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Evaluation Backlash

October 8, 2013 am31 11:34 am

As the new evaluation system rolls forward in New York City’s public schools, the volume of complaint, not yet resistance, but complaint, is growing.

Our task force on testing was right six years ago – when it said teachers should not be evaluated on tests.

Mulgrew was right in January 2010 – when he said Weingarten’s proposals to evaluate teachers based partially on test scores would not fly in New York (at least under Bloomberg).  By the way, NYSUT has removed Weingarten’s speech from its website.

But Mulgrew was wrong in May 2010 when he swung and supported the Race to the Top proposal for New York State. He lined up NYSUT and the UFT in favor of the new state law… paving the way for NYS’ RttT application…

For three years Mulgrew has been saying that teachers want a new evaluation system. I don’t think think I’ve met those teachers. I don’t think they are working in in New York City. I don’t think more than a few of them exist. One teacher (out of 30) in my small school thought we needed a new evaluation system. She realizes now that she was wrong.

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Multiple measures. Weingarten has been saying that tests are one thing that should be looked at. UFT leadership says the same thing. But the state law says that if a teacher’s scores on the test portions (40%) are low, that teacher is rated ineffective – halfway to a firing. This is not multiple measures. This is 1) teacher is rated on test scores, 2) if those are ok, then and only then are other measures (really just principal’s evaluation) taken into account.

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Despite the state law, the UFT and NYC DoE did not negotiate an evaluation system. The January 2010 Mulgrew was wise to distrust the DoE’s negotiations – the May 2010 Mulgrew was foolish.

State Commissioner King imposed a system on NYC this June.  The DoE and UFT made proposals, and King raggedly split some of the difference.  (Portelos published the proposals here). There is important stuff for teachers in the differences, but there are huge problems in the similarities. In June the UFT claimed that we “won.” That seemed inaccurate. Today Mulgrew implies that teacher complaints are due to the UFT proposals not being adopted. That seems highly unlikely.

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Measures of Student Learning (the 20% and 20%) were reviewed at the schools this Summer. And in many cases schools chose to blend scores,  to assign a generic score to many teachers. And I think, in many cases, this was the way to put as few teachers as possible, given the awful system, in harm’s way. And privately, some in the union leadership agreed.

However, when teachers arrived in September, and learned they would be evaluated on the scores of kids not in their classes, maybe not based on their subject! Wow!  There were furious complaints. And from a teacher’s point of view, this made absolutely no sense. (What’s missing, is that the entire system made no sense, and that if each teacher’s rating rested on a larger number of scores, that it would be less susceptible to the erratic bounces in student test scores on high stakes tests, including the sometimes erratic scores on NYS tests)

In the schools, principals were not sure how to handle the new system, and all kinds of interesting things have emerged. Principals mandating lesson formats, principals not holding mandated goal setting conferences, principals rating the wrong items, etc, etc.

With each abuse or mistake, the number of teacher complaints grows.

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At the September 9 Citywide Chapter Leaders Meeting, Mulgrew spoke about the City failing to supply curriculum to most schools. He talked about problems with implementation. But he asserted the need for a new evaluation system, asserted that teachers wanted it (who?) and made caustic remarks about teachers who don’t get observed, and don’t want to be observed.

At the September 16 special Delegate Assembly, Mulgrew again spoke about the evaluation. This time he emphasized that King had sided with the DoE on important aspects. And he talked about teachers being evaluated on kids who were not theirs (without mentioning that in the crazy system King imposed, based on the law May 2010 Mulgrew supported, this may have been the best way to insulate teachers from crazy test score fluctuations, which occur with amazing regularity in New York State). He did not remark on teachers who do not like being observed, but again asserted that teachers wanted a new evaluation system. He was shifting, slightly, in the face of the growing backlash.

At the September 23 UFT Executive Board, New Action submitted a resolution affirming our contractual rights vis a vis lesson plans. The leadership, having already launched a Union Initiated Grievance on this very subject, collaborated on revising the resolution, which passed with bipartisan support. (It goes to tomorrow’s Delegate Assembly).

At the October 7 UFT Executive Board, several officers submitted a resolution calling for a moratorium on consequences – to kids, teachers or schools – from high stakes testing. LeRoy Barr strongly motivated (Mulgrew was absent) affirming both the leadership’s ongoing belief in a new evaluation system (and the Common Core), and the need for a moratorium on consequences.

(I rose to remind the body that there are strong disagreements, philosophical disagreements about evaluation, and that they needed to be hashed out, but not today, as the call for moratorium deserved unanimous support. Someone asked me later why I got up to say nothing… I don’t think that was nothing)

So at tomorrow’s Delegate Assembly there will be a split message.

The leadership will speak in favor of a “good” new evaluation system, will assert that the State Law is fine (and if pressed, remind members that is the law, but not remind members that the UFT and NYSUT helped craft it), might baldly assert that teachers wanted this.

The leadership will also push resolutions reasserting our contractual and historic rights regarding lesson plans, and calling for a moratorium on consequences for high stakes testing.

The former is a problem. The evaluation system for NYC should be renegotiated, and the State Law should be massively revised, or simply repealed. We must continue to challenge the need for this evaluation system, the fairness of rating teachers on student test scores, the weakening of tenure rights.

The latter represents progress. It is important that while this system is in place, that we as a union fight the individual problems that the system causes, either by design, by DoE incompetence, or by DoE malice. It is good that the leadership hears the members’ complaints. The leadership is responding, partially, but responding, to members’ complaints, to the evaluation backlash.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Joey D. permalink
    October 9, 2013 am31 5:37 am 5:37 am

    Perfect summary of what is going in with our horrible evaluations. EVERY teacher I speak to in my building is shocked that the UFT actually helped draft the law that changed our evaluation system. I warned them that it was going to be bad last year. I also warned them to vote for MORE in the last election. Now, that teachers heads are actually on the chopping block because of the UFT, I think folks are going to be forced to wake up and hold the UFT accountable for the dire situation that we are in. Teachers in the know must inform our co-workers that it was the UFT that got us here and it is the UFT that must help to get us out of here!

    • October 11, 2013 pm31 12:37 pm 12:37 pm

      Thank you. But can you help me understand, when the leadership backs off a little, why MORE votes no? Why play all or nothing when people’s livelihoods could be at stake?

  2. October 9, 2013 am31 8:28 am 8:28 am

    The UFT got played by the State Commissioner of Ed. Maybe even the Governor. But the Governor has King as his scapegoat. Mr. Mulgrew needs to orchestrate such a fuss ( the UFT can still do that?) that the Governor needs to decide whether he can rely on UFT support as he seeks higher office. John King has to be the ex-Commissioner, and an acceptable fix for this backstabbing of the UFT must be put in place ASAP.

    The last time I can remember the UFT getting played this badly was when it negotiated a 20 day advance notice requirement for any substitute that was to lose a job. Negotiated in good faith, the (then) BOE proceeded to give Principals instruction to issue notices to ALL subs in May that they might not have a job in September. That effectively neutered that contract clause. Seems the new leadership of the UFT just learned the lesson that Al Shanker learned decades ago– you can’t trust the other guys.


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