Thursday, May 30, 2013

Buffalo Teachers Fed.'s Evaluations Suit - MOU Too Embarrassing for Mulgrew to Let NYC Teachers See

BUFFALO TEACHERS FEDERATION SUIT OVER PUNITIVE EVALUATIONS - CONTRAST TO UFT ENDORSEMENT OF PUNITIVE SYSTEM - EMBARRASSING TO MULGREW WHO'S IGNORED ALBANY RALLY
Just two days from now, New York City teachers probably will have a New York State-imposed evaluation system. But another red-letter day looms: the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) by all indications plans to file a notice of claim June 1 for a lawsuit to fight their evaluation system.
This is a hugely significant suit, as the BTF is aggressively fighting a flawed evaluation system, over termination use of evaluations. Whereas, the New York City teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), has promoted evaluation plans which carry terminations. Michael Mulgrew, the latter union's president casts a value-added plus Danielson Framework evaluation structure --plus a termination tie-in-- as a fair reform. (The latter union's givebacks in the last three years amount to a de facto contract.)
At the heart of the Buffalo Teacher Federation's fight are evaluations and the punitive use of them, toward 3020a terminations of teachers. The union did not trust the application of the evaluations. It secured a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Buffalo School District, pledging that they would not be used in a punitive manner to render negative evaluations. The New York State Education Department, State Education Commissioner John King, and Governor Andrew Cuomo are claiming that the agreement is illegal. The BTF is standing by their guns. State officials claim that the agreement was not submitted for approval as part of the districts' official teacher-evaluation procedure, according to Buffalo News reporter Sandra Tan. Buffalo's evaluation fight has gained national attention at the Education Week blog. In a parallel case of Los Angeles, Diane Ravitch in her blog last October cited the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) as a "Hero of Public Education," recognizing that value added modeling of teachers is "inaccurate, invalid and unstable." In similar fashion as the BTF would do this spring, the UTLA refused to sign off on the district's request for Race to the Top funds because doing so would subject members to value-added assessment.
"WE'RE GOING TO FIGHT TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY DON'T USE OUR KIDS AS PAWNS IN ORDER FOR US TO GET THIS MONEY" --BTF president Philip Rumore
Excerpts from Sandra Tan's "BTF going to court to enforce teacher-evaluation agreement" in "The Buffalo News," May 9, 2013:
The BTF Executive Committee unanimously approved the resolution to take legal action against the district by June 1 and file additional grievances for “non-adherence” to a pact the district made with the union in January. The agreement stated that the district would not use two years of teacher evaluations as grounds for termination.
“We will leave no stone unturned to make sure these evaluations, which everybody now realizes were flawed, aren’t being held against our teachers,” said BTF President Philip Rumore.
. . . .
Legal action by the teachers union could threaten the status of more than $30 million in state aid this year, in addition to more than $10 million in various other government funding this year and tens of millions in future years.
Rumore said the BTF will work with the New York State United Teachers union to legally challenge any effort by the state to withhold funds from the Buffalo Public Schools.
“We’re going to fight to make sure that they don’t use our kids as pawns in order for us to get this money,” he said.
Finally, the BTF may still consider rescinding, by vote of all Buffalo teachers, its approval of the teacher evaluations for the last two school years.
CARROT AND STICK or SHADES OF DANIELSON THINGS TO COME?
The use of the evaluations plan has already confirmed Buffalo teachers' suspicions, with virtually blanket ineffective ratings in certain schools.
In 2011-12, Buffalo was one of a handful of districts across the state receiving federal school-improvement grants.
To qualify for the money, the district had to have a state-approved teacher-evaluation plan in place at the six schools receiving the grants: Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Institute; International School 45; and Bennett, Riverside, South Park and Burgard high schools.
That means the 400 or so teachers at those six schools were evaluated last year. They got their evaluations about two months ago, and many reportedly were rated “ineffective.”
. . . .
Much of the resolution highlights what the union considers to be significant flaws in the teacher-evaluation formula.
In one Buffalo school, it states, 11 teachers were rated “effective” on all 22 classroom indicators but still wound up with a composite score of “ineffective.”
In other cases, where two teachers worked with the same set of students, one received 20 evaluation points, while the other teacher received zero.
BTF RESOLUTION STRONGLY ASSERTS THAT NO NYS DISTRICT WOULD CONCEDE TO UNTESTED EVALUATION SYSTEM WITH PUNISHMENT CONNECTION; BUT MULGREW AND UFT DID
“Buffalo teachers and teachers across New York State would not have entered into agreements utilizing untested, untried evaluation systems without assurances that due to its untested procedures, it would not be used against them,” the BTF executive committee statement said.
For months now, off the major media grid, people have written and talked about a seven percent quota of teachers that the UFT has agreed will be lined up for unsatisfactory "U" ratings in end of year evaluations by the New York City Department of Education, setting them in line for 3020a hearings to be stripped of their state teaching license.
NYC Educator has eloquently written earlier this week on this issue, in "Lucky 7." (NYC Educator has written an equally important, informative piece on how easily VAM evaluations have been used to terminate teachers or deny them tenure.) This is concession, along with the NYC DoE-UFT agreement on another quota, 13 percent, the figure for the cases that the UFT will agree take to an independent arbitrator. These concessions stand in bold contrast to the BTF which secured an MOU precisely against the use of evaluations for terminations. Note further the qualifier in Tan's article --the state does not require termination hearings for two successive ineffective ratings: "The state law allows districts – but does not explicitly require them – to pursue termination for any teacher who gets rated “ineffective” two years in a row. It also states that schools “shall” use the evaluations in employment decisions, including terminations." [Emphasis mine.]
The UFT already has conceded this point.

WHILE THE BTF RESISTED, THE UFT WENT ALONG WITH ALL THE KEY POINTS
As is apparent from reportage going back over a year, the BTF has had friction over this issue for a while. This suit is the culmination. On the other hand, the UFT, under Mulgrew's leadership, has always went along, not grudgingly, but enthusiastically, along with the Danielson Frameworks, along with value-added modeling based on student high-stakes test scores. Never in Mulgrew's statements about Bloomberg or the city did you ever hear Mulgrew make a principled statement against VAM, test-based evaluations. It is a big mistake when people swoon over his sneers against NYC mayor Bloomberg. Judge Mulgrew by his actions, collaborating with the reformers on the key points.

IMPLICIT SILENCES IN MULGREW'S LETTER ON IMPENDING EVALUATIONS
Note Mulgrew's letter (reprinted at the end of this post) on the impending Cuomo/King-imposed evaluation scheme. Never in his statement does he say anything re repeat ineffective/unsatisfactory ratings and the termination tie-in. He has caved in on yet another critical point.

TOO EMBARRASSING TO ACTUALLY FIGHT CUOMO?
If Mulgrew confronts Cuomo, he risks the contradiction of his UFT --which supports Cuomo and other Democrats through Committee on Political Education (COPE) contributions-- confronting allied Democrats. The Insurgent Teacher blog, in "Buffalo school officials and BTF going back to court," (May 11, 2013) argues that Cuomo is too beholden to wealthy benefactors. The IT blog points out:
Sadly, the equity firms, banks, and hedge fund investors were the largest donors to politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo who sought out Democrats for Education Reform for support and donations. In return these politicians including the NYS Board of Regents coalesced to revamp education law and to install state education commissioners sympathetic to their reform agenda.
And it was to weaken the unions especially teachers and rid the system of tenure by copying a system of employee evaluations developed in the private sector, where the vast majority are at-will employees.
TOO EMBARRASSING AND RISKY TO PUT RANK AND FILE UFT MEMBERS NEAR BTF MEMBERS JUNE 8?

The May NSYUT newspaper, as this blog noted two weeks ago, has struck a far more critical tone re the high-stakes testing mania and how it is affecting our profession; and the same paper drummed up support for attending a June 8 rally at Albany's Empire State Plaza, near the legislature and the NYSED building. (See these links, here and here, for social media connections.) Given the critical (lest we say militant) stances that the BTF is taking --in contrast to the UFT's collaboration (forget about capitulation)-- Mulgrew and the UFT would definitely not want rank and file UFT members anywhere near their Buffalo sisters and brothers. People might start asking questions about evaluation system, their unions' stance, Merryl Tisch's role in evaluations, and too much more. Too uncomfortable as the UFT grooms Tisch-supported Bill Thompson for mayor, and here.
# # #
What Mulgrew has to say, as his friend, Andrew Cuomo's evaluation imposition looms [Again, note his skirting of the termination tie-in question, the whole issue at stake in the BTF's lawsuit]:
Dear colleagues,
Late on Saturday, June 1, State Education Commissioner John King is expected to release an evaluation plan for K-12 teachers in New York City. It will be done through a binding arbitration process and take effect in September.
The mayor and the DOE will no doubt try to spin Commissioner King’s decision to their advantage. The UFT staff will be working through Sunday to get accurate information about the new system out to you by Monday morning in a form that is both clear and concise.
The process to create a new evaluation system has been long and contentious. The final decision came to rest with the commissioner because the city Department of Education proved incapable of negotiating in good faith with us.
The UFT and the DOE each submitted lengthy proposals to the State Education Department on May 8. Arbitration hearings are taking place in Albany today and tomorrow. Commissioner King will consider the proposals and decide on the final evaluation system on June 1.
We have the opportunity to use our collective-bargaining rights to modify aspects of the evaluation plan during future contract negotiations. Practically speaking, since we are in fact-finding now, if any changes were negotiated, they would not take effect until the 2014-15 school year.
Because the commissioner’s plan must be in accordance with the 2010 state law on teacher evaluation that this union supported and helped shape, we expect it to be fair, professional and focused on teacher development to the benefit of our students. The new evaluation system as set out in state law is designed first and foremost to help teachers improve their skills throughout their careers. Teachers who are struggling will get support tailored to their individual needs.
We have our work cut out for us in September, given this DOE’s terrible track record of translating policy to practice compounded with the fact that they will probably be gone come Jan. 1. We have started working on a professional development plan and we will use our rights to make sure that the new system is implemented fairly. It is a big help that we already have an appeals process for New York City teachers nailed down that will give our members stronger due process rights than they have ever had. I hope this email clarifies where we are and what we can expect. Working together, we will make this transition. You can count on your union to continue to fight to get you the support you deserve. Thank you for all that you do for our city’s schoolchildren.
Sincerely,
Michael Mulgrew
POSTSCRIPT: As Ravitch said in the above-cited post, the UTLA is a hero union for its stance on value-added modeling.
Because it has remained true to principle, because it insists on evidence-based evaluation, because it insists on honest accounting for the public’s dollars, UTLA is a hero of public education and joins the honor roll.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation is taking a parallel stance in refusing to allow teacher evaluations be used in teacher terminations. The UFT should act on principle and follow these other big city unions' leads.