Archives For February 2013

Meeting Postponed!

February 8, 2013 — 1 Comment

MORE_Meeting_Postponed_1360296141

New Date and Location

Saturday, February 16th – 12-3pm

New Location – 224 West 29th Street, 14 floor

Please come Saturday to help get the Movement of Rank and File Educators on the UFT election ballot, and sign up to distribute our campaign literature.

And don’t forget…

A PUBLIC FORUM ON NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

“Dignity and Democracy in Education: Blowing the Whistle on the Culture of Fear and Corruption in NYC Public Schools”

Saturday, February 23rd

3:00 to 5:00pm

Pizza will be served afterwards to all those who stay to help with petition signing and MORE’s election effort

CUNY Graduate Center

365 5th Avenue @ 34th st

Room 5414

Reports From the Field

February 5, 2013 — 9 Comments


Many thanks to the teachers, from all across the city, who responded to our request to share their experiences with the Danielson observation process in their classrooms. The insights below paint a clear picture of a framework doesn’t fit all disciplines, is being implemented by supervisors who aren’t competent enough to do so and, by disrupting our colleagues’ working conditions, is having an adverse effect on our students’ learning conditions. If you haven’t yet, please take a moment and share your experiences here so that we may post them in the next Reports From the Field edition in two weeks.

James, a music teacher at an elementary school in Brooklyn wrote:

“We see kids once a week and are supposed to have open ended conversations about specific skills like fingering an instrument, when they need to be just practicing the way its done and has been done. Proper technique. Developing a voice. Improvising. Rehearsing songs with a group. [But] Oh wait ‘the kids don’t have an opportunity to talk to each other, that’s ineffective’. ‘Your still life must match this photo of our still life or I can’t prove I have added any value to your arts education” and I will be…INEFFECTIVE!’…”


Paul
, a high school teacher from Queens writes that in his school:

“Danielson is being used to frame the [formal] observation. Regardless of whether or not they are using it to “announce” the final observation result, they are using it to actually breakdown the observation.”

Karl, who teaches elementary school in the Bronx shares:

“…in the over dozen years as a NYC teacher, I have never experienced as many “informal walk through” visits than in the past 2 years during the pilot … Everybody is walking on egg shells and lives with a sense of anxiety every time an administrator walks down the halls.”

Rooney, a high school in Brooklyn describes abuses at his school with Danielson-based observations:

“Faculty attendance is being taken/noted at school events (not sure whether all faculty members are even aware of this…) This corresponds to Danielson’s Domain 4, “Professional Responsibilities.” The AP [wrote up] “informal” observation reports, which we were then asked to sign; these were then put INTO OUR OFFICIAL TEACHER FILES, even though they are not supposed to count as formal observations (which do go in our files). When our union Executive Board
brought this up at a meeting with the principal, she spoke to the APs and eventually a “compromise” was reached: from now on, “informal” observation reports will go into our DEPARTMENTAL files (held by both the APs and the principal), not our official teacher file. However, reports of “informal” observations performed before Dec. 21, 2012 will remain in each teacher’s official file, but will be removed upon teacher request.”


Starr
teaches high school in Queens:

“Admin was visiting classes at the beginning of the year but they never followed up with the feedback. I haven’t had anyone visit my class all year even after I have invited them and have received no feedback. I’ve been asked to join a teacher effectiveness team at school. We’ve met twice and nothing has come of the brief work we’ve done.  It doesn’t seem to be working”


Tanya
, who teaches high school in Brooklyn, wrote:

“The UFT leader has stated to teachers a number of times that the admin is not supposed to be using this framework and has sent out emails to the admin asking them to stop, but they have not, responding that the framework is the future and that teachers need to accept the reality in order to be “better prepared to serve the students”.


Lisa
, who teaches Middle School in Brooklyn described this troubling experience:

“AP comes [and]  stayed for 10 minutes. At the post observation she handed me a rubric with a bunch if ‘ineffectives’ circled. We did not have discussion and she never asked me what I was doing before or after she came in. She said that student engagement was poor, but I was just transitioning from a pair share to a share out, so she only saw 5 students raise their hands and decided enough students were not participating.”


Eileen
, who teaches Middle School in Queens, writes:

“Danielson is being used as a “gotcha” for myself and co-workers. Thanks to my good friend Charlotte, my fabulous and talented co-workers and I are receiving U ratings on our observations for the first time in our careers.”

Ethel, who teaches at a high school in Brooklyn observes that Danielson is being used to decided tenure:

“We use the Danielson framework to rate ourselves after  …observations and for our tenure.”


Francesco a middle school teacher in Staten Island shared his experience from last year:

“After being out for a week for jury duty, [the] first period bell rang, in walks in an AP and Children First Network rep with clipboards. It was a “short” frequent observation that lasted 90 minutes. Short right? During post observation meeting, AP started by saying we were looking at Danielson Framework Domain 1e. She however omitted that wording from the write up that became “unsatisfactory”

Rob, who teaches high school in Brooklyn takes exception with “the “talent coaches” who breeze into
your room unannounced” He exclaims:

“It is demeaning and offensive to have as many as 4 or 5 people wander into your room with this finite mechanism. They hover around the halls, in plain view to keep everyone “on their toes.”


And while Nicole, a Middle School, teacher in the Bronx describes a neutral experience with it:

“The Danielson rubric is used at my school as a feedback form for walk-throughs.  The principal or vice-principal complete the checklist and comment”


And Marc Anderson describes a downright positive experience at the Jonas Bronck Academy:

“I actually would like to forward an example of the correct application of the Danielson Framework. In my school, our UFT rep comes through with a video camera during our lessons every now and then. Every week, we rotate watching one another’s videos at our grade level team meetings and giving each other critical feedback based on the Danielson rubric. In other words, it’s being done the way it should — within a true professional learning community. Is it done perfectly? No. But we’re learning together and figuring it out!”

The experiences of Paul, who  teaches at a District 75 school in the Bronx were what stood out the most. His D75 school is, somehow, one of the 110 pilot TMP schools in the city. TMP evaluator was a building AP, and he shared her comments with MORE about his 10 minute walk-though observation.

When evaluated along Danielson Domain 1E “Designing Coherent Instruction”, Paul’s AP commented that the

“Lesson plan was from Unique. Standards were not listed on the plan. Plan not differentiated for individual student needs. Grouping of students not evident.” Rating: Developing”


However, Paul notes:

“the lesson plan was “required* by the school. It’s part of the required curriculum. It was downloaded directly from the Unique website and placed in my hands. We classroom teachers were directed… to use it…. The plan *IS* differentiated. That’s *why* we were told to use it. (because it’s *differentiated*.)”


When evaluated along Danielson Domain 2B “Establishing a Culture for Learning”, Paul’s AP noted “One paraprofessional was filing papers….” Rating: Ineffective.”

Yet, as Paul explains:

“One paraprofessional was indeed filing papers, at my direction, in an effort to execute the directive that [the AP] herself, made at [a] staff meeting. In a post-observation discussion, [the AP] told me that any clerical duties assigned to the paraprofessional had to be done during non-instructional time. I replied that I did not have paraprofessional services during … non-instructional time during the school day. I asked her to specify another period … She appeared to be unable to answer and instead asserted that I had to stay after school to do any needed clerical work.”

When evaluated along Danielson Domain 2d. ‘Managing Student Behavior’, Paul writes that his AP

“offers no evidence in the “Evidence” section; she leaves it blank.  Rating : Effective ( not “highly effective”.)


When evaluated along Danielson Domain 3c. ‘Engaging Students in Learning’, Paul disturbingly explains that his APs

“ ‘evidence’  section consists of unconnected narrative elements that do not match my memory or corresponding .. notes. Rating: Developing”


And although assessment was built-in to his lesson plan, Paul notes that his AP uses

“no evidence and applies the letters N/A [to] the rating and analysis columns” for Danielson Domain 3d (assessment).”


Paul asserts that he reached out to UFT President Mulgrew and sent a full anecdotal to UFT VP Catalina Fortino. She never responded, opting instead to share some notes from a meeting she had had with a department official.

This is the system that our union wants its members to evaluated along. We here at MORE recognize the disruptions it is causing to the learning process and strongly opposed to it. Help us share more ‘Danielson’ experiences of rank and file members. Click here to describe yours or convince your colleagues so that they can share theirs. The process only takes a few minutes.

Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. This has been MORE’s stance since our inception. We understand that there is a relationship between the erosion of our rights as workers and the erosion of quality education in our city over the past 10 years.

A few days ago, on the UFT website, Michael Mulgrew used our slogan in a piece defending his actions in the ongoing battle over teacher evaluations in New York State. Unfortunately, using our slogan is not the same as believing it. His actions surrounding the evaluation controversy cast serious doubt on whether he considers the learning conditions of our students at all, let alone the working conditions of the teachers he is paid to represent.

By examining the origins of this evaluation fiasco we can see just how much Mulgrew, along with the rest of our union’s leadership, take into consideration our students’ learning conditions. What we consider a fundamental belief is clearly nothing more than an empty slogan to the ruling Unity caucus.

It started in 2010 when New York State won its application to the federal government’s Race to the Top program.  Race to the Top is the brainchild of President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. According to the State Education Department’s press release, New York State was selected for Race to the Top because the state passed legislation promising to make the following four school “reforms”:

 “(1) establishes a new teacher and principal evaluation system that makes student achievement data a substantial component of how educators are assessed and supported; (2) raises New York’s charter school cap from 200 to 460 and enhances charter school accountability and transparency;  (3) enables school districts to enter into  contracts with Educational Partnership Organizations (the term for non-profit Education Management Organizations in New York State) for the management of their persistently lowest-achieving schools and schools under registration review; and (4) appropriates $20.4 million in capital funds to the State Education Department to implement its longitudinal data system.”

Michael Mulgrew was on board with these proposals from the beginning. The same press release quoted above also thanks “United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein for appearing with us in Washington to help successfully make the case for New York.”

On his support for Race to the Top Michael Mulgrew, the man who cares about student learning conditions, is on the opposite side of the issue from the nation’s leading civil rights organizations. In a report released shortly after Mulgrew’s trip to Washington, a consortium of civil rights groups released a report that criticized RTTT for its “approach to education funding that relies too heavily on competition.” Furthermore, the report pans RTTT’s focus on opening up more charter schools:

“The largest national study found that charters are more likely to underperform than outperform other public schools serving similar students. And there is even less evidence that charters accept, consistently serve, and accommodate the needs  of the full range of students. Charters enroll 54% fewer English Language Learner (ELL) students, 43% fewer  special education students, and 37% fewer free and reduced price lunch students than high-minority public school districts. Thus, while some charter schools can and do work for some students, they are not a universal solution for systemic change for all students, especially those with the highest needs.”

Michael Mulgrew’s immediate and enthusiastic support for NY State’s RTTT application is just one reason why we are not convinced that he is concerned for our students’ learning conditions, especially as it relates to our students who are most in need.

New York’s approval for RTTT grant money required the state and the union to work out a framework for a new teacher evaluation system. That framework was worked out last year and included the following components according to UFT Vice President, Leo Casey:

 60% (Measures of Teacher Performance)

a) 31% Supervisory Observations (Based upon “research-based” rubrics like “Danielson”.)

b) 29 % Other Measures such as Peer Observations and Portfolios of Artifacts of Teacher Performance (Exactly which measures to be used would be worked out locally via collective bargaining between unions and school districts.)

40% (Measures of Student Learning)

a) 20% Value-Added Growth from State Standardized Exams

b) 20% Growth on Local Assessments, such as Performance Assessments (Exactly what those assessments are to be worked out locally via collective bargaining between unions and schools districts.)

What Casey barely mentioned in his defense of the framework is that a teacher rated “ineffective” on the 40% part measuring “student learning” will be rated ineffective overall. Furthermore, only 13% of those rated “ineffective” will be allowed to appeal such a rating. We believe that a framework of this nature seriously undermines the learning conditions of our students.

Education historian Diane Ravitch explained how this system sacrifices student learning conditions for the sake of standardized exam scores:

“This agreement will certainly produce an intense focus on teaching to the tests. It will also profoundly demoralize teachers, as they realize that they have lost their professional autonomy and will be measured according to precise behaviors and actions that have nothing to do with their own definition of good teaching.”

Indeed, this framework brings to New York State a testing regime that has been overtaking the nation for the past decade. It is a regime that tests students at both the beginning and end of the school year in several subjects, if not all subjects. Teachers, with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, will be forced to toss aside everything their professional experience tells them about how students truly learn for the sake of preparing their students for exams.

This has downright brutal implications for our students. A child who starts Kindergarten under this new regime will have been tested hundreds of times by the time they graduate from high school. Their curriculum will be little more than a regimen of test-taking strategies aimed at getting them to fill in what private testing companies consider the “correct” bubble. The full learning experience that includes critical thinking, reasoning, researching, abstraction and civic engagement will be lost.

Considering the fact that President Obama sends his daughters to the prestigious Sidwell Friends, a school with exactly the type of full curriculum described above, a school free from the incessant battery of standardized testing overtaking the country, forcing everyone else’s children to sit through 13 years of narrow, myopic, simplistic, test-taking curricula is tantamount to educational segregation.

Race to the Top is creating a two-tiered education system: one for the wealthy and one for everybody else. We see Mulgrew’s complicity in the RTTT program as a betrayal of the teacher’s duty to defend student learning conditions.

In the same takedown of the framework to which Mulgrew agreed, Diane Ravitch goes on to say:

“Evaluators will come armed with elaborate rubrics identifying precisely what teachers must do and how they must act, if they want to be successful. The New York Times interviewed a principal in Tennessee who felt compelled to give a low rating to a good teacher, because the teacher did not “break students into groups” in the lesson he observed. The new system in New York will require school districts across the state to hire thousands of independent evaluators, as well as create much additional paperwork for principals. Already stressed school budgets will be squeezed further to meet the pact’s demands for monitoring and reporting.”

Thanks to Mulgrew’s support for requiring principals to use a research-based evaluation rubric (which really is little more than code for “Danielson”), the teaching profession promises to be reduced to a series of mechanical steps as teachers struggle to receive enough “checks” to be rated “effective.” Even the most skilled and veteran teacher, one whose experience informs their teaching style, will be forced to ignore their professional judgment when it conflicts with a supposedly “objective” observation rubric.

This will have the net effect of depriving children of the best our teachers have to offer.

When Diane Ravitch and Long Island principal Carol Burris criticized the framework to which the UFT agreed, Leo Casey attacked them as “alarmists.” He claimed that collective bargaining at the local level would prevent all of these things from happening. Over the past year, the vast majority of school districts in New York State have fully worked out a teacher evaluation system based upon the Race to the Top framework that Mulgrew fully supports. Time will tell if Leo Casey was correct about collective bargaining’s ability to cushion RTTT’s blow for our students and teachers.

Meanwhile in New York City, Michael Mulgrew and the Department of Education were unable to agree on a new evaluation system before the January 17, 2013 deadline. The main issue that divided the two sides was a “sunset clause”. Mulgrew agreed to a system that would have to be reapproved in two years, which is twice as long as most local unions in NY were willing to concede. Mayor Bloomberg, on the other hand, wanted an evaluation system that would remain in perpetuity, something that no other NY school district has implemented.

This prompted New York State Education Commissioner, John King, to threaten to withhold millions of dollars of Race to the Top funds from New York City. He also threatened to “take control” of Title I funds reserved for the neediest of our city’s children if Mulgrew and the city did not work out an agreement. As of now, both the UFT and DOE are still negotiating.

However, if negotiations fail, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would push a law through the legislature empowering the State Education Department to impose a new evaluation system on New York City by force. This is a measure for which “reformer” groups in New York State have been lobbying over the past year. In response, Michael Mulgrew signaled his willingness to accept whatever system the SED sees fit to impose, something that puts him on the same side as the reform groups that have pushed for the dismantling of public education over the past 10 years.

Mulgrew’s acceptance of a proposed evaluation from the state is in direct contradiction to the framework that he agreed to last year, the framework that would allow many details of the evaluation to be collectively bargained at the local level. This is the part of the framework that Leo Casey said was essential to preventing many of the bad affects RTTT would have on our students’ learning conditions. When Ravitch and Burris contended that the framework would turn our schools into test-prep factories and deprive our children of the best our teachers have to offer, Casey called them “alarmists”. Collective bargaining would ensure that our students would have access to the best possible education, he responded.

Now that local collective bargaining is in danger of failing, Leo Casey is making the rounds stating that Governor Cuomo is not really threatening to impose an evaluation system but, rather, have the state act as an independent arbitrator. He says the SED is not going to impose a system on our schools. They will merely impose “binding arbitration.” Furthermore, Leo Casey hinted at the idea that MORE does not understand “collective bargaining.”

Our response is that we understand collective bargaining very well. We understand the concept of an “independent arbitrator” being empowered to break an impasse between a union and its employer through “binding arbitration.” We understand an independent arbitrator to be someone with no stake in the dispute between labor and management so their decision in “binding arbitration” will not be prejudiced against one side. The SED’s ability to remain independent is doubtful for the simple fact that they are also management.

As management, they are appointees of Governor Cuomo who does have a stake in this fight. As a governor whose designs on a run at the White House are a well-known “secret”, Cuomo has a deeply vested interest in being able to brandish his credentials as an “education reformer” in 2016. Mulgrew’s willingness to accede to any system the SED sees fit to impose is tantamount to surrendering our collective bargaining rights, the very same rights that Leo Casey assured us were essential in preventing the type of “alarmist” scenario outlined by Ravitch and Burris.

The implications of categorizing the fiat of the state as “binding arbitration” are dangerous. What is to stop this or any other governor in the future from imposing something on our schools under the guise that it is “binding arbitration”? Furthermore, this evaluation framework will alter many provisions in our existing contract, especially as they relate to observations and tenure. Allowing the SED to unilaterally change this through “binding arbitration” sends the message that provisions in our contract are not binding and can be changed at will depending on where the political winds are blowing.

The main reason we have a contract is so we as teachers can speak up when our students are being hurt by bad policy. Race to the Top is bad policy. The framework to which the union agreed last year is bad policy. Allowing the SED to unilaterally reform what both our students’ learning conditions and our contract look like is bad policy.

As we can see, Michael Mulgrew has been on board the Race to the Top program from the start. He has supported it despite the fact that every major civil rights group in the nation believes it hurts our neediest students. He helped negotiate a framework that would make standardized testing and narrow observation rubrics the end-all, be-all of teacher evaluations. This will make the curriculum as taught in schools an anemic affair, especially when compared to the curriculum of Sidwell Friends and other schools reserved for the wealthiest Americans. It will deprive veteran teachers of the tools that they know for a fact work with their students, since what their experience tells them and what the “Danielson” rubric tells them will surely often be at direct odds.

He failed to fight for the integrity of collective bargaining, despite the fact that collective bargaining was held out as the antidote to turning our schools into test-prep factories. Now that he has proven willing to abandon collective bargaining, does this mean that the students in New York City have no assurance that testing will not be the centerpiece of their education experience?

He has allowed a dangerous precedent to be set by categorizing SED directives as “binding arbitration”. He has allowed the governor to unilaterally alter key provisions in our contract, provisions that ensured teachers a measure of protection in speaking up for the rights of their students.

Does Michael Mulgrew believe that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions? His actions surrounding this Race to the Top evaluation fiasco demonstrate that he is willing to sacrifice both.

 

 

moreunion

The UFT elections are here- MORE needs your support to ensure union democracy. Help us petition for MORE to be on the UFT ballot and get out the vote! Come meet our top candidates for UFT office, learn how to petition in your school, and plan our campaign. We will have petitions on site for you to sign and petitions for you to bring back to your schools. There will also be campaign literature to distribute at your school and schools nearby. At the meeting we will plan city-wide distribution of  our literature- volunteers are needed.

 

If you are definitely coming to this meeting and you are running on our slate-tell us us via email [email protected] we will pre-arrange a packet for you

 

If you are not running with us but can help with petition and literature distribution please send us your full name, last 4 digits of your SS #, and school name/borough to [email protected]  we will pre-arrange a packet for you to pick at the meetingPlease see our platform at: http://morecaucusnyc.org/the-more-platform

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