Percentage of New York City teachers who had tenure denied or extended, 2006-2013
For the third year in a row, nearly half of teachers up for tenure last year did not receive it. But the number of teachers outright denied the job protection remained small.
Just under 4,000 teachers were up for tenure in the 2012-2013 school year, with 2,551 of them facing the decision for the first time — fewer than usual because hiring restrictions had been in place three years earlier. Of the total, 53 percent received tenure and 3 percent were denied it, effectively barring them from working in city schools. The remaining portion — 44 percent — had their probationary periods extended for another year.
Only 41 of the 2,551 teachers up for tenure for the first time this year were told they could not continue to work in city schools, according to city data. That means the denial rate for teachers in the tenure pool was about 1.6 percent, lower than in each of the past two years. The extension rate for teachers up for tenure for the first time was 44 percent, up slightly since last year.
The high extension rate is a hallmark of the Bloomberg administration's efforts to make tenure tougher to achieve. Bloomberg vowed in 2010 to move toward "ending tenure as we know it," a change he favored because teachers who do not yet have tenure can more easily be fired. The previous year, 11 percent of teachers up for tenure had been denied or extended. At the start of the mayor's tenure, that figure had been about 1 percent.
Percentage of teachers who had tenure denied or extended, 2006-2012
The city's two-year-old crackdown on "tenure as we know it" continued this past year with nearly half of the teachers up for tenure not receiving it.
Just under 4,000 teachers were up for tenure in the 2011-2012 school year, fewer than usual because hiring restrictions sharply cut the number of new teachers in 2009. Of them, 55 percent received tenure and 3 percent were denied it, effectively barring them from working in city schools. The remaining portion — 42 percent — had their probationary periods extended for another year.
The extension rate was slightly higher than in 2011, when 39 percent of teachers up for tenure had their decisions deferred under a revamped tenure evaluation process. But it is five times the extension rate from 2010, which was the first time that the city used the deferral option in large numbers.
Mayor Bloomberg vowed in 2010 to move toward on "ending tenure as we know it," a change he favors because teachers who do not yet have tenure can more easily be fired.
Last year, Chancellor Dennis Walcott predicted that more teachers would be denied tenure this year.
UPDATE: But the denial rate for teachers in the tenure pool for the first time actually fell. Last year, 104 teachers eligible for tenure for the first time were denied it, for a denial rate of 2.2 percent. This year, that rate was 1.9 percent, meaning that just 42 teachers up for tenure for the first time were told they could not continue to work in city schools.
The Department of Education's chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said today that the department had no firm goals for how many teachers should receive or be denied tenure.
"This is not about hitting some numerical target at all," he said during a call with reporters. "What we’re asking principals to do is treat this as a big decision about: Is this teacher ready for lifetime guarantee of employment?"
Later this week, when the Department of Education announces the number of teachers who received tenure last year, it’s likely that the tenure rate will be lower than ever.
It used to be that virtually all teachers who completed their third year were awarded tenure, which confers added rights. But ever since Mayor Bloomberg vowed to end "tenure as we know it" in 2010, fewer teachers have gotten tenure each year. Last year, fewer than 60 percent of teachers up for tenure received it; most of the rest had their probationary periods extended, sometimes for a second time.
But for a group of teachers who were told earlier this year that their tenure recommendations were being rescinded, there is better news. They'll be receiving tenure after all.
In June, GothamSchools reported that tenure-eligible teachers working in some struggling schools were having their probationary periods extended, even when the superintendent, who is supposed to make the final call, agreed with their principal's recommendation for tenure.
Some teachers this week are getting bad news about what they thought was already a done deal: their tenure.
Teachers come up for tenure, which confers stronger job protections, after three years. In their third year, their principals recommend a tenure decision to the superintendent, who has the final say on whether to approve, deny, or defer tenure.
But some teachers whose principals had already received superintendent sign-off found out this week that those approvals had been rescinded, according to principals, teachers, and union officials. The teachers are instead being offered an extension of their probationary periods, some for the second time.
The scenario has played out at multiple schools, according to officials at the United Federation of Teachers, who said the schools all seemed to have low scores on their Department of Education progress reports.
The reversals appear to mark a new phase in the Bloomberg administration's campaign to make tenure tougher to earn — or, as Mayor Bloomberg put it in a 2010 vow, "ending tenure as we know it." Last year, the city aggressively cut down on the rate of tenure approvals, instead extending the probationary period of 40 percent of teachers up for tenure, up from 8 percent in 2010, and many principals said their superintendents had rejected some of their tenure recommendations.
Less than two years after pledging that he did not want to end tenure, Mayor Bloomberg struck a different chord today.
"Do I think it's needed at the public school level? No," he said today.
The statement came days after Bloomberg's most recent escalation in rhetoric against tenure protections. During his weekly radio address last week, he said tenure is a vestige of the McCarthy Era of the 1950s, when teachers were persecuted for their political views.
But until today he had not said outright that he opposed tenure's existence for public school teachers. In fact, in a Nov. 2009 speech at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., he declared, “Let me be clear: We are not proposing an end to tenure.” Last year, Bloomberg promised "to end teacher tenure as we know it," but by making it tougher to achieve, not doing away with it. That vow appeared to bear fruit this year when the number of city teachers awarded tenure fell dramatically.
Bloomberg was responding to a question I asked about what protections he thinks teachers should have given that Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott made clear that people who observe cheating should report it.
For at least the sixth straight year, principals rated more teachers as unsatisfactory.
Last year, 2,118 teachers received unsatisfactory ratings, setting them along a path that could lead to termination. That number, making up 2.7 percent of all teachers, was 16 percent higher than in 2010 and more than twice the number of U-ratings handed out five years ago. In the 2005-2006 school year, just 981 teachers received unsatisfactory ratings.
About 80 percent of the teachers who received unsatisfactory ratings were tenured, according to Department of Education data. And about a quarter — 511 — received the scarlet rating last year as well.
The numbers suggest that principals are responding to the city's sustained push to usher more weak teachers out of the system, and the city says 86 of the U-rated teachers have already resigned, including 41 who were denied tenure. But they hardly reflect a sea change in the way that principals rate teachers.
For that, the city is counting on a new teacher evaluation system that will do away with the binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory rating choice altogether. State law now requires districts to enact evaluation systems that use student test scores as a component and sort teachers into four categories from "highly effective" down to "ineffective."
Mayor Bloomberg escalated his critique of teacher tenure on his weekly radio show this morning, calling tenure outdated and questioning whether it should even exist.
Bloomberg was discussing the latest tenure data, which were released Wednesday and showed an all-time high number of teachers whose probation were extended rather than receiving tenure. He said he'd continue to comply with the laws that required him to award tenure, but wouldn't like it.
"The state law has tenure, whether you like it or not. We have to work with that," Bloomberg said. "It may have been necessary in the McCarthy era or maybe even today at the university level. But in public education you’re not writing papers about things that are very controversial, which was the idea of tenure: to protect your ability to do that."
Bloomberg launched the last school year with a pledge to overhaul the way tenure is granted, and he previously has criticized tenure as being too "automatic." But he has never called for an outright end to tenure; indeed, in a 2009 speech at the Center for American Progress, he declared, "let me be clear: We are not proposing an end to tenure."
Percentage of Teachers Who Had Tenure Denied or Extended
In a stark departure from tradition, more than 40 percent of city teachers up for tenure this year did not get it.
Just over 5,200 teachers were up for tenure this year. Of them, 58 percent received tenure and 3 percent were denied it, effectively barring them from working in city schools. The remaining portion -- 39 percent -- had their probationary periods extended for another year.
The number of extensions inched up in 2010 to 8 percent, but skyrocketed this year after the Department of Education revamped the tenure evaluation process in an effort to make the protection tougher to receive.
Yet the rate of tenure denials actually fell slightly from last year, from about 3.3 percent in 2010 to 2.7 percent in 2011, or 151 teachers, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg's insistence that the figures were the first step toward "ending tenure as we know it."
The numbers, which Bloomberg touted at a press conference today, confirm anecdotal reports pointing to a sharp rise in the number of probation extensions under the new system. Before last year, that option was rarely used and the vast majority of teachers received tenure almost as a formality.
Under pressure from the Bloomberg administration to make tenure tougher to receive, principals and superintendents are withholding job protections from some young teachers.
Instead of simply granting or denying tenure at the end of a teacher's third year, they are extending the probationary period for some teachers by another year.
In 2006, just 30 teachers had their probation extended. As the city has moved to toughen all teacher evaluations, that number has risen steadily, to 465 last year. Reports from teachers and principals suggest the trend is likely to continue when official numbers about the past year’s tenure decisions is released in the near future.
The reports suggest that many superintendents, who make final tenure decisions based on principals’ recommendations, are responding to a directive that teachers who score low on a new rubric not get tenure. The city urged that teachers who scored in the "ineffective" range be denied tenure and teachers who fell in the "developing" range have their probations extended.
A low score on the city's Teacher Data Report was particularly influential, even if other information, such as classroom observations, contradicted it, principals said. The reports, which only some teachers receive, use value-added formulas to estimate teachers' effectiveness at increasing students' test scores, and teachers with low scores are "red-flagged" in the city's tenure system.
Of the nine teachers Principal Joe Lisa had up for tenure this year at IS 61 in Queens, six taught in subjects without data reports and received tenure. Three math teachers had their probationary periods extended. One in particular seemed to be a shoo-in, Lisa said. But his superintendent rejected the idea of giving her tenure this year.
Although principals won't get their first look at the city's new tenure rules until tomorrow, one principal I spoke to today has high hopes for the new system.
For years, tenure has been treated as a formality, the principal said, so some school leaders put little effort into thinking about whether it should be granted. The new rules may prompt them to take the process of granting tenure more seriously, she said.
"I think the new system is probably not such a bad thing," she said, telling a story about how her school had been hurt by what's known as "tenure by estoppel."
Tenure by estoppel, which is part of state law, means that a teacher can get tenure after a certain period of time if her principal never makes a decision.
In this person's school, there was a teacher who had been given an extra year of probation and was up for tenure, which the former-principal knew she hadn't earned.
For more than 6,000 teachers, the path to tenure this year will be different and, the city hopes, tougher.
City education officials announced a new rubric today that will guide principals as they make tenure recommendations this year. The "effectiveness framework" places teachers in one of four categories: highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective, based on students' tests scores, classroom observations, parent feedback, and other factors. No single element is meant to be weighed more heavily than the others and principals still have the ability to pick and choose what goes into their final decision.
Principals will be encouraged to give tenure only to teachers they believe are effective or highly effective, city officials said today. Teachers who are "developing" will have their probation extended, giving them another year in which to improve. This extension can occur again and again until a principal makes a final decision or the teacher leaves the job.
In the past, granting tenure meant checking a series of boxes in an online form. Was the teacher dressed appropriately? Check. Did she have good classroom management? Check. Principals who wanted to deny tenure had to offer a brief justification, but granting it didn't require a principal to give her rationale for doing so.
Mayor Bloomberg on NBC today, announcing a crackdown on seniority-based layoffs and a new tenure policy.
In his first major education policy announcement for the new school year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning vowed a renewed attack on seniority laws that protect veteran teachers and a change in how teachers are awarded tenure.
He made the remarks on NBC, which is dedicating this week to school reporting in a project called "Education Nation."
The attack on seniority laws came as city officials made a dire budget prediction for next year, saying that they will likely have to lay off public school teachers as federal stimulus funding runs out. Under the current state law, teachers with the least seniority would be the first to lose their jobs — a policy known as "last in, first out." The mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein oppose this policy, but their effort to change the law, which the teachers union does support, went nowhere last year.
Today, the mayor said he would try dismantling the policy again before the city confronts an expected $700 million budget hole and possible layoffs next year.
"It's time for us to end the 'last-in, first out' layoff policy that puts children at risk here in New York — and across our wonderful country," Bloomberg said on NBC. "How could anyone argue that this is good for children? The law is nothing more than special interest politics, and we're going to get rid of it before it hurts our kids," he added.
Teachers union officials immediately squashed any possibility that they might partner with the mayor.
More teachers than ever received unsatisfactory ratings last year, suggesting that the city's push to rid the school system of more struggling teachers is working.
Principals gave unsatisfactory ratings to 1,813 teachers, 17 percent more than in 2009, according to data the city released today. They also denied tenure to 234 teachers this year, 80 percent more than last year. And principals nearly doubled the number of teachers given an extra year before their final tenure decision is made.
In total, 11 percent of the 6,386 teachers up for tenure this year were denied or delayed, compared to 6.6 percent last year. It's an even more dramatic jump from 2006, when tenure was denied or delayed less than 1 percent of the time.
By far, the leading cause principals cited for giving a U-rating was quality of instruction and student care. Attendance problems were the second-leading cause of low ratings, followed closely by the nebulous "personal and professional qualities."
Still, the vast majority of teachers were rated satisfactory and received tenure after three years in the classroom.
City principals say they're pretty darn happy with their jobs, according to the results of the city's annual survey for principals. They gave high marks in virtually every area, including the one the city might have wanted them to endorse less enthusiastically — their ability to root out and deal with poor teachers.
The city's current teacher tenure policy is a pet peeve of Chancellor Joel Klein, who argues that student performance, not just years in the classroom, should determine whether a teacher gets and maintains tenure. And Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern has said that two-thirds of the city's teachers may need improvement.
But principals said they already have the tools they need to help struggling teachers.
A total of 85 percent said that they were given good enough "support and information to address low-performing employees." And 93 percent of principals who responded to the survey reported that they either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I am given sufficient support and information to guide tenure decisions." Neither of those rates have changed since March 2008.
Regardless of principals' views, the teacher evaluation and tenure system is set to change. Under a deal struck between the state and teachers unions this spring, student test scores will begin to factor in teacher evaluations beginning in the 2011-12 school year.
Around 84 percent of the city's 1,532 principals responded to the survey, which the city has given each fall and spring since November 2007. The city's full report on the survey results is below:
Teachers' data reports place them in one of five categories depending on how much they were able to boost their students' test scores over the course of several years.
Reports ranking teachers on how much they were able to increase students' test scores from one year to the next arrived in principal's inboxes this week, and this time Department of Education officials say the reports are simpler and fairer than in years past.
First released in 2008, teacher data reports have rankled teachers who object to being judged solely on test scores and confused principals, some of whom found the reports too complicated to use. The reports released this week cover 12,000 teachers and address some of those concerns. They contain less information, are easier to read, and use a new formula to calculate teachers' value-added scores.
This year, Chancellor Joel Klein has made it clear what should be done with the data: one in ten teachers who are up for tenure will have their reports used as a criteria in their tenure evaluations.
On Tuesday morning, principals with students in grades 3-8 — the state gives yearly math and English tests to these students — were given school summary reports. Teachers won't receive their individual data reports until next week. The vast majority work in traditional public schools, as less than a dozen charter schools chose to participate, according to the Department of Education's chief talent officer, Amy McIntosh.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The city's Department of Education will use student test scores in teacher tenure decisions this year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this morning.
Speaking at the Center for American Progress, Bloomberg asked Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to follow a new interpretation of the state law that bans the use of student performance in tenure decisions. The law only applies to teachers hired after July 1, 2008, Bloomberg said. Teachers up for tenure this year, who were hired in 2007, are not subject to the rule, according to this interpretation, and so will be evaluated using their students' test score progress as a factor.
The announcement came as the mayor called on Albany to enact a number of legislative changes, including mandating school districts to evaluate teachers with student performance data and eliminating the charter cap, that would make New York State more competitive in its Race to the Top application.
Much more to come; the full press release accompanying the mayor's announcement, and the text of his comments this morning, are below the jump.
City principals rated more teachers unsatisfactory this year than they have since at least 2005, suggesting that the Bloomberg administration's efforts to escort more struggling teachers out of the system may be bearing some fruit.
Principals gave the scarlet-letter rating to 1,554 teachers this year, up from 981 in the 2005-2006 school year, data provided by the city Department of Education show. Both the number and percentage of teachers rated unsatisfactory rose during that period, and the rise occurred for both tenured and non-tenured teachers, city figures show.
Even with the rise, the percentage of teachers rated unsatisfactory remains low. About 2% of teachers, both tenured and without tenure, received what teachers call "U" ratings this year.
Ann Forte, a schools spokeswoman, sent us the figures this afternoon.
The rise follows a concerted effort by school officials to make it easier for principals to terminate poorly performing teachers, including a new group of lawyers assigned to targeting struggling teachers, called the Teacher Performance Unit. Rating a teacher unsatisfactory is often the first step toward removing him from the school system.
A new report is urging school districts across the country to beef up their methods of evaluating teachers, which the report describes as so slipshod as to be "largely meaningless." The report, by a nonprofit group that has clashed with teachers unions in the past, describes the poor evaluations as "just one symptom of a larger, more fundamental crisis—the inability of our schools to assess instructional performance accurately or to act on this information in meaningful ways."
The report is called "The Widget Effect" because accuses districts of treating all teachers alike, regardless of how much they help students learn. It goes on:
This inability not only keeps schools from dismissing consistently poor performers, but also prevents them from recognizing excellence among top-performers or supporting growth among the broad plurality of hardworking teachers who operate in the middle of the performance spectrum. Instead, school districts default to treating all teachers as essentially the same, both in terms of effectiveness and need for development.
The report, conducted by The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit founded by the lightning-rod D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, calls on districts to develop more robust teacher evaluation systems that reward successful teachers and easily identify less successful teachers.
The report comes amid a growing push to improve teaching quality across the country. President Obama has said that teachers who are not helping students learn should be removed from classrooms, and even the national American Federation of Teachers union is working internally to build a new method of evaluating teacher quality.
The report bases its findings on surveys of thousands of teachers and administrators across four states and 12 school districts, plus a scouring of the districts' evaluation records. New York City was not one of the districts studied.
The city teachers union is accusing the elite KIPP charter school network of waging an intimidation campaign against teachers who are trying to unionize. The dispute began in January, when teachers at a Brooklyn KIPP school shocked the charter school world by petitioning to join the powerful United Federation of Teachers.
At the time, Dave Levin, KIPP’s cofounder and the superintendent of its New York City schools, indicated that he was open to working with the union — even though many KIPP supporters oppose working with unions, which they argue block schools’ ability to teach at-risk urban students by imposing strict work rules on schools. (KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program.)
Now, the union is accusing Levin of urging teachers not to unionize and painting a bleak picture of what will happen if they do. The accusations are cataloged in two complaints the UFT sent to the state labor board in the last nine days arguing that KIPP is improperly blocking teachers’ ability to unionize. The latest complaint, filed Wednesday, adds to complaints first aired in a Sunday New York Times story reporting that KIPP is resisting the teachers' organizing drive.
The complaints accuse a KIPP human resources official of telling teachers that he is concerned that the Brooklyn school will lose its affiliation with the KIPP network if they organize; they accuse the school's founding principal, Ky Adderley, of sitting in the hallway every day to monitor teachers, and they accuse Levin of making a rare attendance at a staff meeting to encourage teachers to reverse their decision to unionize.
Levin and a KIPP spokesman did not return telephone messages requesting comment today.