Educators 4 Excellence

common changes

eyes on opt-out

New York

Help on the way for schools struggling with evaluation changes

Department of Education leaders, from left, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Deputy Chancellor David Weiner and Deputy Chief Academic Officer Josh Thomases spoke to teachers about evaluation challenges this week. It's never too late to help schools figure out how to implement a complicated teacher evaluation system. At least that's the theory at the Department of Education, which is planning to put out a comprehensive guide to navigating the city's new evaluation system this week, more than four months after the details were set. It's now six weeks into the school year, and teachers and principals have been raising red flags about the new teacher evaluations since even before the first day of school. They've complained about not having enough time, resources, and information to confront logistical challenges related to evaluations. Department officials are aware of the gripes, and this week they acknowledged that the process hasn't always been smooth. "I think we have done a somewhat decent job," Chancellor Dennis Walcott said of the rollout this week. They're responding with a series of stopgap fixes to aid with the rollout. They've extended deadlines, allocated millions in overtime pay, and consolidated the state's 243-page evaluation plan for New York City into a 45-page guide. Even teachers eager for the new evaluations, which will judge teachers on a four-rating score and be based on multiple measures, say they feel overwhelmed by the many changes happening at once this year. At an event hosted this week by Educators 4 Excellence, which supports new evaluations and is generally optimistic about school reforms under the Bloomberg administration, nearly 60 percent of teachers said they had been "poorly informed" or "very poorly informed" about the evaluation system. "I think it's been a huge lift for us to get information out there," said Deputy Chancellor David Weiner, who added that he was actually surprised at how many teachers said they had been informed about the changes.
New York

City teachers give mixed reviews to new movie that pans unions

The lights dimmed and the screen lit up with the face of an 8-year-old girl staring at a chalkboard and struggling to read the sentence written upon it. The camera flashed to the teacher sitting at her desk, texting on her cellphone and shopping for shoes on the computer. “Try again,” the teacher said. “I can’t,” she answered, and the scene ended. The scene opens “Won’t Back Down,” a new film by Walden Media, the same company that produced the 2010 documentary "Waiting for 'Superman,'" which extolled charter schools. The advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence held a private advance screening of the movie for its members, all city teachers, Wednesday night at the Regal Cinemas in Union Square. "Won't Back Down" riffs off real-life parents’ efforts to turn a struggling California school into a non-unionized charter school. The drama has come under scrutiny as it approaches its Sept. 28 release because of its harsh, and sometimes inaccurate, treatment of teachers unions. "This fictional portrayal, which makes the unions the culprit for all of the problems facing our schools, is divisive and demoralizes millions of great teachers," said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a statement last month. “We cannot pretend there’s not a debate around this movie,” said E4E’s New York Executive Director Jonathan Schleifer to the crowd before the movie began. “That’s why you’re here – you want to be informed.” Sydney Morris, E4E’s co-founder and chief executive director, warned the crowd that the story told in the movie didn’t accurately mirror real events. “It’s not in any way a perfect depiction of reality,” she said. “But it is a bold depiction of teachers as change agents — it shows what teacher empowerment and parent involvement could and should look like.”
New York

Why New York isn't on track to repeat Chicago's teacher strike

In a picture the UFT distributed on Twitter, President Michael Mulgrew and AFT President Randi Weingarten wear red today to show solidarity with teachers on strike in Chicago. When teachers in the country's third-largest school district go on strike, the question is only natural: Could the same thing happen in New York City? The answer is yes, in theory. But there are a host of reasons why New York City teachers probably won't follow their Chicago colleagues in trading the classroom for the picket line any time soon. Here are several issues to consider: Only some of the issues in dispute in Chicago are also under contention in New York City. Like Chicago's teachers, city teachers would like a pay hike. They've have gone without substantial raises for several years. And like Chicago's union, the UFT is very concerned about  some elements of the reform agenda that the Obama administration has advanced, particularly about the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation systems. That issue has caused acute tensions between the UFT and the Bloomberg administration for more than a year, keeping the city so far from complying with the state's new teacher evaluation requirements. But New York City teachers don't have to grapple with many of the issues Chicago teachers face. The union contract already contains class size limits, even if the union says they are sometimes skirted. Recall rights for laid-off teachers have been in place for decades. And the school year has long been 180 days. And because the policy agenda that Mayor Rahm Emanuel brought to Chicago last year has been solidly in place in New York City for nearly a decade, city teachers and their union have had more time to adjust and reach compromises. While the Bloomberg administration and the UFT haven't agreed on the technical points of teacher evaluations, they have struck a broad agreement on the concept that student test scores can play some role in ratings. They have already agreed to extend the school day and given schools options to add even more time. And their 2005 contract created an Absent Teacher Reserve with no time limit on how long teachers can draw salaries without occupying permanent positions after losing their old ones — a policy that city officials now want to change but so far have not been able to. The UFT more resembles 2009's Chicago Teachers Union than today's. Like Chicago's union until recently, the United Federation of Teachers has long been dominated by a single caucus that has been willing to work with city officials to reach compromises on issues such as teacher placement, extending the school day, and even evaluations. The compromises have angered some union members, who have criticized the union and its leadership for not adequately defending teachers' rights. But unlike in Chicago, where the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, or CORE, seized power in 2010, there hasn't yet been a serious threat to Unity's power. In the last union elections, the caucus's candidate for president, Michael Mulgrew, won with 91 percent of the vote.
New York

Teacher group: Reward top-rated teachers with more pay, duties

Sketch of a teacher "career ladder" from Educators 4 Excellence's new report on teacher pay. (Click to enlarge) Teachers should be paid more — but they should have to prove their value before getting big raises or better positions. That's a central idea of a paper about teacher pay released today by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence. The group convened a 16-teacher policy team last fall to study past and current experiments in teacher pay, survey city teachers about their views, and come up with recommendations about how to change the way city teachers are paid. Currently, city teachers earn a starting salary of $45,530 and see their pay rise in small increments each year and as they accumulate additional credentials such as a master's degree. Large salary jumps come late in teachers' careers or when they move into administrative positions. The group's recommendations include increasing the starting salary by a third; creating a "career ladder" so teachers can be rewarded for strong performance without leaving the classroom; introducing bonuses for teachers who receive top ratings on new teacher evaluations; and paying more to draw teachers to hard-to-staff subjects, such as science or special education. Educators 4 Excellence is aligned with school reform groups that have battled the teachers union in the past, and some of the group's previous reports have influenced city and state policy proposals. But the teacher pay report does not side neatly with either Mayor Bloomberg or the UFT. It does not call for merit pay tied to student test scores, which Bloomberg has supported and the city teachers union has said it would never accept, nor does it support Bloomberg's recent proposal to offer permanent pay raises to teachers who earn top ratings on new evaluations. But it also does not call for union-backed school-wide bonuses of the type distributed under a city program that was aborted after it did not lead to increases in student performance. "We are not interested in replicating failed experiments. As teachers, we already work hard, and we know that more pay will not make us work harder," reads the report. "But we do want to be recognized for our successes. We want to build up our supply of excellent teachers by recruiting and retaining professionals who might otherwise choose other fields."
New York

Cuomo’s education deputy takes agenda to city teacher group

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top education aide took his boss's message on the road Thursday night for a speaking event with city teachers. Speaking at a Midtown hotel on a one-man panel moderated by three teachers from the group Educators 4 Excellence, Deputy Secretary for Education David Wakelyn primarily discussed teacher evaluations and why, nearly two years after a state law was signed requiring that they be toughened, nothing had changed. The meeting was notable not for what Wakelyn said — his comments hewed closely to what the governor has said about evaluations in recent weeks — but because it happened at all. Wakelyn has been relatively quiet since becoming Cuomo's education deputy in September. But now Cuomo has made his education agenda a priority for 2012 and has increasingly sought to exert greater influence over policy. The event began with a question from Dan Mejias, a teacher at JHS 22 Jordan L. Mott, one of the 33 low-performing schools slated to close and reopen with new teachers under Mayor Bloomberg's "turnaround" plan. Bloomberg devised the turnaround plan to sidestep a requirement under a previous plan for the schools that the city and its teachers union agree on new evaluations. Mejias said his school had shown progress with federal money it received under the previous model, known as "transformation," and wanted to know what the governor planned to do to force both sides to drop what he saw as pure political gamesmanship. "The NYC DOE is threatening to fire half of our staff, the UFT is willing to protect every single teacher at all costs, and none of this is beneficial for our students," Mejias said.
New York

Pioneers in teacher prep chart changes in training landscape

New York

Teachers group mirrors city recommendations for layoff reforms