City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and State Education Commissioner John King both said last week they are confident the city will be able to submit improvement plans for more than a dozen Queens schools — and over 100 citywide — listed on the state’s “priority schools” list as underachieving schools that could be closed by 2015 if they do not show progress.
But any plans for the schools will be contingent on whether or not the city and the United Federation of Teachers will finally reach a deal on a new teacher evaluation system.
Speaking to reporters after a visit to PS 229 in Woodside last week, the state and city education chiefs said there was no set deadline to submit plans, despite an October date being thrown around by officials during the summer, and the city’s ability to put together proposals will depend on whether or not the UFT and city Department of Education reach a deal on teacher evaluations.
“A lot will hinge on whether or not they’re able to move forward on an evaluation deal,” King said on Friday. “That’s the key step they need to take.”
King would not confirm that there’s an October deadline, but did say that the evaluation deal would need to be in place on Jan. 17, 2013 as per a federal mandate.
The state received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education in May that relieved New York of requirements that students reach a level of proficiency in 2014 under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. The waiver was a move granted by the Obama administration after Congress failed to delay the NCLB requirements’ taking effect by several years.
But part of the waiver requires a deal on teacher evaluations. That ongoing battle led to the DOE to implement its ill-fated “turnaround” plan in seven borough high schools last year. An arbitrator ultimately killed the plan over the summer and a court upheld his decision.
Walcott said his agency and the UFT are having ongoing meetings and he is confident they will reach a deal soon.
“Mr. Mulgrew and I have had productive discussions and our staff have been talking on a regular basis,” he said “I’m not just chasing the dollars, I want a deal that benefits the entire city and a deal that benefits all of our students as well.”
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, said schools need to have a plan soon for their own good, since the school year is already several weeks old. He noted that several schools on the list already have plans in place, including Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, which was due to be part of the turnaround plan but was axed from the list shortly before the PEP voted to close the other seven high schools last spring.