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Queens Chronicle

Schools deal could bring big bucks

City, UFT agreement expected to bring millions in aid

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Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:54 pm, Sat Jan 26, 2013.

Nine Queens high schools are expected to land millions of dollars in federal aid after city officials and the United Federation of Teachers reached an agreement last week that changes the way educators are evaluated at schools the state has labeled as struggling institutions.

The agreement, which was announced Friday, was needed in order for the city to remain in a federal grant program that could bring up to $65 million to 33 city schools that the state categorized as “persistently low-achieving.”

As part of the deal, teachers in the schools that have struggled with graduation rates and test scores will be rated each year as ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective. Until now, there have been only two ratings categories for educators — satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Because of this new grading system, state educators who had previously been unhappy with the city’s teacher evaluation system are expected to sign off on the city’s applications for the federal funding for the 33 schools.

The schools in Queens that stand to benefit from this deal are: John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens Vocational & Technical High School in Long Island City, Flushing High School, August Martin High School in Jamaica, Richmond Hill High School and William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City.

“Having the funding helps us do the extra things to help our students succeed, such as college and career readiness,” John Adams High School Principal Grace Zwillenberg said. “It will also help us provide the professional development that is key to teachers having different tools on hand to help the kids succeed.”

This agreement comes at a tense time for relations between the city and the UFT, who have long been at odds over how teachers should be evaluated. They are still negotiating how much weight standardized tests should have in grading teachers.

Still, the two groups said they were encouraged by the deal that came after months of negotiations.

“With this agreement, we will be able to bring millions of dollars in federal funding to these struggling schools and recruit top quality teachers to help students success and mentor other staff,” schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a prepared statement.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew too praised the agreement, saying it “helps lay the groundwork.”

“Now we have to focus on providing the resources these struggling schools need to make a real difference in the lives of their students,” Mulgrew said.

Because the state placed the schools on the state’s list, the city was mandated by federal law to implement one of four improvement modes: phasing out the school, replacing its leadership, closing it immediately or bringing in a management company.

The city opted for the latter for the Queens schools, and an educational nonprofit will work with the institutions by next year to start implementing changes

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