The new teacher evaluation system has been the only major reform that union and education officials accomplished together in at least a year. That last thread of collaboration snapped Monday night. The Board of Regents approved a plan that includes some last minute changes suggested by the governor.
Union leaders call them unacceptable.
“If political ideology and rhetoric trumps what's best for the kids, then we're not going to be able to come to a decision,” said Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers.
Originally, 20 percent of each teacher's evaluation grade would have been based on students' state test scores. In the new plan, backed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, that number is up to 40 percent.
"I know this is difficult," said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. "I know in many ways it is dramatic for all of us."
Nevertheless, the real drama may be to come. The state teachers union says the changes are against the law. They are suspending any collaboration with the State Education Department and may sue. Locally, each school district now has to work with their teachers union to figure out the details of the evaluations by September. However, the city's union president and chancellor already admit they disagree.
“We think that what's been discussed is something that is fair and strong and we support it,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
“I do not negotiate in the press," said Mulgrew. "I just want to be clear on our position that test prep has harmed the school system of New York City."
Some Regents members also voiced concerns that if test scores are given more weight, teachers will do more test prep.
"Principals know who the good teachers are," said Roger Philips of the State Board of Regents. "They could rank them in order without this incredible structure.”
Still, that the city and union will be able to agree on a model at all by September looks less and less likely.
Just as with the TDR's, the unions have found that collaborating with the corporate education reform power structure on teacher evaluations has ended badly.
Do you remember when Weingarten made a deal with the DOE over the TDR's and the DOE agreed to not publish the reports in public or release them to the press?
Now the DOE is fighting in court to do just that.
Weingarten claimed they broke an agreement she made with them.
Meanwhile last year the union leadership did a deal with the devil during the Race to the Top hysteria (it seemed that if the state didn't win the $700 RttT funds, the world would end and thousands of teachers would be laid off - how'd that work out in retrospect?)
By agreeing to any percentage of the evals to be done using test scores, they opened up the door to have the state push for a higher percentage eventually.
The leadership probably never thought it would happen so fast - or so sneakily.
But that's the thing with corporate education reformers - they want their changes now and they don't care about such niceties as agreements or, you know, the law.
I would think the unions have a pretty good case if they fight this in court - after all, the law as passed last year stipulated something other than what the Regents approved last night.
But we'll see if they really do fight this or if the leadership are just talking tough to make the membership happy.