Tag Archives: teacher evaluations

Millions lost after teacher evaluation talks fail


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

City school students just got a hard lesson in how not to compromise.

Millions of dollars in education money was lost after Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) failed to agree on a teacher evaluation system.

They had until midnight on January 18 to reach a deal or schools would forfeit $250 million in state education aid and be ineligible for $200 million in education grant funds.

“Since we established one of the strongest teacher evaluation models in the nation last year, 98 percent of school districts have successfully implemented them,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo as the deadline approached. “The remaining districts and their unions have until midnight tonight to do the same or they will forfeit the increase in education aid they have been counting on and both parties will have failed the children they serve.”

Each side of the negotiation table blamed the other for the stalemate.

The UFT said that Bloomberg had blown the teacher evaluation deal after they had reached an agreement in the early hours of January 17.

“Despite long nights of negotiation and a willingness on the part of teachers to meet the Department of Education halfway — the intransigence of the Bloomberg administration on key issues has made it impossible to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

“Thousands of parents have gotten a lesson this week, as the mayor’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach has left thousands of schoolchildren stranded at curbs across the city by the school bus strike,” he added.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, said that every time the two parties approached a deal, the UFT “moved the finish line back.”

“Instead of working with us to tie up the loose ends of this agreement, they continued to insert unrelated, extraneous issues into these negotiations. The effect was to set the talks back, time and time again,” said the mayor.

According to Bloomberg, there were three areas of disagreement.

The UFT wanted the agreement to end in June 2015. That condition would have made the evaluation system “meaningless,” said the mayor, because the process of removing ineffective teachers takes two years.

Also, the union wanted to double the number of arbitration hearings for teachers who file grievances over the evaluation process and wanted to change the method of scoring the evaluations.

If he had agreed to those stipulations, said Bloomberg, then it would more difficult to “weed out ineffective teachers.”

What both sides did agree on was that the students have suffered the biggest loss.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Overcast. High of 43. Winds from the WNW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 20%. Thursday Night: Overcast with a chance of snow and a chance of rain. Low of 27 with a windchill as low as 19. Winds from the NNW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 30%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: After the Fall

Veteran production company Variations Theatre Group has found a new home at the former US Chain Factory site in Long Island City, which once housed a photo development facility and a plant for industrial syringes. Variations launches with After the Fall, one of Arthur Miller’s most autobiographical works, intimately exploring his failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe and her subsequent suicide. January 17 to February 2, 7 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Astoria lawmaker to propose bill to make it harder for bikini bars and strip clubs to get liquor licenses

A seedy Astoria bikini bar called Queen of Hearts has failed to capture the hearts of local leaders fed up with the number of adult establishments seeking to open in the area. Read more: New York Daily News

New York City school bus driver strike enters 2nd day

A standoff between striking school bus drivers and aides looking for job protections and a city administration that says they just can’t have it has the potential to go on for some time, observers said, as parents scrambled for a second day to figure out alternatives for tens of thousands of students who need to get to school. Read more: ABC New York

Deadline imminent for city teacher evaluation system

Today is the deadline for the city to figure out how to rate its school teachers, but as of last night there is still no deal in place between the city Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers. Read more: NY1

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When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Rockaways, St. Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor served as a haven for its flood and fire-ravaged community. Read more: New York Daily News

Feds round up 30 in massive metro-area mob sweep

Thirty-two people were charged today in connection with a long-running federal investigation into continued Mafia control of the private garbage-hauling industry. Read more: New York Post

NRA chief says group accepts background checks

The head of the National Rifle Association says the organization has no problem with tighter background checks of gun purchasers. Read more: AP

Study: 20K ER visits linked to energy drinks in 2011

A new government study is calling popular energy drinks “a rising public health problem” that is sending more and more people to the emergency rooms. Read more: ABC News

 

 

Supporters rally around Bryant High School


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Students and teachers of William Cullen Bryant High School came out in force to show they give a “hoot” about their school.

Bryant – whose mascot is an owl – is in danger of being “turned around” by the Department of Education (DOE), resulting in the closing of the school at the end of the academic year and reopening under a different name in the fall of 2012. The Turnaround model also involves the replacement of up to 50 percent of the school’s more than 200 educators, but all current students and incoming ninth graders who have applied and been matched to Bryant will have a seat in the new school.

Over 100 elected officials, faculty, students and parents attended a rally prior to a DOE public hearing at the school, located at 48-10 31st Avenue in Long Island City, on April 4 – voicing their displeasure with the city’s plan by chanting “Save our school. Keep Bryant open.”

“[Bryant] shouldn’t be saved because of its history. It should be saved because of what’s happening here today,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, an alumnus of Bryant. “You have over 3,000 kids, many of whom are the children of immigrants – 20 percent of students are English language learners and 34 percent of students are eligible for free lunches. Firing over half the teachers and opening up a new school, there’s no way that doesn’t disrupt the lives of these kids and cause a rupture that would be really difficult to heal.”

A number of teachers and students also spoke at the rally, including Bryant Student Body President Sotiria Zouroudis.

“We are like a family here, and if they fire the teachers then this family is broken. We don’t want to see that happen,” she said.

Teachers at Bryant expressed concern that the DOE is working against the school, rather than with it.

“I think this is terrible and it is demoralizing students and teachers,” said Georgia Lignou, a history teacher at Bryant. “The DOE has been undermining this school for years. They keep claiming the Turnaround is not going to be disruptive to the students, but I think it is going to be very disruptive – already it is disruptive because the students feel they’re in a school that is not good.”

Despite the outrage most have shown towards the Turnaround model, some parents believe adjustments are necessary.

“The kids can only be affected in a good way – [the Turnaround] is not affecting them in any other way,” said the parent of a Bryant freshman who preferred to remain anonymous. “The school will be here in September, the kids will come in, they will have an opportunity for 50 percent new teachers, a new way of teaching, more funding and different programs. This is a school that needs change.”

DOE Deputy Chancellor Laura Rodriguez said the department “stands behind” current Bryant principal Namita Dwarka’s leadership and believes she is the “right person to be the proposed new leader of the proposed new school.”

Rodriguez also said the DOE is aiming to improve the educational quality at Bryant – which had a four-year graduation rate of 57 percent last year, below the citywide rate of 65 percent. Bryant also received an overall grade of “C” on its 2010-11 annual progress report, with an “F” on student performance, “D” on student progress and “B” on school environment. According to Rodriguez, Bryant was showing improvement on certain Regents Exams, and the school ranked in the top third in the city in graduating students with disabilities within four years.

“By closing W.C. Bryant and replacing it with a new school, we are seeking to rapidly create a school environment that will prepare for success in college, work and life,” Rodriguez said. “The new school will build on the strongest elements of W.C. Bryant, and it will also incorporate new elements in order to create a rigorous culture for teaching and learning.”

Bryant is on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools, and was receiving a significant amount of Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on an evaluation system. By instituting the Turnaround model – a program which does not require teacher evaluations – the city will be eligible to apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state. Bryant would be eligible for $1.8 million in supplemental federal funding.

Dermot Smyth, the Queens political action coordinator for the UFT, believes Mayor Michael Bloomberg should return to negotiations with the union and cease “this nonsense with these schools.”

“With all the publicity surrounding these schools, how many parents are going to want to send their kids here next year,” he said. “This has a domino effect of affecting every neighborhood in this borough in a negative way. The mayor has created a dark cloud over these schools – one of suspicion – which is unwarranted and untrue.”

Initially, 33 schools across the borough were designated for Turnaround, but the DOE recently removed seven schools from the list after discovering they had report card grades of “A” or “B.” Smyth says the city’s actions prove their plan has “no educational justification whatsoever.”

The DOE’s proposal will be voted on by the Panel for Education Policy (PEP), a committee composed of 13 members assigned by the five borough presidents and Mayor Bloomberg, on April 26.

Teacher evaluations shed light on effectiveness


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Grades given by the Department of Education (DOE) show more than 500 teachers may have failed to effectively educate their students.

According to published accounts, the DOE’s Teacher Data Reports have identified 521 English and math teachers who produced the smallest student gains between 2007 and 2010.

The reports, which use a value-added approach to illustrate how much progress individual teachers helped students make in reading and math over the course of a year, also classify 696 instructors as aiding children towards the biggest achievement gains over the same four-year period.

Roughly 12,000 teachers in grades four through eight were assigned ratings during the 2009-2010 school year – some based on their performances dating as far back as 2007.

In an op-ed piece, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott called the reports “valuable tools” in identifying teachers’ strengths and weaknesses, but warned against using the data as the sole instrument by which to measure an educator.

“The data is now two years old, and it would be irresponsible for anyone to use this information to render judgments about individual teachers,” wrote Walcott. “Teacher Data Reports were created primarily as a tool to help teachers improve, and not to be used in isolation.”

Walcott continued by stating that the reports “don’t tell the full story about a teacher’s performance,” and they include instructors “who don’t even work in our schools anymore.” The chancellor also acknowledged that many teachers’ performances may have changed since the data was assembled.

While the rating system is no longer utilized by the DOE, similar calculations will account for 20 percent of a teacher’s rating – with the remaining grade composed of other measures, such as classroom observations – in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently-established statewide teacher evaluation program.

Despite the protests of hundreds of school faculty and parents, the data reports were released after several media outlets filed Freedom of Information Law requests and the state’s courts ruled the DOE was “obligated” to make them available.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew, who was against the release of the Teacher Data Reports, believes the ratings to be highly inaccurate.

“The Teacher Data Reports are based on bad data and an unproven methodology with a huge margin of error,” Mulgrew said. “They are not an accurate reflection of the work of any teacher. Their release is particularly inappropriate in view of the fact that the DOE has already announced that they will be discontinued and replaced with a statewide program.”

The UFT noted the rating system has error margins as high as 54 out of 100 points – meaning a top scoring teacher may be below average or an educator deemed subpar could be among the best. The federation also said some teachers were rated on subjects or students they did not teach, and one educator was given a score for a year she was on maternity leave.

Many teachers have objected to the release of the reports, claiming they will be unfairly judged based on inaccurate statistics.

“If the public wants to see what we do in the classrooms, then an outside agency – not the UFT, not the city – should come in and observe and rate the teachers,” said one Queens educator. “There are a lot of factors that go into education, and these ratings aren’t enough to judge a teacher by.”

Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, a citywide advocacy group campaigning for smaller classes, believes the reports could be disastrous for the teaching profession as a whole.

“I think the releasing of the data is indefensible,” said Haimson. “I think it has the potential of wrecking the teaching profession. I don’t think anyone would go into teaching knowing this kind of data could be released, that is both unfair and unreliable and could put them at the mercy of the tabloids for being publicly shamed and denounced.”

Based on the data, media reports have also suggested the best ranked schools have the highest percentage of top rated teachers, while the struggling institutions have many instructors with below average marks.