In the long-simmering debate over how to judge the quality of New York State school employees, there is one thing all sides agree on: a system should be in place.
The sides are not as far apart as their public posture would indicate. Three weeks before Mr. Cuomo set the deadline, the union had already acceded to one of the state’s key demands. It agreed that most of the 60 points teachers could earn on subjective measurements should be based on classroom observations — something the state’s education commissioner, John B. King Jr., had been pushing for. Of the total score of 100, results from student testing would account for the other 40 points.
At issue is the process by which teachers would be able to appeal a poor rating. The city proposed forming a three-person committee consisting of one representative from the city, one from the union and one who would be jointly selected by both to issue an advisory decision to the schools chancellor, who would then make the final call.
Mr. Mulgrew objected. He said the administration had forced teachers to go to court to have bad ratings reversed.
The appeals process will be a crucial issue for the union once the teacher evaluation standards go into effect. The new law scraps a “satisfactory/unsatisfactory” scale that has been used to judge teachers for decades and introduces a four-tiered rating: “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective.” Teachers who are rated “ineffective” for two consecutive years could lose their jobs within 60 days. Under the current system, less than 3 percent of the city’s teachers are rated “unsatisfactory,” and it can take more than a year to fire a teacher.
The disagreements that remain are, by and large, the subjects of the lawsuit by the state teachers’ union. For example, 40 points on the annual reviews for teachers statewide would come from students’ test scores. The union wants only half of those points to be based on standardized tests, but the Board of Regents, which sets state education policy, allowed districts to base all of the 40 points on standardized tests.
The law specifies that 20 points of the evaluation must be based on the state tests and the remaining 20 points on other exams, to be developed by local districts. The discrepancy between the Regents’ regulations and the legislation is the reason the union sued, Mr. Iannuzzi said.
“We never challenged the law. We only challenged their interpretation of the law,” he said.
What is not said in the Times article is whether the unions are going to agree to allow teachers to be declared "ineffective" overall if the value-added measurement they use on student test scores comes up with an "ineffective" score.
You'll remember that Cuomo allegedly wrote a letter to Regents Chancellor Tisch stating he wanted just that in the new evaluation system, meaning if a teacher is declared "ineffective" on either the city test VAM (20% of the evaluation) or the state test VAM (20% of the evaluation), that teacher would be declared "ineffective" overall and subject to firing in 60 days if it happens two years running.
Norm Scott has posted that Cuomo hadn't actually written that letter, that Tisch and NYSED Commissioner John King had actually written it and Cuomo simply signed his name to it.
Whether that deception is true or not, it is quite clear to me that the fix is in on these evaluations, that the unions are just looking for a graceful way to cave in to Cuomo, the Regents, the NYSED and Bloomberg while making it look to their membership like they were truly fighting for their members.
Cuomo, the NYSED and the Regents are going to get their way on this and teachers are going to be subject to an overall "ineffective" rating if they come up "ineffective" on either the city VAM or the state VAM.
Given that the city and the state are going to add new standardized tests to every subject in every grade in order to carry out this new evaluation system, it's not too difficult to see that students are just going to stop caring about high stakes tests after a while (seriously, after 10-20 high stakes tests a year, why wouldn't they stop caring?)
That's why the appeals process for the "ineffective" rating is so important.
If the chancellor has the last call on the process, as the mayor wants, then no teacher will ever get a fair hearing and anybody who gets declared "ineffective" on any measure of the eval - the 20% city VAM, the 20% state VAM or the classroom observation, can just about kiss their job goodbye.
An appeals process that allows the chancellor to have the final say is like a PEP meeting on co-locations - the outcome is pre-decided.
I know this. If I am declared "ineffective" on either the city VAM or the state VAM, I am not going to rely on the appeals process as my sole measure of defense.
I am also going to sue the city and/or the state on the grounds that the value-added methodology they use is highly flawed, has wide margins of error and wide swings in stability.
That is already proven by the VAM the city uses for 4th-8th ELA and math teachers now.
I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know if I will truly have a case on that or not, but I am going to tell you one thing - I sure as hell will see.
This new "tough" evaluation system is meant to bludgeon teachers, bust the union and allow districts to rid themselves of expensive veteran teachers.
Both the UFT and the NYSUT have collaborated with the NYSED, the Regents, the governor, the mayor and the education reform movement to bring this system to fruition.
They have already ceded ground on the validity of the VAM's. They have yet to get the message out that value-added measurement are about as reliable as any other call made by economists using one of their complex computer models (i.e., they're highly flawed and I wouldn't bet the mortgage on them.)
They have yet to tell the public how students are going to have to take tests in every subject in every grade - both state and city tests - in order for this system to be carried out. Students are going to be subject to taking 10-20 high stakes standardized tests every year that will matter a whole hell of a lot to teachers (if not exactly all that much to students).
Indeed, if Cuomo gets his way and a teacher is declared "ineffective" on either portion of the VAM, city or state, two years running, they can be fired - after being humiliated in public by having their rating published in the papers, of course.
You can bet the FEAR that will be added to the system over this is going to turn schools into nothing but test prep factories.
I don't think the public yet knows this.
It sounds good on the surface, using student performance to evaluate teachers, but doing it the way the city and state plan on doing it is going to destroy a lot of careers and reputations.
And that, of course, is the point - this is about management getting a leg up on labor, pure and simple.
The consequences of this are going to be very stark.
This new system is going to destroy the education of every student in this state when schools go All Test Prep, All The Time.
Now it is starting to sound like the unions are set to cave on the appeals process for the new system and give the "deformers" what they want on that too.
They have already caved on the VAM and the 10-20 new standardized tests a year.
The Shock and Awe destruction of the system is almost complete.
If this system is allowed to play out the way it is designed by the "reformers," in five years time tens of thousands of teachers in this state will have been fired for being "ineffective."
Only a tiny portion of those fired will actually be "bad teachers."
The rest will be expensive vets who will be the victims of district downsizing and budget squeezing.
By agreeing to this, the UFT and the NYSUT have collaborated on the destruction of the teaching profession and the ruin of tens of thousands of individual teachers.
My advice to teachers out there is to save every piece of paper relating to your VAM and your classroom practice.
Make sure you have attendance records, your syllabi, copies of student work.
Take videos of your teaching and interactions with students.
You're going to need that material to protect yourself and your reputation when the inevitable "ineffective" rating comes down.
This may not work or hold up in a court of law, but let's be honest here - better to protect yourself as best you can if you intend to stay in education rather than rely on the NYSUT or the UFT to do the protection for you.
So far, they've done a very poor job indeed.