end of the road

King unveils long-awaited evaluation systems for city educators

The evaluation system that State Education Commissioner John King imposed on New York City today fulfills requests made by both the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers.

In a unique move, it also delegates crucial decisions about how teachers will be rated to the city’s roughly 1,600 non-charter public schools and, in some cases, to teachers themselves.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked lawmakers to allow King to impose an evaluation system after city and union officials failed to agree on one by a January deadline. Starting from broad parameters set out in state law, each side made its case in position papers and in-person presentations last month, and King issued his final determination tonight.

“Following years of delay, today we can finally say that every school district in the state of New York has a teacher evaluation system in place based on some of the most stringent and comprehensive standards in the nation,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The mayor didn’t win and the union didn’t win. Today, the students won. Finally.”

King said the plan would remain in effect through the 2016-2017 school year — or unless the city and teachers union negotiate a different plan that follows the state’s evaluation law. That could happen as soon as next year, when a new mayor takes office and must negotiate a contract with the teachers union.

“If we feel it’s not going well, we will advocate for changes next year,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Under the plan, which King has not yet published in full, teachers will get to decide how frequently they want to be observed and whether they will let administrators judge their teaching by videotape. Teachers will be able to choose whether administrators see one full period of instruction along and two shorter snippets, or whether administrators come six or more times for short visits. Both options require more observations than either the city or UFT asked for, and both represent substantial change from the old system, under which most teachers were assessed on the basis of a single announced observation.

And teams of educators at each school, chosen jointly by the UFT and the principal, will get to choose the assessments that will generate the 20 percent of teachers’ ratings that must be based on locally selected measures of student growth. (King picked a default in case they can’t decide, or the principal doesn’t like their choice.) Some schools might administer additional pencil-and-paper tests, while others might ask teachers to administer performance assessments that are embedded in their daily instruction.

The flexibility, which both city and UFT officials wanted, recognizes the diversity of schools in New York City, King said.

On other significant issues, King sided more clearly with one party or the other. Principals will have to consider all of the elements of the Danielson Framework for observing teachers, not just some, as the Department of Education had wanted. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said he worried the city would ask principals to focus only on the hardest components while ignoring others that are important, such as lesson planning. King said he would also require principals to document each of their observations in writing, which the union wanted but the city said would create unnecessary paperwork.

“I wanted a plan I thought was fair and more importantly followed the spirit of the law, and I think we have the beginning of that,” Mulgrew said.

But King also carved out a small role for student surveys, which union officials had sworn they would never accept. Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, student surveys will count for 5 percent of the ratings of teachers in third grade and beyond. And King’s final plan did not reflect issues that the union raised if they were not required under the state’s evaluation law, such as for all teachers to have curriculum given to them before they could be evaluated under a new system.

Department of Education officials said they had gotten almost everything they asked for and in fact ended up with a system they liked more than what they almost agreed to in January. Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he considered King’s plan “a major victory for students and staff.”

In January and last year, Mayor Bloomberg rejected teacher evaluation deals because he said the systems that would go into place would not result in any teachers being fired.

King pushed back against that outlook today, in the first paragraph of his press release touting the new evaluation system.

“There are strong measures to help remove ineffective teachers and principals, but let’s be clear: New York is not going to fire its way to academic success,” King said.

City and union officials’ next task is to figure out how to implement the new system. City officials said part of the $100 million in teacher training funds it has set aside for this year will go toward preparing educators for the new evaluations. One required component for teachers whose students do not take state tests, “Student Learning Objectives,” will be completely new to almost all city educators but count for 20 percent of their scores.

Mulgrew said the rollout of the new system would be crucial to determining whether it helps teachers improve, as the union hopes will happen, or amplifies mistrust between teachers and the Department of Education.

“None of this is going to be good if the implementation starts out horrendously,” he said.

King also announced a system for evaluating principals. The union that represents principals, the Council on School Supervisors and Administrators, actually reached an agreement with the Department of Education, with “the strong intervention of Commissioner King,” according to President Ernest Logan. That evaluation system hews closely to how principals have been rated in the past but increases the role of superintendent observations and introduces an appeals process for principals who get low scores.

Detroit week in review

Week in review: The state’s year-round scramble to fill teaching jobs

Miss Michigan Heather Heather Kendrick spent the day with students at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science in Detroit

While much of the media attention has been focused this year on the severe teacher shortage in the main Detroit district, our story this week looks at how district and charter schools throughout the region are now scrambling year-round to fill vacant teaching jobs — an instability driven by liberal school choice laws, a decentralized school system and a shrinking pool of available teachers.

The teacher shortage has also made it difficult for schools to find substitutes as many are filling in on long-term assignments while schools try to fill vacancies. Two bills proposed in a state senate committee would make it easier for schools to hire retirees and reduce the requirements for certifying subs.  

Also, don’t forget to reserve your seat for Wednesday’s State of the Schools address. The event will be one of the first times in recent years when the leader of the city’s main district — Nikolai Vitti — will appear on the same stage as the leaders of the city’s two largest charter school authorizers. For those who can’t make it, we will carry it live on Chalkbeat Detroit.

Have a good week!

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

STATE OF THE SCHOOLS: The State of the Schools address will pair Vitti with the leaders of the schools he’s publicly vowed to put out of business, even as schools advocates say city kids could benefit if the leaders of the city’s fractured school system worked together to solve common problems.

LOOKING FOR TEACHERS: The city’s teacher shortage mirrors similar challenges across the country but the problem in Detroit is exacerbated by liberal school choice policies that have forced schools to compete with each other for students and teachers.

Hiring efforts continue at Detroit’s main school district, which is planning another job fair. Head Start centers are also looking for teachers. Three new teachers talk about the challenges, rewards and obstacles of the classroom.

WHOSE MONEY IS IT? The state Senate sent a bill to the House that would allow charters to receive a portion of property tax hikes approved by voters. Those funds have historically gone only to traditional district schools.

UNITED THEY STAND: Teachers in this southwest Detroit charter school voted to join a union, but nationally, union membership for teachers has been falling for two decades.

COLLEGE AND CAREERS: A national foundation based in Michigan granted $450,000 to a major Detroit business coalition to help more students finish college.

High school seniors across the state will be encouraged to apply to at least one college this month. The main Detroit district meanwhile showed off a technical center that prepares youngsters and adults for careers in construction, plumbing and carpentry and other fields.  

STEPS TO IMPROVEMENT: A prominent news publisher explains why he told lawmakers he believes eliminating the state board of education is the right thing to do. An advocate urged Michigan to look to other states for K-12 solutions. And one local newspaper says the governor is on the right track to improving education in Michigan.

This think tank believes businesses should be more engaged in education debates.

LISTEN TO US: The newly elected president of a state teachers union says teachers just want to be heard when policy is being made. She wrote in a Detroit newspaper that it takes passion and determination to succeed in today’s classrooms.

A PIONEER: Funeral services for a trailblazing African American educator have been scheduled for Saturday.

Also, the mother-in-law of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, died in her west Michigan home.

FARM-TO-SCHOOL:  A state program that provides extra money to school districts for locally grown produce has expanded to include more schools.

BETTER THAN AN APPLE: Nominate your favorite educator for Michigan Teacher of the Year before the 11:59 deadline tonight.

An Ann Arbor schools leader has been named the 2018 Michigan Superintendent of the Year by a state group of school administrators.

MYSTERY SMELL: The odor from a failed light bulb forced a Detroit high school to dismiss students early this week.

EXTRA CREDIT: Miss Michigan encouraged students at one Detroit school to consider the arts as they follow their dreams. The city schools foundation honored two philanthropic leaders as champions for education.

And high school students were inspired by a former college football player. 

Struggling Detroit schools

The list of promises is long: Arts, music, robotics, gifted programs and more. Will Detroit schools be able to deliver?

PHOTO: Detroit Public Television
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti answers questions at a community meeting in Detroit.

Arts. Music. Robotics. Programs for gifted kids. New computers. New textbooks. Dual enrollment programs that let high school students take college classes. International Baccalaureate. Advanced Placement.

They’re all on the list of things that Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a group of community members assembled in a Brightmoor neighborhood church that he would introduce or expand as soon as next school year.

Vitti didn’t get into the specifics of how the main Detroit district would find the money or partnerships needed to deliver on all of those promises, but they’re part of the plan for the future, he said.

The comments came in a question and answer session last month with students, parents and community members following Vitti’s appearance on Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal/One Detroit Roadshow. The discussion was recorded at City Covenant Church. DPTV is one of Chalkbeat’s partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Vitti has been appearing at community events since taking over the Detroit schools last spring. He is scheduled next week to join officials from two of the city’s major charter school authorizers, Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, at a State of the Schools address on October 25.


Watch the full Q&A with Vitti below.