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State ed chief calls city's evals position, turnaround plan kosher

Breaking his silence today on New York City’s simmering labor dispute, State Education Commissioner John King sided with the city on key issues.

King said he does not want to get involved in local disputes over teacher evaluations. But he said the city’s plan to revamp dozens of low-performing schools under the federal “turnaround” model meets the state’s requirements.

“It’s an approvable model,” King said on a conference call with reporters to discuss Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal. “I would expect that if they submit those applications, that we would approve their application to change the model consistent with the federal model.”

The city’s plan, which Bloomberg announced in his State of the City speech last week as a way to sidestep teacher evaluations talks, would require half of all teachers to be removed from the 33 low-performing schools. King suspended federal funding to the schools last month after negotiations between the city and the United Federation of Teachers broke down.

A major issue leading to the impasse was that the UFT wanted third-party arbitrators to hear the appeals of teachers who receive low ratings under the new evaluations. The city maintains that the chancellor should make the final determination on appeals, as has been the case for years.

At a press conference responding to Cuomo’s budget proposal today, Mulgrew emphasized that sometimes principals issued low ratings for the wrong reasons and that the city had made clear in negotiations that it was unwilling to concede based on that possibility.

“The Department of Education, across the table from us, has told us they will not overturn a rating based on the substance of a rating,” Mulgrew said.

King said today that the city’s position is consistent with the state’s guidelines for the new evaluations. The guidelines dictate that appeals should ideally be decided by a district’s chancellor or superintendent and should be considered only when proper procedures were not followed in issuing an evaluation.

“We continue to believe that that is a model that districts should implement, but obviously New York City and the UFT need to work that out,” he said.

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