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City-UFT pact to reduce some paperwork for teachers

Chancellor Carmen Fariña and UFT Michael Mulgrew have agreed to another few changes to the way teachers will do their jobs, with the goal being to do less paper-pushing and more teaching.

Fariña told schools last week schools to cut back on unnecessary paperwork that the teachers union said has piled up on teachers’ desks in recent years. The changes are mostly small in scale, but both Fariña and Mulgrew said in emails that they planned additional reductions.

Officials conducting school quality reviews this year won’t require teachers to create new documents, such as lesson plans or student portfolios, to be used for school evaluations. They will instead be permitted to rely on “verbal or observable” evidence of teachers’ work. The guidelines also encourage schools to eliminate duplicative attendance data systems.

The guidelines don’t change one time-consuming mandate for schools: grading the student tests required for teacher evaluations. Schools were told to set aside “one or two periods” during the school year on work related to the tests, also known as Measures of Student Learning.

Reducing extra paper work has been a top priority for the United Federation of Teachers, but those efforts stalled during rounds of failed negotiations with the Bloomberg administration. Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, is on friendlier terms with the union and the two sides agreed to partner to develop the paper work standards this summer.

Still, UFT President Michael Mulgrew emphasized that “additional standards will be forthcoming” in an email to school chapter leaders last week. In her email to schools, Fariña was more optimistic that the first round of changes would “give teachers more time to focus on the hard work of educating our children.”

The accord comes as the union and the city are still at odds over other issues that have less to do with day-to-day school operations. The two sides are back at the table to negotiate how to disburse lump sums of retroactive pay to teachers after a higher-than-expected number retired at the end of the last school year, Capital New York reported last week.

The teachers union also has to sign off on a deal between the city and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. They agreed last week to reduce the number of classroom observations that principals and assistant principals have to conduct as part of the city’s teacher evaluation system. A union spokeswoman said discussions were still ongoing, but said she expected a deal soon.

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