Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Open Letter To Randi Weingarten About Andrew Cuomo And New York's Teacher Evaluation System

Dear AFT President Randi Weingarten,

I wanted to write you an open letter asking what you intend to do now that Governor Andrew Cuomo has signaled that he is not happy with the teacher evaluation results in New York City and will look to impose a much more punitive system that rates more teachers "ineffective."

One thing the governor says is right - there is a huge problem with the way the current evaluation system is constituted.

The changes we have seen as a result of the current system have been numerous - 4-6 annual classroom observations (known colloquially by teachers as "Danielson drive-bys"), ratings tied to student test scores, the use of the Danielson rubric to "assess" so-called "effective" teaching so that every teacher must teach in a standardized way or risk a low rating.

This evaluation system that Cuomo helped put into place here in NYC requires many more hours of a teacher's time and energy, takes away a lot of time that could be spent with students and forces teachers to spend much of that time on compliance work (paperwork "proving" their "effectiveness.")

Teachers aren't the only ones angry about the system - so are well-respected education leaders.

In fact, a group of Lower Hudson Valley superintendents called the state's evaluation system "demoralizing, expensive and ineffective":

The superintendents group contends that the evaluation system has been demoralizing, expensive and ineffective, resulting in the overtesting of students. The system has not made it easier to fire poor teachers, the group says.

This region's school chiefs would like to see legislators convene a group of educators, teachers, lawmakers and state officials to create a system that would help teachers improve instruction and make it easier for districts to fire poor teachers.

"We need to start over," Harrison Superintendent Louis Wool said.


A study commissioned by the superintendents found that scoring problems prompted school districts to give teachers high grades for classroom observations so they would not get undeserved poor overall grades. State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said the study deserves serious discussion so teacher evaluations can be made more effective. 

"It is always important to listen to the people that have the expertise and knowledge of the current procedures and standards," she said.

Cuomo, on the other hand, seems to believe a teacher evaluation system should be demoralizing, since he said he wants to use it to "break" teachers:

The governor told the Daily News Editorial Board in October he wants to toughen the evaluation standards in the coming year, calling it a big way to bust the public school “monopoly.”

Just yesterday, Cuomo said this about the current system:

“These results of these evaluations say one thing: not real,” he continued. “It’s not real. You are an evaluation system in name, and you have to go back to the table and try to come up with an evaluation system that is more accurate. The teachers’ union is trying to reduce the number [of teachers] that are deemed ineffective, right? And that’s what this evaluation system did. But it’s clear that an inaccurate evaluation system helps no one, not even the teachers.”

From what I see in the governor's statements, Cuomo will only be happy with an evaluation system that greatly increases the number of teachers deemed "ineffective" every year so that he can accomplish his goal to "break" the public school "monopoly" and privatize much of the public school system.

You were sitting next to him at a Forbes forum last June when he first made his "break the public school monopoly" comments, so I know you know he means this threat and has been thinking about it for a while now.

Rumor has it that he will try and add a quota for the percentage of "ineffective" teacher ratings a district must hand out every year.

Other ways he may "toughen" the rating system is to ratchet up the "effective" and "highly effective" categories so as to make them aspirational but nearly unobtainable, make 40% of the evaluation based on state test scores alone, and/or tweak the VAM used for the test score component so that "effective" or higher is difficult to reach.

What do you and your compatriots at the NYSUT and the UFT plan to do in order to fight Governor Cuomo on his threats to "toughen" the New York State teacher evaluation system in order to "break" the teachers in the public school system?

He's coming for us, he's coming to do harm and now is the time for you and the rest of the teachers union leadership in this state to fight him.

Will you fight him?

I have my doubts.

You claimed in the fall that the "break" the "monopoly" comment he made was simply "campaign rhetoric," there was nothing to worry about.

Do you still think that way?

Earlier this year you backed a putsch at NYSUT that knocked out an increasingly anti-Cuomo NYSUT leadership, you (along with Michael Mulgrew at the UFT) joined a contingent of union leaders that threatened the Working Families Party with financial ruin if they didn't endorse Cuomo last May and you made robocalls for his running mate, Kathy Hochul, when it looked like she could lose her Democratic primary.

All this help and he pays you back by threatening to "break" your members and the public school system they work in.

Doesn't sound like you got much payback from him for the political aid and comfort you have given him.

It surely would be nice if you stopped helping Andrew Cuomo and started helping us - especially now that he has stated publicly repeated times that he intends to destroy us.

So what's it going to be, Randi?

Fight or flight?

I see you all over the TV and newspaper with the UVA/Rolling Stone story, the Garner protests, the Ferguson protests.

All that political work you do for those causes is great, but now I (and my fellow union members) would like you to take some of the energy you put into those causes and put it into the cause of fighting Andrew Cuomo on his threat to "break" us.

Are you in, Randi? 

Or are we, as usual, on our own?


An Embattled Member of the UFT, AFT and NYSUT
Perdido Street School


  1. Bravo - well said. It will fall upon deaf ears. The union leadership is out for their own self-enrichment and only puts on a veneer of fighting for the rank and file - and even that veneer is flimsy these days. AFT, UFT and NYSUT have destroyed their credibility with the members they claim to represent.

  2. RBE - if you haven't seen it, Cuomo's laid out his whole second-term education agenda on his website:

  3. This is a very important piece that I plan to share around. We must remember to always point out Randi's role in all of this.

  4. Don't you see? By boycotting Coke, getting herself arrested for camera crews at protests, attending Al Sharpton's birthday party and staging a SEAL-like rescue of the Nigerian school girls Randi is representing you. Did you think she was supposed to stand up to politicians and billionaires and fight for teacher rights or something? Psshaw. How old school unionish.

  5. She won't fight and you know it. They will get about half of these things and the UFT will say something like, "Look what he wanted and we stopped it.

  6. Her answer is this: Nothing!!!!! She is in his pocket!

  7. I'm afraid Randi will say YES and ask to meet with you and then do her usual misleading. Selling out is in the UFT leadership DNA. The further she is away the less chance she has to subvert. Organize from the bottom up - school by school.

  8. You have a better chance of getting a positive response from Santa Claus.

  9. Great letter. Knocking out the legs of the current UFT leadership and working with other state teacher locals is what will work. How? We're trying with the growing Solidarity Caucus.

  10. Almost offering more things and ideas on which we can write more evidently specifying the better object, so there is a good way to follow the success.