As was reported yesterday, Governor Cuomo threatened the Buffalo school district and teachers union for being close to "ethical and legal fraud" for making a side agreement that no teacher will be fired the first year under APPR because the system has yet to be fully implemented and the kinks in it have yet to be worked out.
Here is what the head of the Buffalo district wrote in the agreement:
“The District understands that it would not be fair to our teachers to use this process against them during this early stage of implementation,” Superintendent Pamela Brown wrote in a memorandum of understanding with the Buffalo Teachers Federation that was struck on the same day as the city and union agreed on an evaluation plan but was not shared with the state.
Governor Cuomo disagreed with that assessment of the process:
In a radio interview today, Cuomo called the side deal, struck at the same time as Buffalo and its union agreed on a new teacher evaluation system in January, “very close to legal and ethical fraud.”
NYSED Commissioner King has stated that Buffalo MUST use the new APPR evaluation system to fire teachers the first year because
“The law says the evaluations ‘shall be a significant factor in employment decisions.'"
But an NYSUT official pushed back against King's assertion, saying
“That interpretation is wrong. The agreement is permitted under the law,” said Carl Korn, a New York State United Teachers spokesman. “The law says the district ‘may’ bring charges [after two years of ineffective ratings].”
The NYSED says that because the letter of agreement between Buffalo and the union was not sent to the state as part of their teacher evaluation plan, which has to be signed off upon by King, it is not part of the agreement and is superseded by the "official" plan that was approved by NYSED.
Therefore they MUST use the APPR system to fire teachers the first year running, no matter how many problems arise in the system, or they will lose state funds. They sent a letter to the district stating just that in January:
The state reserves the right to revoke its approval of the district’s plan, she wrote – and if that happens, the district stands to lose not only its $33 million increase in state aid, but nearly $14 million in various other funding, she wrote, and could jeopardize tens of millions in additional funding.
NYSED decided that statement wasn't threatening enough and sent another one in March:
“The department considers void any other previously signed agreements between and among those parties,” she wrote. “The Buffalo Public Schools must implement the terms of its approved [annual professional performance review] plan.”
Just in case you think the NYSED is fooling around, the Democrat and Chronicle reports they have threatened the Rome school district over the issue as well:
In Rome, a local newspaper reported in March that the district and local union agreed to “hold harmless” teachers and principals from negative evaluations in the first years of implementation.“Please take immediate steps to rectify any confusion that may have resulted from the Rome Sentinel news story (including contacting the Rome Sentinel to correct the story),” the education department wrote to Rome schools on March 27, referring to the newspaper article.
“Further, failure to have an approved (evaluation) plan, in full compliance with (education law), can result in various consequences, including but not limited to suspension and/or redirection of federal funds.”
The NYSED and Regents say that the expected lower test scores on the vaunted new Common Core tests won't be held against teachers, yet they're threatening any district that doesn't use these scores as part of the new APPR system to label teachers "ineffective" and fire them.
And they're doing this even though the system has yet to be fully implemented, even though the value-added formulas the state is using for APPR have not been tested, even though the Common Core tests themselves have not been validated for use in teacher evaluations.
As one commenter put it at the Buffalo newspaper:
The fact that King continues to plow ahead asserting the need to eliminate teachers in an untested system reveals the true agenda for other people's children.
That's exactly right.
You can imagine the system NYSED Commissioner John King is going to impose on NYC teachers come June 1 if the UFT and the NYCDOE do not come to an agreement beforehand.
King and his NYSED cohorts have shown little-to-no concern over teachers' fears that an untested system will unfairly smear many teachers as "ineffective," ruin their careers and wreck their professional reputations.
Pity that the UFT leadership seems just fine with King and Cuomo imposing their own system in June.