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Union: From style to substance, relationship with city improved

With the city’s Teacher Data Reports now in the past, the teachers union is set to move forward on negotiations that will build on a pilot program that’s in place in 33 schools.

The controversial reports, which assigned ratings to about 10,000 teachers based on their students’ test scores, were championed by former chancellor Joel Klein. Klein said he would release the scores to the public after news organizations filed a Freedom of Information request for them — a move that the United Federation of Teachers quickly opposed in court.

But in his first major reversal from one of Klein’s policies, Chancellor Dennis Walcott has said he does not think the ratings, which the UFT agreed to in part on grounds that they would remain internal, should be made public. Yesterday, Department of Education officials told the New York Times that they would no longer calculate teachers’ ratings according to the TDR algorithm because the state is rolling out a different model.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew told GothamSchools today that doing away with the TDRs wasn’t necessarily a precondition for the UFT to work with the city on a new teacher evaluation model, required under state law. But he said their disappearance would clear the way for negotiations.

“I really do appreciate that Dennis has taken that position, unlike previous chancellors,” Mulgrew said. “But it does help that we have a better relationship and we’re working together. That helps getting to any deal.”

Now, Mulgrew said, he expects that negotiations will move forward based on the Charlotte Danielson evaluation rubric that is currently in place in just 33 schools that have been identified as among the state’s lowest-performing. Another 100 schools are required to “practice” using Danielson evaluations this year, and many other schools are also testing the model, though teachers will still get a formal rating of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” under the old system that must be phased out, according to Michael Mendel, a union vice president.

At a meeting of union chapter leaders earlier this week, Mulgrew extolled the Danielson model, according to a union member who was present. “I’m sure he’s beginning to sell what they’re eventually going to agree on,” the source said.

Even though the city will not create new TDRs, the old ones might still make an appearance. City and union officials both said that the FOIL request is out of their hands, meaning that the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, could still rule that the ratings are public information.

“Our decision to use the state’s reports has no bearing on the court’s position that we are obligated to release previous years’ data,” said Matthew Mittenthal, a DOE spokesman.

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