must see (updated)

UFT takes to the tube to tackle evals and Bloomberg's legacy

The United Federation of Teachers ratcheted up pressure on Mayor Bloomberg over teacher evaluations with a new television ad campaign that will run daily between now and Jan. 17.

The 30-second spot — and an accompanying statement from Michael Mulgrew — take aim at Bloomberg’s education legacy during the 11 years he’s been in office.

The ad begins with a still shot of a young student who has grown up through the city school system during the Bloomberg’s tenure, entering first grade during the mayor’s first year in office.

“And while she’s changed a lot, he hasn’t,” the narrator says, as negative tabloid and op-ed headlines fill the screen. “It’s still his way or the highway, at whatever cost.”

The ad also implores Bloomberg to “put politics aside” and “agree to a fair evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need to help children succeed.”

The $1.2 million campaign, which will run on local broadcast stations and cable television networks in the New York area, comes amid stalled negotiations between the city and the UFT over how to evaluate teachers. The city has until Jan. 17 to come to a deal on an evaluation system or else it will lose an estimated $250 million in state aid funding.

Update: Bloomberg must have seen the ad and didn’t like it. On his weekly radio radio this morning, the mayor scoffed at the notion that he’d feel pressured to negotiate in response to  criticism. And he said the union’s tactics were an intentional ploy to avoid a negotiations.

As Capital New York reports:

“If there’s ever a ways to force somebody to not come to an agreement, it’s to run ads calling them bad things,” said Bloomberg, during his regular Friday morning radio show. “I mean, what kind of a strategy is this? And they’re not stupid. They know what they’re doing. So they’re deliberately trying to keep us from having a contract. It’s the only rational explanation.”

Up until last month, relations were cordial and both two sides publicly said they were committed to working together to meet the Jan. 17 deadline. But that harmony has dissolved in recent weeks, first with scathing letters from union leaders that essentially broke off talks. Then, two days after Christmas, the city filed a labor complaint that alleged the union was negotiating in “bad faith.”

In a statement this morning, UFT President Michael Mulgrew urged the mayor to come back to the bargaining table.

“If he wants his legacy to be anything but a decade of disaster, he will put politics aside and come to an agreement on an evaluation system that helps students and teachers succeed,” Mulgrew said.



The UFT blitz isn’t the only educator advertising videos that are making the rounds. As Capital New York reported, Educators 4 Excellence, an advocacy group more aligned to Bloomberg on education policy, began releasing one-minute online videos featuring its members. The videos show teachers in their classrooms talking about how they’d like to improve professionally. Evaluation systems, the teachers all conclude, is the engine for that growth.


that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.


Westminster district will give bonuses if state ratings rise, teachers wonder whether performance pay system is coming

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Students work on an English assignment at M. Scott Carpenter Middle School in Westminster.

Teachers and employees in Westminster Public Schools will be able to earn a bonus if they help the struggling district improve its state ratings next year.

The district’s school board on Tuesday unanimously approved the $1.7 million plan for the one-year performance stipends, the district’s latest attempt to lift the quality of its schools.

School employees can earn $1,000 if their school meets a district-set score, or up to $2,000 if they reach a more ambitious goal the school sets. District employees, including the superintendent, can earn $1,000 if the district as a whole jumps up a rating next year.

“We recognize that everyone plays a critical role in increasing student achievement and we decided that if a particular school or the district as a whole can reach that next academic accreditation level, the employees directly responsible should be rewarded,” board president Dino Valente said in a statement.

The district is one of five that was flagged by the state for chronic low performance and was put on a state-ordered improvement plan this spring.

District officials have disputed state ratings, claiming the state’s system is not fairly assessing the performance of Westminster schools. Middle school teacher Melissa Duran, who also used to be president of the teacher’s union, drew a connection between that stance and the new stipends, saying any extra pay she gets would be based on one score.

“The district has gone to the state saying, ‘Why are you rating us on these tests, look at all the other things we’re doing’” Duran said. “Well, it’s the same thing for teachers. They’re still basing our effectiveness on a test score.”

Teachers interviewed Thursday said their first thoughts upon learning of the plan was that it sounded like the beginnings of performance pay.

“I already get the point that we are in need of having our test scores come up,” said math teacher Andy Hartman, who is also head of negotiations for the teacher’s union. “Putting this little carrot out there isn’t going to change anything. I personally do not like performance pay. It’s a very slippery slope.”

District leaders say they talked to all district principals after the announcement Wednesday, and heard positive feedback.

“A lot of the teachers think this is a good thing,” said Steve Saunders, the district’s spokesman.

National studies on the effectiveness of performance pay stipends and merit pay have shown mixed results. One recent study from Vanderbilt University concluded that they can be effective, but that the design of the systems makes a difference.

In Denver Public Schools, the district has a performance-pay system to give raises and bonuses to teachers in various situations. Studies of that model have found that some teachers don’t completely understand the system and that it’s not always tied to better student outcomes.

Westminster officials said they have never formally discussed performance pay, and said that these stipends are being funded for one year with an unanticipated IRS refund.

Westminster teachers said they have ideas for other strategies that could make a quick impact, such as higher pay for substitutes so teachers aren’t losing their planning periods filling in for each other when subs are difficult to find.

Waiting on a bonus that might come next year is not providing any new motivation, teachers said.

“It’s a slap in the face,” Duran said. “It’s not like we are not already working hard enough. Personally, I already give 110 percent. I’ve always given 110 percent.”

Last month, the school board also approved a new contract for teachers and staff. Under the new agreement, teachers and staff got a raise of at least 1 percent. They received a similar raise last year.