Archives For teacher evaluations

MORE Teaching, Less Testing!

September 2, 2013 — 2 Comments

BraceYourselvesAPPR

This new school year will be the first time that teachers in NYC will be evaluated using the evaluation system imposed by State Education Commissioner John King. Under the new system every teacher will receive a score ranging from 0 to 100 and this number will determine if the teacher is deemed Highly Effective, Effective, Developing or Ineffective.

One of the most shocking parts of the new system is that teachers who are measured ineffective on the test-based component of the evaluation must be labeled ineffective overall, no matter what they receive from their principal based on the observation of their teaching (see the King decision, p. 37 and p. 38).

The test-based component, 40% of teachers evaluations, outweighs the observation component, which is 60%.

Here’s how this fuzzy math works out:

Continue Reading…

By: Two Social Studies Teachers for MORE

By nature, social studies teachers do two things: they make it their business to know what’s going on, and they try to answer why is this happening. Perhaps this is why many of the bloggers you read just happen to be social studies teachers.

For high school social studies teachers, this June marks the first attempt at centralizing the grading process for our two exams: Global History and Geography and United States History and Government. According to the plan, student exams, when finished, are placed in a shipping box and sent (to Conneticut, of all places) to be scanned by McGraw-Hill, a private company. The scanned version of the exam is then presented to a teacher for grading over the Internet using software that has been developed by McGraw-Hill.

Teachers have been assigned to report to central grading hubs located throughout the city’s five boroughs. Each hub can accommodate approximately two hundred teachers. The process is supposed to be simple: teachers go to a URL, located on a McGraw-Hill-owned domain, and use their official Department of Education username and password (the same used for email, SESIS, ARIS and the payroll portal [each built by other for-profit corporations]). Upon entering the password, the teacher is presented the test that he or she has been assigned to grade and grades the different portions of the exams.

A few things need to go right in order for this to happen. Well, a lot of things need to go right in order for this to happen. First, the exams must reach their destination and be scanned over the two-day weekend. I’m sure McGraw-Hill swears they were. Then, the Internet connection between the exam locations and the user (the teacher, located at the school) needs to be up and running—and it needs to continue to operate throughout the entire process. Lastly, the servers (including the file server, where the scanned version of the exams are stored and the authentication servers that validate the usernames and passwords for each teacher) must be functioning.

Now, the original schedule for the week included having social studies teachers grade between the days of Monday and Thursday. We were supposed to return to our assigned school on Friday. Remember that original schedule. The fiasco that has ensued since yesterday wouldn’t be the same without referring to this original schedule.

On Monday, we all sat around while the “system” presented exams on our screens to grade. Many teachers were not able to log in (a true problem with the authentication server). Others were able to log in, but not able to access a single exam item to grade. Although the system listed many exams available to be graded, it simply did not present these exams to teachers’ screens for grading. After two hours of sitting around in the borough of Brooklyn, teachers were told to go back to their assigned schools. The system had a problem, the supervisors said. It couldn’t download the scanned exams. Teachers in Queens and Manhattan were given this news one hour later (a noon “dismissal to site” order was given at one hub at least in Queens; a 12:30 “dismissal to site” was given in at least one hub in Manhattan). At that point, teachers in all three boroughs were informed that Friday “may be a grading day.”

Overnight, the system seemed to be doing just fine. Exams were processed and seemed ready to be delivered to teachers’ screens at their “hub” schools. When teachers arrived this morning, everything seemed to be up and running. Now this was similar to the experience that high school English teachers had during the January Regents: The exams weren’t ready to be viewed on the first day, but by the second day, everything was up and running. So imagine the surprise felt on people’s faces when, at around 9:25 (just 25 minutes after everyone in the system was logged in and grading the exams), the system started to experience glitches. It would hang for long periods of time before presenting an item to grade. It would not present exams. It would freeze completely, forcing the user to log out and log back in to try to access more exams.

It limped along until about 11:30 AM (remember that time) and the folks in charge thought they had fixed the glitch. But by about 12:30 in the borough of Brooklyn and 1:00 in the borough of Queens (unknown as of this moment in Manhattan) teachers were, once again, sent back to their assigned schools and told to come back again on Wednesday.

Wednesday was another disaster with the computer system crashing and teachers being sent back to their home schools for a third straight day. Hey, we though this mayor was so concerned with the environment, yet he has people driving back and forth!

Thursday the system worked until 2:00pm then shut down. At this point we have frustrated, demoralized teachers grading exams. That’s not fair to anyone. Per session (over-time) hours are being offered for the weekend. Can this money be better used going to our classrooms and our children?

Update: Friday, over a week and half after the exams were given the system continues to fail. To say teachers are annoyed and mentally drained would be an understatement. We are not robots and this week of a fiasco, out of our home schools, in am environment where we are treated as nothing more than factory workers, teachers are “sick and tired”. The crowning moment was when we were notified that we were required to report back to the grading centers on Monday. Remember if we were in our home schools doing this the right way, we would be done already a long time ago. We try to remain as objective as possible when grading, but we’re not machines and this deteriorating situation has to be affecting the grades. Usually we use this time of year to clean up our rooms, organize our files, collaborate with our colleagues, and prepare for some of the ridiculous new reforms that seem to make its way to schools every year.

Many of us who have been assigned to reeducation—I mean, grading centers—will miss the most important day of the year, graduation day. We all know the media, politicians (both parties) and corporations have attacked teachers and our unions saying we’re the ones who are anti-children, but truth be told, watching “our kids” graduate is our favorite day of the year. Not allowing us to watch our own student’s graduate, the chance to spend one last moment celebrating with them, is an extreme disappointment for us all who have watched our students grow for the past four years.

The greatest travesty is as class-size continues to increase; after-school programs have been eliminated; arts and music, and many other courses have been reduced; yet millions of dollars are being spent on a flawed system. Where are all the “private sector always does it better” folks now? The grading system is impersonal: read the essay, punch in a score, and move on to the next one. This is supposed to a more accurate, fairer system? We think not. The art of teaching and grading continues to be done away with. Cookie-cutter rubrics, scripted lesson plans, standardized testing, and now computerized grading. Millions of dollars has been siphoned off from our public school children instead it goes to further fill the pockets of Bloomberg’s cronies and their corporations who only look to “monetize” our children

There isn’t anyone, even the most corrupt politician, who wouldn’t agree that this money being wasted on a flawed grading system could not be better utilized by going to our children, where it belongs!

So as exceptional social studies teachers we have learned the key to any great lesson is great questions.

The state law says teachers can’t grade their own students’ exams, why did this mayor feel the need to take it one step further and start this new multi-million dollar system?

Why are charter schools excused from this process?

Can the money being diverted to McGraw-Hill be better used for our children and their schools?

If teachers are being evaluated on these tests, how do we know if we have have improved or not without grading the final test?

How can we help our children improve if we don’t grade their last exam?

Is standardized grading the right answer to help all our children become “college and career” ready?

Isn’t a teacher who has taught the student better prepared to grade their essays and know if they have developed their skills?

Does the regents exam and the grading rubric take into account the child’s cognitive skills, socio-economic situation, and level of fluency with the English language?

Today, June 12th 2012, MORE joins with all union workers of the Municipal Labor Committee in demanding a fair contract now. We will be at the City Hall Rally supporting our brothers and sisters of all municipal unions and workers everywhere.

Four years and NO CONTRACT

October 2013 will mark our fourth year with no contract between the Department of Education and the UFT. Meanwhile, our wages have been stagnant, and the DOE is already imposing new contractual terms on us. The DOE is implementing the most anti-­‐teacher interpretation of the Danielson framework possible, is transforming teachers into test prep coaches, and is making tenure elusive for most new teachers. According to Michael Mulgrew, 7% of teachers annually will have bad ratings under the new evaluation system, potentially leading to job termination. Unfortunately, the UFT leadership has cooperated with many of these policies.

We deserve more

  • Real wage increases that help us keep pace with the rising cost of living and that improve starting teacher salaries.
  • End to formal use of snapshot and informal observations.
  • Contractual protections against abusive supervisors
  • Contractual protections against any evaluation model that will allow administrators to rate everyone “ineffective”
  • Due process for untenured teachers so that all have a clearpath to tenure
  • Teacher control over Curricula
  • Right to Permanent Placement for All ATRs.
The June 1 imposition of a new evaluation process makes it even more urgent that our union begin to mobilize for a contract that restores our job protections. We need to fight for a meaningful appeal process before an independent arbitrator for all members who receive an ineffective rating. For MORE’s full statement on the evaluation system please visit here 
Waiting for a new mayor is NOT an organizing strategy.

Unfortunately, the current UFT leadership does not have an effective plan to win us such a contract. Their only strategy is to try to influence the Democratic mayoral primary and hope that the new mayor will feel obliged to the UFT after the general election. The problem with this strategy is that once the election is over, the UFT will no longer hold leverage over the Mayor. We will then be negotiating when we are at our weakest. The lack of real UFT mobilization has given the green light to the DOE to violate our contract, increase the number of observations, and use partial observations against teachers.

Negotiating won’t cut it.

We need to ORGANIZE and mobilize! The June 12th rally should mark the beginning of a campaign of membership mobilization throughout the city. Next fall, UFTers should be picketing outside schools, holding district and borough protests, and citywide actions that disrupt business as usual. That is the model the Chicago Teachers union pursued in the fall of 2012 when the CTU successfully resisted the Mayor’s demands for draconian givebacks. Our Union must learn from our brothers and sisters in the windy city and begin to mobilize here at home.

Our Working Conditions are Our Students’ Learning Conditions

MORE is dedicated to social justice unionism because we understand that a good contract is not only about our rights as educators. It is also about our ability to be the best educators we can for our students. Attacks on tenure mean attacks on our ability to stand up for our students and speak out when we see injustice. Evaluations attached to test scores mean narrowed test prep curriculum and learning environments that are toxic and lead to students being left out of education. Ultimately, we understand that a good contract for teachers means a good learning environment for students.

GET INVOLVED  join the contract committee

 If you agree with these ideas please join the MORE contract  committee.

The committee was launched by the Movement of Rank and File Educators but is open to any UFT member – regardless of political affiliation – who wants to work with us to chart a new course to win a fair contract. We are also forming a U ratings committee, to fight unfair U ratings. Contact us for more information.

The next contract committee meeting will be held June 19, after the UFT Delegate Assembly  6:15pm at Blarney Stone 11 Trinity Pl NYC (One block west of UFT).  For further details about the meeting or information, please contact [email protected]

Here is the link to this Flier- Please print and share

UFT Rank and File Says King’s Evaluation Plan Bad for Teachers, Students

While Michael Mulgrew launches a campaign to convince the membership that the new teacher evaluation system is designed to help teachers improve and give them a professional voice, Bloomberg is proclaiming victory. The truth of the matter is, this evaluation system is bad for educators and the children they serve: the system requires a tremendous amount of additional work with no compensation, time or otherwise. It will create an even greater climate of fear and effectively ends tenure as we know it; putting all educators who partner with parents to advocate for the best policies for children at risk. This system places too much value on testing and is flawed in its high stakes premise. Educators are best positioned to evaluate and assess our students and teachers, not imposed tests, not junk science, not pre-packaged rubrics.    Julie Cavanagh, Elementary School Teacher & Chapter Leader P.S. 15 Brooklyn

The day has finally come. State Education Commissioner John King has imposed a new teacher evaluation deal on New York City.  UFT president Michael Mulgrew’s attempts to claim a victory in the face of defeat are hardly convincing. In his letter to the membership Mulgrew says “Here is the bottom line: The new teacher evaluation system is designed to support, not punish, teachers and to help them develop throughout their careers. That is what we will be fighting for as this plan is implemented.” Given the enormous amount of money the DOE has spent trying to fire our colleagues over the last few years, it’s credulous to suggest that this system will be about “supporting” teachers. The media has honed in on the point that Mulgrew wants to avoid: tenure has been seriously weakened, and it will be easier to fire teachers who are seen as “ineffective” based on flawed standardized tests.

We knew already from State Education Law 3012-c, which was supported by the UFT leadership as part of Race to the Top, that two years of ineffective ratings means a teacher is presumed to be incompetent. In the new termination process for tenured teachers, the burden of proof will shift to the teacher, unlike the current system where the burden of proof is on the Department of Education to prove incompetence.[1]

King’s release states: “Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall. Teachers who are developing or ineffective will get assistance and support to improve performance. Teachers who remain ineffective can be removed from classrooms.” In other words, there will be more testing for our students and tests will be the ultimate determinant of a teacher’s effectiveness.  According to the outline of the plan, “Each school will have a committee comprised of an equal number of teachers and administrators who will determine, along with the principal, which assessments each school will use,” however the plan states that principals may reject this committee’s recommendations and apply their own default measures. In many schools, this is exactly what will happen.

Only 13 percent of all ineffective ratings each year can be challenged on grounds of harassment or other matters not related to job performance. Is the UFT comfortable trusting that the other 87% of ratings of “ineffective” will be based solely on teacher performance? Given the new principals Tweed is pumping out of the Principal’s Academy and their “fire your way to success” mentality, our union leadership has left us in an extremely dangerous situation.

The union leadership is pleased that the rating system will be using “the complete Danielson rubric, with all 22 points.” The potential for abuse of this complex and multifaceted rubric is enormous.

“This system will lead to educators teaching to a rubric,” says Mike Schirtzer, UFT Delegate at Leon M. Goldstein High School in Brooklyn.  “Pedagogy is a craft which no two teachers do the same, yet can still be equally effective.  This new scheme will limit teachers creativity in the classroom and our ability to differentiate styles in order to reach a diverse set of learners. Our greatest concern is the amount of time this will take from teachers to properly prepare for their classes, due to all of the assessments and/or SLO’s that need to be created, the committees need to be formed and countless hours of professional development dedicated to Common Core and Danielson, two directives that have no scientific evidence of increasing learning.”

In addition to the onerous micromanagement of the Danielson rubric, observations will be more frequent and at least one will be an unannounced observation. This is problematic, as without pre- and post-observation conferences, administrators will likely be unaware what scaffolding the teacher has done beforehand, and are likely to penalize teachers because they don’t have this information.  Mulgrew says this is not a “gotcha” system, but in practice it most certainly will be.

The new system also includes a pilot of student surveys. This encourages grade-inflation and a lack of discipline in the classroom. Research shows that student surveys don’t work in high-stakes settings. The use of such surveys poisons the relationships between teachers and students, who now in addition to their test scores bear even more responsibility for the future of their teachers’ careers.

Crucially, this agreement will not include a sunset provision, unlike districts in other parts of the state. The sunset provision was a key sticking point in negotiations, as the UFT was hoping it would be able to renegotiate the terms of this plan under a new and presumably friendlier mayor. The current deal is in place for the next four years at least, and can only be re-negotiated in collective bargaining within the framework of State Education Law 3012-c.

The mayor and his henchmen have been gloating effusively. The mayor’s statement said “Commissioner King has sided with our children on nearly every major point of disagreement we had with the UFT’s leadership, while also rejecting the UFT’s long-held demand for a sunset provision.” Dennis Walcott said he was extremely pleased with the commissioner’s announcement today and we look forward to implementing it.” Bloomberg advisor Howard Wolfson bragged on Twitter that the UFT was “shut out on nearly all their demands.”  No matter how the UFT leadership tries to spin it, this is a major defeat for teachers and students.

What Now?

The dropoff in voter turnout in the recent UFT election was already a sign of a disengaged and passive membership.  The new evaluation system and the way it was imposed are likely to further demoralize the rank-and-file and increase their cynicism toward the union.  The UFT surrendered our collective bargaining rights by turning over the key issue in the next contract to the State Education Department, calling for a biased state official to impose evaluations on us.

MORE campaigned for a membership vote on this evaluation system, and presented a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the December Delegate Assembly.  Unity opposed submitting this to the membership since they knew it would be deeply unpopular.  The fact that this has instead been imposed by the State Education Department means Mulgrew and the Unity leadership will have an alibi for what will now certainly be a deeply concessionary contract.  We must expose the leadership’s circumvention of membership in this process, and their contempt for the voices of their rank-and-file.

June 12 will be the day that city workers come together to demand fair contracts.  In light of the new evaluation system, one wonders what’s left to negotiate.  The key concessions, the biggest change to our working conditions in at least a generation, are already in place.  It will be crucial for UFT members to attend and discuss the magnitude of this sell-out, and the undemocratic way in which it was imposed on us.  Our next contract will inevitably include the new evaluation system.  It will also be the first time in this process that the membership has been consulted at all.  A campaign to vote no on this contract would send a signal to the leadership that the membership rejects this plan.

Everybody agrees that the key to this will be implementation.  Teachers must build active chapters that can be vigilant in calling out abuse of the new system.   A coordinated grievance campaign around particular issues of implementation can help us make the most of the 15 extra arbitration days to deal with systemic abuses.  MORE will be campaigning in the fall to organize and train chapter leaders, delegates and school activists to be effective in defending their colleagues and organizing strong chapters.

Teachers also need to unite with students and parents to call for an end to the high stakes testing regime that is central to this new evaluation system.  Students will now not only be taking high stakes state tests or PARCC assessments, but also regular “performance assessments” designed to assess teacher effectiveness.  Campaigns like the MAP test boycott in Seattle show the power of a community uniting to fight the standardized testing regime.

What this whole sad story tells us is that we can’t rely on our union leaders to deliver on our behalf.  They have conceded everything, and may now even prove unable to win us retroactive pay for the years we’ve spent without a contract.  It’s only by rebuilding the union from the bottom up, school by school, classroom by classroom, that we will begin to stand up to the corporate assault on our schools.  MORE is dedicated to a different kind of union, one where democracy and accountability replace backroom deals, where the members make the decisions that matter in their professional lives.  Join us!


[1] If a DOE-appointed validator disagrees with the principal’s rating, the DOE keep burden of proof.  However, validators are likely to be retired principals, in the PEP+ system, which is currently used to help fire teachers.

In a recent email to chapter leaders, Michael Mulgrew stated that he welcomes Governor Cuomo’s involvement in forcing an evaluation system on NYC teachers. At a time when teachers are under attack from many quarters, it seems inconceivable that the UFT leadership would cede its bargaining power to the State Education Department. Mulgrew expressed his relief that should talks once again stall, the governor and the SED, “people who actually understand education”, will be involved. Our teachers, the ones who really understand education, will be left out of the decision making process.

We should remember that it was Mulgrew’s willingness to sign on to the state’s Race to the Top application that got us here in the first place. The UFT agreed to allow teachers to be evaluated by student test data in exchange for a promise of $700 million which has yet to reach city classrooms.

We at MORE categorically oppose any evaluation system that includes flawed student test data as a component. We also reject the virtual elimination of tenure that would result from the proposed evaluation system, in which teachers would be presumed incompetent based on that faulty data.

Mulgrew also states in his letter that we need this agreement so that we will not “risk further loss of state money.”  In truth, the state is under no obligation to withhold any funds and is only doing so to force an agreement. Worse still, the state has threatened to take Title I funds from our neediest students in the absence of a deal, showing their contempt for students as well as teachers. Rather than submit to such blatant blackmail, the UFT should be rallying against attempts to rob our poorest children for the sake of pleasing education reformers.

Furthermore, the UFT has sent out District Representatives  to schools claiming that not enough teachers are found unsatisfactory and “that has to change.”  If the purpose of the new evaluation deal is to help teachers improve and “help teachers help students”, as Mulgrew claims in his letter, it should be focused on giving support to teachers, not on getting them terminated.  It is MORE’s position that it is the union’s obligation to protect its members. We should not collaborate with the city in its attempts to fire teachers at will, nor cede our power to the state. Any data driven evaluation system coupled with a weakening of tenure will surely lead to more firings.

It should also be remembered that any new evaluation agreement was supposed to be coupled with a new contract. Not only have teachers been without a contract or a raise since 2009, but this latest capitulation by the UFT basically gives away our strongest bargaining chip in our ongoing contract negotiations.

If there is to be a new evaluation system, it must be fair and ensure the rights of teachers. It should be collectively bargained and subject to the vote of the full membership as dictated by the law. We, the teachers of the UFT, are the ones who “really understand education” so we must be fully engaged in any process that will impact our practice and our profession.

We should not submit to blackmail or an assault on our collective bargaining rights.

Calling All Teachers!

Help us file our “Reports From the Field” on MORE’s blog next week!

How is Danielson being used at your school? On your colleagues? On you?
We are hearing alarming reports about how Danielson is being used against our colleagues all across the city. While we anticipated this occurring, we’re still very concerned with what we are hearing. We are interested in hearing from you about how you have experienced the Danielson Framework being used in your classroom or your school.
Send us you testimonials! Help us make your experiences as public as possible! Click here to send us your testimonial. It will only take a moment and the experience you share can help colleagues all across the city.

Calling More Members!

Don’t forget to send your ‘Why I joined MORE’ testimonials to [email protected]

As of 2:30pm today UFT HAS announced NO DEAL on evaluations. The rally outside the DA is directed against the junk science teacher eval schemes that are being foisted upon us, and demands that the rank and file have a say in a ratification of any agreement. It calls for our union to end the self destructive “collaboration” with union hating corporate “reformers” and politicians in both political parties. It is our union even when it is wrong. The rally is not against the UFT leadership.

 
Since there wasn’t an agreement it signals an intensification of the anti union campaign and we have to be prepared to join in the defense of our union even while we challenge its leaders in the upcoming election. No agreement means that Bloomberg and his cronies feel they can better advance their anti union/privatization program by smearing the UFT for forfeiting the increased state aid money. However, it will also represent a recognition by the union leadership of the limits of what they can sell to an angry UFT rank and file.
 
We demand a decent contract, decent working and learning conditions and an end to the mayoral dictatorship which former UFT President Weingarten helped to put in place. We are calling for the UFT leadership to mobilize the rank and file members, organize the membership and join the growing movement against the corporate takeover of public education.
Join MORE this Thursday to demand a member wide vote on our new evaluation system at 52 Broadway NYC UFT Headquarters on Thursday 1/17 beginning at 3:30 for a rally before the Delegate Assembly (DA). All educators and concerned citizens are encouraged to come and have their voices heard.
The indications are very strong the UFT leadership will reach an evaluation agreement with the Department of Education in just a few days and present it the Delegate Assembly without membership input nor education around finer aspects of the deal.This agreement will radically change our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions without any input from the almost 76,000 teachers of the United Federation of Teachers. This is outrageous!We will send out a digital version of our flier soon-please sign up to email below. We will have copies at DA for distribution starting at 3:30. Bring signs, fliers, poster-oak tag, markers, clipboards, and pens, we will need volunteers to gather names, emails, and phone #’s

All UFT chapter leader and delegate should Vote NO so that they can bring back the agreement to their chapters for a full vote.

Stay up to date with the latest details by joining our email list by request at [email protected] or follow us at Twitter.com @morecaucusnyc