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Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Teachers need a Strong Union

From: Michael Mulgrew

Subject: Today's agreement on evaluation appeals process in Albany

Dear colleagues,

Today, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s intervention, we reached a groundbreaking agreement with the city on an appeals process for New York City teacher ratings that includes the third-party, independent validation of teacher ratings that we insisted upon to ensure fairness. We do not, however, have a systemwide teacher evaluation agreement in place for New York City.

We asked the governor to get involved a month ago because it was clear that we would never get to an agreement on the appeals process with the Department of Education. We would not have this agreement today if not for the governor’s intervention.

Despite the fact that the mayor said he would never agree to a third-party appeals process, we have that in this agreement. And despite the fact that the mayor said he would never agree to an independent validator with the discretion to agree or disagree on principal’s decisions, this agreement provides for that, too.

The appeals process will not go into effect unless and until Mayor Bloomberg negotiates agreements with the UFT for an overall teacher evaluation deal or for schools eligible for School Improvement Grants.

Even though today’s agreement removes the major sticking point that the mayor identified in our negotiations on the evaluation process for the restart and transformation schools, we still do not have an agreement on these 33 schools.

Here are the highlights of today‘s agreement:

* For the first time, we have an independent panel to review teacher ratings that we believe are based on principal harassment, not job performance.
* There will now be an independent validator to observe and work with all teachers who are rated ineffective.
* Each teacher rated ineffective will have a teacher improvement plan designed to specifically pinpoint that teacher’s deficiencies and how they will be helped to overcome their weaknesses.

For the past 10 years under this administration, 99.6 percent of all teacher ratings have been sustained by the chancellor. This agreement on the appeals process certifies that we will have a much fairer evaluation and appeals system for teachers if we ever get to an overall agreement. We hope that we will be able to negotiate an evaluation system that is designed first and foremost to help teachers get better throughout their careers, applies targeted support for those who are struggling, identifies teachers who cannot be effective to do the tough job of teaching in New York City and does all of this fairly. The agreement today ensures that the overall agreement will be fair. Here are the details of the new evaluation appeals process:

* A teacher who receives a first ineffective rating has a right to appeal that rating to the chancellor, who will have the final say, unless the rating is chosen by the union and designated for the independent panel appeal.

+The union can identify up to 13 percent of all ineffective ratings each year to challenge on grounds of harassment or other matters not related to performance.
+These appeals will each be heard by a panel made up of one person chosen by the UFT, one chosen by the DOE, and a third independent person who will be the chair of the panel.
# If the panel disagrees with the principal‘s rating, then the teacher will no longer have an ineffective rating.
# If the panel agrees with the principal’s rating, the ineffective rating stands.
* A teacher who has an ineffective rating the following year will receive an independent validator. (The person is chosen through a joint process and will not be a UFT or DOE employee.) The independent evaluator will observe the teacher at least three times during the school year and issue a report with his or her rating of the teacher.

* If the independent validator does not agree that the teacher is ineffective, then the DOE may bring 3020a charges but it will have to bear the burden of proving its case and the validator’s report will be part of the evidence.

* If the validator agrees with the rating of the principal, then the DOE will have a right to start 3020a proceedings where the burden of proof now falls on the teacher to prove that he or she is not ineffective.

Once again the UFT is proving that it is willing to work to make the teaching process better. The mayor still doesn’t get it that to achieve real education reform, it’s about helping schools get better, not closing them, and it’s about helping teachers improve, not getting rid of them.
Thank you for your steadfast dedication to the children of our city.

Michael Mulgrew

United Federation of Teachers * A Union of Professionals
52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004 * 212.777.7500 *

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