Teachers deserve reasonable due process rights and job protections. But the unions can either work to change the anachronistic policies cited by the court or they will have change thrust upon them.

In the battle for the hearts and minds of the public the West Coast teacher unions and the New York teachers unions took vastly different approaches. The California Teachers Association has battled for years to prevent any changes in tenure laws – the California law grants tenure after serving an 18 month probationary period and the procedures for removing tenured teachers are complex and the process lengthy, it can take years. The result: almost every teacher achieves tenure and the dismissal of a tenured teacher is exceedingly rare. The attrition rates, especially in the schools teaching the poorest kids are high – half of new teachers leave voluntarily within five years.

The image of kids failing in high poverty schools and the California tenure laws allowed the “messagers,” the framers of public opinion to embed the sticky idea, “tenure protects bad teachers.”

The New York City teacher union has been led by Randi Weingarten, currently the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and now by Michael Mulgrew.

The AFT has taken a different approach which Weingarten calls “solution-driven unionism,”

Solution-driven unionism is rooted in solving problems, not winning arguments. AFT affiliates are pursuing this approach, and we are encouraging many more to follow suit. We know that this tough climate — marked by increasing poverty, continuing budget cuts, and a recession-fueled resurgence in attacks on unions and public services — can’t stop us from having a proactive quality education agenda. To the contrary — while we will continue to fight for the resources children need, we must also devise innovative, creative and new approaches to help all children succeed.

The UFT has worked diligently with a wide range of citywide and community-based organizations, from the NAACP to parent groups across the city. This type of coalition-building embeds “sticky ideas,” A Zogby Analytics poll,

New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

In 2009 the NYC Department of Education changed the administrative procedures for the granting of tenure. After a three year probationary period the vast percentage of teachers received tenure, the Department changed the process – principals received data sets linking pupil performance to each teacher, teachers were required to submit “artifacts,” examples of student work as well as a review of supervisory observations.

Rather than a major public battle the union provided workshops across the city, every probationary teacher had the opportunity to meet with a union expert to assist in creating their portfolio and well as how to respond in meetings with their principals. While the number of teachers with extended probationary periods increased significantly the percentage of teachers who were denied tenure only increased by one percent.

A just-released study finds, (

“The receipt of tenure had become an expectation for nearly all teachers.’Tenure was rarely based on strong evidence of accomplishment.’

.. the percent of teachers granted tenure dropped from more than 90 percent to less than 60 percent while a substantially greater share of teachers had their tenure period extended. While denial of tenure increased from two percent in 2008 to just three percent in 2012, teachers whose probationary period was extended rose from less than 5 percent to over 40 percent of teachers. Extended teachers were given an additional year to demonstrate effective teaching consistent with the Effectiveness Framework.

Despite not altering the proportion of teachers denied tenure, the tenure reform meaningfully affected the composition of teachers. Researchers found that teachers who were extended were more than 50 percent more likely to transfer to another school within the district or to exit teaching in the district than otherwise similar teachers who were granted tenure. The authors compared the effectiveness of extended teachers who transferred or exited to all teachers entering these schools to assess whether the quality of teachers improves as a result of the policy.

“The extended teachers who leave their schools were less effective than the teachers likely to replace them” said Susanna Loeb, professor of education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, a coauthor. “Likely replacement teachers are much more likely to be rated Effective or Highly Effective than the extended teachers who leave.

The New York State Teacher Union (NYSUT) fully participated in the creation of a teacher evaluation law – moving from a system solely based on principal assessment at the school level to a multiple measures system that involves measuring all teachers against similarly situated teachers across the state. The exceedingly dense system, in the first year, only found 1% of teachers ineffective.

In New York City the union negotiated changes in the teacher disciplinary procedures to expedite the process.

The recent teacher contract received a “thumbs up” from the editorial board of the NY Times,

There was no snarling at City Hall when Mayor Bill de Blasio and the teachers’ union announced a very significant labor agreement on Thursday Dispensing with the unproductive tension that tarnished the Bloomberg administration, the two sides showed that real progress can be made — on both the fiscal and the educational sides of the contract — when there is good will instead of disdain. On the whole, the agreement represents a good deal for the city and its students.

Even the Citizens’ Budget Commission, the self-proclaimed guardian of the City coffers gave the contract a qualified approval.

The tentative agreement between the city and the teachers union resolves major uncertainty surrounding the city’s financial plan and ensures some stability in labor relations with a major segment of the city workforce for the next five years.

It establishes a reasonable pattern for other city workers, but its affordability rests on ensuring concrete savings from health care costs.

Union leadership cannot be guided by the anger of members, in California teacher anger over attempts to modify tenure rules was popular, and a losing position. “Solution-driven unionism,” means pragmatism driven unionism; picking your fights and understanding that crafting solutions is far more effective than a win or lose approach.

Every year the UFT gives a million dollars in scholarships to deserving high school graduates, the UFT is supporting legislation to change the multiple choice test score method for admission to specialized high schools (Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, etc.), which results in only a handful of Black and Hispanic students passing the test, to a multiple measures system, a change strongly supported by the NAACP.

Union leadership in New York City has created a climate in which the public sees the union at the forefront of working to create better schools in partnership with parents, in spite of a snarky barrage of negative articles in the print media. Teacher tenure is not an issue.

Every day, on Twitter, on Facebook, in blogs, in computer downloads the battle goes on … the battle for the hearts and minds, in the battle to convince legislators, to convince parents and voters, the battle to brand policies, to embed sticky ideas, the teacher union works to brand themselves as allies and partners of parent and families.

And, no, it is not obvious, the public is overwhelmed with messages, we have moved from a 24-hour news cycle to a 24-second news cycle. The “winners” will not be decided by the best ideas, the “winners” will be decided by those who can change public opinion, to build consensus, to win over the hearts and minds of the electorate.

BTW, eliminating tenure would probably increase a district budget. Howard Wainer, the author of Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies, in a brief, powerful paper identified a district that ended tenure for superintendents, over the years after the elimination of tenure the teacher-superintendent salary gap widened significantly. To attract superintendents the district had to increase salaries, when given a choice teachers would clearly choose to work in districts with tenure and the only way to attract teachers would be to pay them more than in non-tenure districts.The elimination of tenure: a perfect example a “misguided education policy.”