first take

Deal lays framework for new evals; city appeals issue smoothed

A compromise between the state and its main teachers union will refine the state’s teacher evaluation law and make it easier for local districts to implement new evaluations, Gov. Cuomo announced today.

Cuomo had said that he would impose a new evaluation system if a deal did not come by today.

The announcement suggested that some of the most pressing issues at the state level had been resolved but that significant questions remained wide open here in New York City. The city and UFT have settled at least part of their dispute about appeals for teachers with low ratings but have not actually agreed on a new evaluations system.

Cuomo announced the deal during a a press conference in Albany, where he was joined by State Education Commissioner John King, NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew — but no officials from New York City. Mayor Bloomberg is holding a press conference at City Hall this afternoon to discuss the deal.

We’ll have more details about the content of the agreement, which is a statewide framework that would tweak the state’s 2010 evaluation law, later today. Cuomo will be submitting bills today to formalize the agreement through the budget amendment process.

What’s clear is that it gives Cuomo some of what he wanted last spring when he asked the Board of Regents to increase the weight of test scores in teacher evaluations. The agreed-upon framework allows districts and their unions to agree to use state exam scores for a second 20 percent of evaluations set aside for local assessments — but they can’t use the exams in exactly the same way the state does. Instead, they’ll be able to crunch the numbers a different way or substitute their own assessments, which the State Education Department would have to approve.

It’s also clear that while the agreement represents a leap forward for the city and UFT, it does not end their disputes. The city and union agreed only to an appeals process for teachers with low ratings — resolving a major sticking point in negotiations over teacher evaluations at 33 schools that had been receiving federal funding.

But it does not actually represent an agreement on a new evaluation system. Other issues that were unresolved when negotiations broke down over the appeals question are still up in the air. Plus, the negotiations that fell apart were only for the 33 schools that received School Improvement Grants. The city, like all districts, now has until Jan. 16, 2013, to finalize an evaluation system using the framework NYSUT agreed to today.

“Are there continuing, outstanding issues when it comes to education between the city and the UFT. Yes, yes, that is clear,” Cuomo said. “We never said we were going to resolve all the open issues.”

The one issue that was resolved, about the appeals process, represents something of a loss for the city. Bloomberg’s position was that the school chancellor should have the final word on all appeals. But Mulgrew said the agreed-upon appeals process — which Cuomo said would go into effect by the end of 2012 and enable the city to receive a 4 percent increase in school aid — brings in third-party validation for some ratings.

He also said the process included safeguards against low ratings issued as a means of harassment.

Cuomo lavished praise on Mulgrew during the press conference, saying that the union leader had “worked extraordinarily hard … and has been extraordinarily reasonable” through the negotiation process.

A major open question is whether the city will go ahead with its plan to “turn around” 33 struggling schools, which would require half of their teachers to be replaced. Bloomberg had proposed turnaround as a way to circumvent a requirement that the city negotiate an evaluation deal for teachers in those schools. But with the sticking point in those negotiations resolved, the city could continue the school improvement strategies already underway there. The city is set to make its case with the state next week for why federal funds should continue flowing to support those schools

Mulgrew signaled today that he thought the evaluation should take turnaround off the table. But he signaled that the city had not said clearly that it would.

“”If the mayor chooses he can speak to us about putting in a SIG application,” he said in Albany. “You can ask him. I think he has decided he’d rather close schools than fix them.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.