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Queens Chronicle

Teacher evaluations plan to be implemented by state

DOE, UFT praise new rules, but some are skeptical about implementation

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:40 am, Thu Jun 13, 2013.

State Education officials have stepped in to implement a long-awaited teacher evaluation plan for the city, months after the city Department of Education and unions failed to agree on one themselves.

The plan, announced by State Education Commissioner John King on Saturday, will be four-tiered — teachers will be rated highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective —and will make it easier for underperforming teachers to be terminated. Under the plan, which will be implemented in September, a teacher rated “ineffective” twice will be subject to possible termination and there will be a shorter appeals process, which will be open only to teachers rated “ineffective,” and where the burden of proof will be on the teacher.

“The key to this plan is support and professional development that must be put in place to help teachers and principals improve their practices,” King said.

The state stepped in after the DOE and the United Federation of Teachers failed to reach an agreement on a plan by the state-sanctioned January deadline. The failure resulted in the loss of $250 million in school aid from the state.

Under the new plan, 40 percent of the evaluations will be based on student performance, including state tests. For teachers of second grade students and younger, the other 60 percent of the evaluations will be based on classroom observations.

The observation system will be based on four to six classroom visits a year and teachers can choose between a minimum of one formal observation and three informal or six total informal visits. That is a change from two observations per year, which the DOE and UFT agreed to in their ultimately unsuccessful negotiations.

Teachers will be allowed to request their observations be videotaped to be used in appeals.

For teachers from grade three through 12, 55 percent of the total evaluation will be observations while the other 5 percent will be through student surveys starting in the 2014-2015 school year.

Where the UFT and DOE failed to agree — a sunset for the plan — King sided with the city. The plan will be in effect permanently, but can be amended if the unions and the city agree on changes.

Nevertheless, both Mayor Bloomberg and the UFT praised the plan.

“It will put students first, further empower our principals and solidify our accountability measures,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Good teachers will become better ones and ineffective teachers can be removed from the classroom.”

The mayor admitted that the plan did not give the city everything it wanted, but expressed optimism that it would work.

“This really is a landmark achievement on behalf of our students, and it’s wonderful,” he said.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott added that he saw the plan as a “major victory.”

“We are now finally rid of a system that has been dysfunctional for generations,” he said in a statement.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the plan will be good for teachers.

“The new teacher evaluation system is designed to support, not punish, teachers and to help them develop throughout their careers,” Mulgrew said, also in a statement.

Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, said he had some reservations about the plan’s implementation by the DOE and said he wanted to see the deal evaluated next year.

“I’m happy to see an agreement has been reached and I’m hopeful it will meet expectations,” he said in an email. “However, I’m concerned about it’s implementation since history and actions by the mayor regarding our teachers haven’t been amicable. This plan should be used as a supportive tool for teachers and not as a divisive hammer. I also believe it should be re-examined in 2014 for effectiveness by the new administration. The main goal is to support our teachers for the sake of our students and to ensure the plan creates successful outcomes, otherwise it’s just creating hardships for our learning environments.”

Some teachers also expressed reservations about the plan.

“I’m glad we have something to work off of,” said one elementary school teacher from Flushing. “It’s not perfect, but hopefully when there’s a new mayor, we’ll get something more concrete and workable.”

She added that many teachers don’t trust the current administration and fear how they will implement the plan.

“Between school closings and budget cuts, there is just this level of distrust with the city,” the teacher said. “I think some are worried about how the city will implement this.”

One Queens high school teacher called the plan “a disaster.”

“We have a large staff and doing up to six observations a year will overwhelm the school administration and prevent them from focusing on the teachers who truly need the help,” he said. “I don’t see how this can possibly work.”

Mayoral candidates, who may be tasked with amending the plan, also responded to the deal.

Former Comptroller Bill Thompson, who served as president of the now-defunct Board of Education in the 1990s, thought the plan was “simply unworkable.”

“I have serious concerns about whether this plan is workable, especially given the Administration’s history of finger-pointing and accusation, instead of collaboration and cooperation,” he said in a statement.

Democratic candidate Sal Albanese blamed Bloomberg and the unions for forcing the state to implement a plan on the city in the first place.

“Had the UFT and the mayor put down their swords and talked like adults, we would be discussing a plan crafted by teachers, parents, and administrators, rather than by Albany,” Albanese, a former teacher, said. “Instead, they bickered and put our school system at the mercy of the state. For better or worse, now we have a plan. So let’s look forward and fight to ensure that the resources are in place to make it work for our kids.”

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