Friday, May 21, 2010

JW Email 25

Hello, good evening,

I wanted to send most of the following info last weekend when I was having trouble with the computer. But new items have come in as well.

My notes on the last DA are at the end; purple additions by Joan Selin, who was writing as feverishly as I was trying to get it all down. I must say it's easier taking notes on Mulgrew than Weingarten, who used to start each sentence with with a reasonable bit of English, but then tag on one dependent clause after another until the original subject and verb disappeared entirely into the distant past. That's why I always relied so heavily on Marian Swerdlow's DA notes. She was so good at reassembling all the parts of Weingarten's disjunct oratory, and if she circulates her own set of DA notes for May 12th, I'll send them in the next Email.

Some of these emails can be found on in Norm's Notes, which he created as a place to store documents, article, speech, hearings report, etc. relevant to Ed Deform here in NY and sometimes elsewhere. Other tidbits and alerts can be found in the sidebar of his main blog, Ednotes. He's apologized for the clutter over there, but he needn't have done. The material is too valuable.




But someone sent me this article from the Albany Times Union (May 7): Early retirement club may grow

" . . . For schools, the situation is a bit more complicated. Schools would have to show that early retirement would either eliminate that position, result in savings of half the person's salary or avoid a layoff. Local school boards would have to decide whether to adopt the plan as early as June 1 and eligible teachers would have to decide by the end of August."



This must be the hottest item this week, with so many real-life teachers dumbfounded at the union's decision to help "them" evaluate "us" when some of the very instruments they plan to use on some of us — high stakes tests — are without a doubt some of the most inappropriate, poorly designed, overly hyped, easily scammed and unregulated tools ever published.

Amongst the notable "reads" on this most recent UFT sellout, are:

Norm Scott, Context: "If we trusted BloomKlein, or even the UFT leadership, the plan might even be a good one. But there is always context. On paper every football play works. In the reality of the NYC DOE, all balls are in the air."

also his UFT Sending in the Clowns : "I am thinking that BloomKlein are as desperate to avoid layoffs as the UFT because unless they get seniority killed, they will lose all their recent Teach for America people. So behind the scenes they and the UFT leadership are playing good cop, bad cop with the rank and file to see how far they can push them into giving back enough to save the BloomKlein babies."

NYC Educator in From the Folks Who Brought You the 2005 Contract: "Mulgrew told the DA in September that we needed to participate [in Gates's "Measures of Effective Teaching" program] so as to be part of this discussion, but apparently the discussion is moot since they made the [teacher evaluation] deal without even waiting for the results. . . . It appears the "teacher input" is restricted to those who control the union."

also his Mr. Slick: "If kids get wrong answers, [Mr.Slick will] simply erase them and make them all better. . . His kids are going to show enormous improvement in every area, and it will all be attributable to his excellence as an educator. "

James Eterno (ICE) in Evaluation Agreement Another Step Backwards: "Since there are so many variables that go into pupil progress, most over which the teacher has little or no control, this looks like a terrible way to rate teachers."

Mr.Talk in Test Scores are the New Rubber Room "First, the tests themselves are essentially invalid. Even the state ed people have admitted as much. Add to that the fact that 'value-added' is education gobbledygook--it is virtually impossible to measure where students should be based upon some statistical model. Yet testing will account for 40% of your rating."

John Elfrank's responses to: The UFT is now soliciting opinions on Teacher Eval Agreement.... "These negotiations need to take place in full view of the membership in order to invite member feedback. Secret negotiations are only meant to keep the membership in the dark. BOTTOM LINE: Teaching to the test will take on a new urgency. Gone will be creative pedagogy. Close the Teacher Centers, they’ll be a waste of money. We will all be in the test prep business."

On Tweed "innumeracy" Parent activist Leonie Haimson exposes the sham of the DoE's school progress reports, report cards, data and statistics. She makes the point that the Natl Acad. of Sciences has said that "no system for evaluating teachers on the basis of test scores has yet been established that is ready for prime time, given all the inherently complex and imponderable factors that go into test scores, particularly at the classroom level. Any attempt to implement such a program, they urged, should be carefully tested and independently vetted, because it could very well have unfair and damaging consequences, not just to teachers but to our kids as well."

See at the end of this email a letter someone wrote to the staff at her school on the Teacher Evaluation Plan.

Lastly, when I wrote this comment to my colleagues in a list-serv: "I cannot understand the union rationale of establishing an evaluation system applicable to only certain members of a specific title and not to all," someone responded this way:

Rest assured that, in the future, teachers that admin wishes to be rid of will be shifted to classes and/or grade levels that are subject to state tests. Though many -- if not most -- teachers still won't be teaching classes of this nature, it will give admin a new door through which to oust people it wishes to oust. Thus, HS ESL students don't take a whole lot of high-stakes state tests; but teachers could be shifted from standard ESL courses to regular advanced English courses in some schools, just to make sure that they would fail with their students. Or given a steady diet of SIFE students, who typically have great difficulty with literacy issues, just to make sure that their kiddies never pass the NYSESLAT exams. Or any unwanted teacher anywhere could be shifted to two or more years of less motivated, less formally educated children, just for the sake of demonstrating that they are teachers "in need of improvement". You have parity issues enough, without even worrying about people who teach, say, instrumental music, home economics, phys. ed., and the like. Maybe they'll decide to develop state exams in those subjects, too. In this climate, anything is possible! Or maybe they'll just eliminate any subject that doesn't come with its own high-stakes test. Saves all kinds of money in the long run.

Given the position of our Union, maybe it's time for teachers to start calling and e-mailing their State senators and assembly members ON THEIR OWN to voice objection to this latest threat. We can't expect to see the phone banks out on this one. Maybe we need to begin some sort of grass roots campaign to let our State representatives know that they will pass this legislation AT THEIR PERIL, regardless of what the UFT and NYSUT are saying. Mulgrew only gets to cast one vote in November. He and his henchpeople are few; we are many.

The UFT's Q&A on this is posted on their website here.


Talking about lousy negotiations that bring us lousy deals, Chaz has been updating what's been happening in the RRs since the agreement to close them was announced in two posts here and here. The issue is mediation, which is not happening. The DoE's position, he says, is that they're saying they have to "agree to mediation requests before mediation is started." The only settling being done at the present time is when the teacher admits guilt. And the union's response to the DoE's failure to follow the agreement is, he says, dead silence.



[paraphrased and excerpted from a message put out by Glenn Tepper]:
Gov. Paterson said that winning up to $700 million (if the legislature would raise the cap on charter schools) would help to close the $9.2 billion deficit. Tepper reminds us, though, that these funds can't be used to "backfill cuts." Klein and the charter school lobby are disinforming the public, claiming that these funds "would largely be spent in areas the state must fund anyway . . . and painting those who question this scenario as anti-children, and against change."
The funds, Tepper says, cannot be spent in areas the state must fund anyway, but rather on new initiatives, and offers the following reasons as to why the governor, chancellor and charter school lobby are so interested in getting that money:
- To train more otherwise unqualified principals,
- To give entrepreneurs greater opportunities to invest in charter schools, both for-profit and not-for-profit,
- To further privatize public education,
- To continue outsourcing vital services,
- To break the unions,
- To end seniority and tenure rules.

And, he says, "none of this money would be used to reduce class size."



[Purple comments added by Joan Selin]

Mulgrew wanted to focus on the state and city budgets, but the report focused entirely on the teacher evaluation plan the union negotiated. He said many people think there will not be a budget by the end of June, which means layoffs.

Mulgrew also said that last week when the state Senate passed the Charter School Bill raising the cap to 460, it made a bad situation worse.

There is no communication happening in Albany, and the union will "bear the brunt" of their inaction. We need to continue to pressure the state, mainly to attack spending at the DoE.

At the next PEP meeting (Tues., 5/18, Long Island City HS), they'll be voting on a $5 million/year contract to The New Teacher Project to recruit teachers. TNTP is the organization that's behind the attacks on teachers (the blogs have exposed their campaign for a couple of years). Five more deputy chancellors were added to the DoE budget just last week . The mayor has to put his house in order, says Mulgrew. The additional payroll and non-needed contracts are absurd, he says, and he wants everyone to protest that PEP meeting (though I can't find a notice of it on the UFT website in various searches).
[JW update: a week after I wrote this, this post which I mentioned above reported an interesting comment made by a chapter leader: A district rep apparently had told him that the UFT "didn't want the PEP presence to be 'too big' and intimated furloughs to hold off layoffs." No wonder it wasn't posted on the website.]

(At the May 17 Executive Board, in his president's report, Michael Mulgrew reminded the executive board members to attend the PEP meeting the next night and sign up to speak starting at 5 or 5:30. When asked if the UFT would be providing buses, he said only from the Bronx and S.I. because they had requested them. Someone then asked how to get to Long Island City H.S. The executive board was then told which subway to take, but the nearest stop is about a 20 block walk, and parking is very difficult. This certainly was not an all out effort to get the forces out.)

On the new Teacher Evaluation system: The UFT's QA here.

[Wiki says ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) "extensively funds elem. and sec. educ. while explicitly forbidding the establishment of a national curriculum." The current reauthorization of ESEA is the 2001 NCLB; it's reauthorized every five years.]

In his report, Mulgrew said that the states cannot accept federal funding if evaluations are not tied to test scores. Since the school systems now get 40% of the funds from the Federal government, they can't survive without the federal dollars. No matter what happens in ESEA renewal, MM says, the test scores will remain part of the deal. All children are now being tested because Klein tied the tests to ESEA funding. MM says NYC has turned into "Test Prep Inc." We are hurting children, and they don't do that in the rest of the state. We have leverage now, he thinks, when we have Race to the Top, instead of later, when we don't. (I'm not sure what he meant by leverage.)
He said he will not negotiate teacher evaluations if Klein is involved, because Klein and his staff know nothing about education. He believes he can work things out with the State Ed Dept that he can't work out here with the DoE. Because Mulgrew was in Albany yesterday excluding Klein, he says the chancellor is now badmouthing everything done there yesterday.
Discontinuances and U-ratings are up, and the current evaluation system is totally broken. It is based solely on the whims of administrators, and there are no protections. That has never been the intent of the evaluation process, which is supposed to be constructive. It's not working that way.
MM wants to mitigate test score impact. We need growth measurements, not absolute %s. He says it was good to have these conversations with Steiner (Commissioner of Educ.) and Merryl Tisch (Regents chancellor) because they understand education. MM has agreed to support measurements of growth only.

He's absolutely against individualized merit pay. He explained that the idea of the lead teacher started in Dist. 9 in the Bronx, and it worked when the lead teacher was selected by teachers. When it went citywide, Klein turned it into principal opinion. The UFT has agreed to create new titles (coach, mentor, etc.), who get more money, but it's based on teacher evaluation and their work inside of school, not on supervisor's recommendation. And the federal government agreed that this "career ladder" would qualify for the differential pay based on job description.

He said something about trying to keep this negotiation process secret from Klein. The idea was NOT to let it out on Mon., but it did come out. On Monday some of the reporters got some of the info and were trying to pump Albany for more. The NY Times wrote something on it Tues. morning, but it didn't have all the facts because the agreement was only finished on Tues. morning.
The proposed legislation is not entirely finished, some has to be worked out within the four evaluation levels. Teachers have to part of the process. It will take approximately 18 months to work out. State tests are now completely inadequate for what "we're trying to do."
Steiner says we need state standards so that teachers now what they should teach. Mulgrew is bent on putting curriculum back into teaching guidelines. He said the rest of student achievement can be worked out locally (e.g., portfolios, not tests). Klein will have to negotiate all these pieces with the UFT, and if he deoesn't come to agreement with the union, we don't change the evaluation system we hav now.
We have to negotiate a point system for the whole rating sheet, so they can't knock you down on one little piece. This is scary for teachers, but he thinks we have the leverage now (I didn't quite get what leverage he's talking about - I think the union has given up any leverage it's ever had over the past two disastrous contracts), and the city needs the federal money.
The point system and rubrics have to be agreed upon by subject, and there will be "much greater protection" for us. (Not clear how, since as Peter Lamphere, CL of Bx Sci, pointed out in the discussion of the motion, there isn't a rubric in the world that can't be manipulated by a principal.) The rating sheet always had 8 cateogries for evaluation, and we'd be adding a 9th: "Student achievement," which shows growth.
Mulgrew feels teachers would have more say with this eval. system because the DoE has to negotiate every section with us. He said that in the new agreement, if a teacher is deemed "ineffective" (like a U-rating) for two years, they can be brought up on 3020-a charges, but the Teacher Improvement Plan (TIP) becomes part of the due process. (Some think that's not different than what we have now.) The "teacher improvement process" is an entirely new piece, and it has its own appeal process. The UFT has to insist that the DoE is supplying help to the teacher. Mulgrew didn't want to change 3020-a law; but he wants the DoE to adhere to it. The state average is roughly 250 days of sitting in the RR for incompetence charges. Later he said that he is putting more layers into due process. Our evaluation system is already in state law, so if Klein wants to change it, he has to negotiate with the UFT each and every aspect of it.

Teachers in a high needs school have a much harder time, so the union is going to support "growth of student." That means an emphasis not on their proficiency on a standardized test, but how far they moved from when YOU get them to when YOU leave them. We don't have a value-added system in this city (i.e., comparing students to their peers) — MM says Klein thinks he has one, but he doesn't. By 2014 there WILL be a value -added system. No such system is agreed on by the state as of now.

INSERT: Here is from the Q&A - it's easier than trying to figure out when he told us last Wed.

The new system adds one more criteria: student growth. The new scoring rubric will prevent administrators from manipulating the rating system to rate a teacher ineffective. Teachers would be measured on a 100-point scale, with 60 percentage points based on multiple measures such as observations and peer review (locally negotiated with the union), 20 percentage points based on student growth on state exams where applicable, and another 20 percentage points based on locally selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms (to be locally negotiated with the UFT). In two years, after the state Board of Regents adopts a value-added growth model (the UFT will be part of the group that will be selecting the model), 25 percent of the rating would be based on the state exams where applicable and 15 percent would come from local measures of student achievement with 60 percent still based on measures such as observation and peer review. The evaluation would result in a composite score based on the multiple measures that would place teachers in one of four categories — highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective – with the maximum and minimum scores for each category set by the state.

MM says NCLB is hurting the whole country because principals are saying: "This kid is going to hurt the school, let's push him out." (This came out of the fake "Houston miracle", which gave us NCLB.)

Mulgrew said: "I got an objective system here, and you can't do squat to me!" (How he could say or even think this is beyond me. We know principals can do anything to us, and they have.)

The resolution to accept the new Teacher Evaluation plan was not part of the agenda we received earlier in the week, nor was it in the revised edition they lay out for us on the day of the Del. Assembly. Instead, staffers came around the hall handing this out to us towards the end of Mulgrew's report. The UFT execs were intent on passing this thing come hell or high water, even though the whole plan is very controversial and no one had any time to study it.

Some of us immediately realized Mulgrew motivated this resolution from the chair when at the end of his presentation Mulgrew said, "Change scares people, but we have to move forward as a profession." He should have stepped down and then motivated it from the floor. People started to ask Point of Informations, which is about all they could do, since only those who had seen the wording of the resolution could speak for or against it with any precision. Thus, the "pro" speakers were well prepared, and the "Con" speakers were winging it. I got the floor and asked Mulgrew why if they knew all our email addresses and tel. nos. had they not sent us as copy of this thing before the meeting. He cut me off quickly and said it was supposed to be a secret negotiation from Klein. Mike Mendel soon after jumped to defend the union's secrecy on this, saying something like everyone elects the executives of the union to negotiate for them and he's proud to do it. I guess that reasoning holds if you the elections weren't so rigged in favor of Unity.

The "con" comments of Peter Lamphere also included: "We can negotiate rubrics, but we didn't eliminate the whims of supervisors, and we compounded the issue" (by I think he said adding the bits on test scores). "It's giving into the national trends to use standardized tests." It benefits the privatizers and the McGraw Hills. "We can negotiate a rubric, but these won't defend teachers." And something like: "We need teachers tyo have input into these agreements and a democratic say!"

Mulgrew ended by talking about the plan for a series of grassroots rallies against the hedgefund managers and Walmart-types that want the share of charter funding. He said they're now getting tax credits, where they can double their money in 7 years. We can't match them with TV or newspapers, but we can beat them with grassroots effort.



Dear Colleagues, Friends, Comrades,

Last week, at the Delegate Assembly, the UFT revealed that it had put together a plan for teacher evaluation and improvement. It was an agreement with Education Commissioner David Steiner, Regents Merryl Tisch, the UFT and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). The UFT has trumpeted that this plan is “objective” and fair. Mulgrew is excited that they kept Klein and Bloomberg out of the picture. The word is that Klein is pissed; that makes the UFT really happy. But, just because Klein is pissed, does that mean this agreement is good?

What is the plan? If passed by the state legislature, teachers will be assessed in a totally new way, this is from the UFT website:

Teachers would be measured on a 100-point scale, with 60 percentage points based on multiple measures such as observations and peer review (locally negotiated with the union), 20 percentage points based on student growth on state exams where applicable, and another 20 percentage points based on locally selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms (to be locally negotiated with the UFT). The evaluation would result in a composite score based on the multiple measures that would place teachers in one of four categories — highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective – with the maximum and minimum scores for each category set by the state.

I am not thrilled about this plan. In a society where teachers are often blamed for all the problems in education, and where administrators, and especially politicians and heads of school systems, cheat and lie, I don’t have any belief that there is going to be an agreement that administrators will stick to, and I do believe that the administrators who cheat and lie will do what they want anyway.

Some opposition folks I’ve worked with in the UFT have pointed out that this plan came from friends and allies of Bloomberg’s. Tisch lives next door to Bloomberg, and has worked closely with Klein and Bloomberg before.

We’ve lost the ability to grieve disciplinary letters that we get from administrators; under the new proposal a teacher who is rated ineffective 2 years in a row would be gone in 60 days. This doesn’t put us in a position of strength. How would I suggest teachers be evaluated? I don’t know that I would suggest anything else, but I wouldn’t say this is good. And, the fact that we didn’t win grievances, and have lost step 2 of the grievance process (we used to be able to grieve something, if the principal denied the grievance it went to the superintendent’s level, and then on to the chancellor’s office), and can’t grieve letters in our files is a sign of tremendous weakness on the part of the union.

I am worried about some things in particular: one part of the evaluation is peer review. I am not a supervisor. I don’t want to help rate my coworkers—even if I don’t think they’re good teachers, that’s the principal’s job, or the AP’s job. Peer observation and discussion is useful, peer review to be used as part of a colleague’s evaluation is a slippery slope which breaks the line between union and management.

We need to organize ourselves in the school to really fight the administration where necessary, so letters come out, harassment ends. We have to stop relying on politicians and the courts.

I just don’t trust any of these parties to this agreement, including Mulgrew. They’re all in this together. And, I think that this kind of plan is part and parcel of a developing fascism in this country—more control over more of us, more watching. I don’t believe that there aren’t teachers who need to do better, but I think the whole system has to improve. I don’t, though, really believe that the charter-school-happy, union-busting, ready-to-draft-all-our-working-class-kids to fight for oil really wants to do better by the vast majority of students. I think it just wants us all to work harder for less money (or the same money, depending…).

Just a few thoughts…we can meet and discuss this…but enough for now. Just wanted to make sure you knew what was up.

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