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UFT: City changed its mind mid-teacher evaluation talks

Teachers union officials fought back today against the city’s claim that they’re delaying negotiations over a new teacher evaluation system.

Responding to a story in the New York Post about the stalled talks over a pilot teacher evaluation program in 11 schools, union officials said negotiations were progressing smoothly until city school officials decided to turn one aspect of the evaluation system into a sticking point.

According to United Federation of Teachers Secretary Michael Mendel, when talks began last summer, he told city officials that the union would not agree to let teachers’ first evaluation under the new system affect their job security. But after the first year, if a teacher received two “ineffective” ratings in a row, the termination process would begin.

“I said we can’t attach any high stakes to the ratings in the first year because it’s a pilot, it’s a brand new thing,” Mendel said. “They [city officials] never said a word. We went along and negotiated under the assumption that they didn’t disagree,” he said.

Months later, city officials revived the “ineffective” ratings issue, Mendel said. This time they demanded that a teacher’s “ineffective” evaluation during the first year count toward eventual termination.

City officials said today that the union doesn’t understand the urgency of getting bad teachers out of these schools.

“They’ve been perfectly happy to sit down and negotiate, they’ll talk to you all day, but what they haven’t been willing to do is to negotiate an evaluation system to remove ineffective teachers,” an official said.

The two sides have had better luck negotiating the rubric that the 11 transformation schools will use to judge their teachers. But on other topics, they haven’t seen as much progress. Mendel said that the city and union still have to work out an agreement outlining how many times transformation teachers will be formally observed, and they also have no agreement on what the “local assessments” that count for 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be.