State Ed Dept. imposes teacher evaluation sytem

By Rich Bockmann

After the city and the teachers union failed to reach an agreement earlier this year on a new teacher evaluation system, state education officials last week came out with a plan.

As part of its application for the federal Race to the Top grant, New York pledged to have a teacher evaluation system implemented in every school district throughout the state. But by the Jan. 17 deadline, the city and the United Federation of Teachers could not come together on a deal, costing city schools $250 million in aid.

New York City was the only district to fail to come to an agreement on a plan.

In a nod to the divisive stalemate the two sides had come to, state Education Commissioner John King Jr. Friday released a plan he said would allow the city to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom, but would focus on creating better educators.

“It’s time,” King said. “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. The key to this plan is the training, support and professional development that must be put in place to help teachers and principals improve their practice.”

The new plan will be in effect through the 2016-17 school year — enough time for the next mayor to remove ineffective teachers — and after that point it can be succeeded by a plan reached through collective bargaining. Any such plan would need King’s approval.

Starting next year, 60 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be measured through observation, and teachers can choose how they wish to be observed.

Teachers can choose to be observed either in person or have their classroom taped, and they have two options as to how many of those observations are formal or informal.

That 60 percent drops to 55 percent the following year, when the extra 5 percent will come from student surveys.

Student growth on state tests will account for 20 percent of a teacher’s score, and another 20 percent will come from a committee at each school composed of four principal appointees and four from the UFT.

As opposed to the “thumbs up, thumbs down” version of evaluation currently in place, the new plan will rate teachers on four levels: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.

Teachers with an “ineffective” rating for two consecutive years can be fired.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the UFT’s demand for a sunset provision that would have allowed any evaluation system to expire after a few years was the main sticking point in the negotiations, and touted the new plan as a win for the city.

“Our refusal to accept a sunset provision was a primary reason why talks with the UFT broke down in January, and this ruling validates our decision to hold firm,” he said.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew, however, said the major components of the system were never subject to sunset and pointed out that the fundamentals of the plan were contingent on change through negotiations with the new mayor.

“The precise measures of student learning established by this ruling will be in effect unless and until they are altered in collective bargaining with the new mayor who takes office in seven months,” he said.

The union has not endorsed a candidate in the crowded mayoral race.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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