Mayor Still Wants to Close 33 Schools
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
NEW YORK — The New York State Education Department and the state teachers union reached a last-minute agreement Thursday on a new teacher evaluation system, beating a deadline imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who had threatened to impose his own evaluation system if an agreement wasn't reached.
Under the agreement, 60 percent of a teacher's evaluation will be based on classroom observations by a school administrator. The remaining points will be based upon student performance on state tests and could also include other factors, such as observations by independent evaluators and peers, and student and parent feedback.
A teacher evaluation system was a condition of $700 million granted through the federal Race to the Top program, and the lack of such an agreement was the rationale behind Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to close 33 troubled city schools and fire half of their teachers.
The governor, New York State Education Commissioner John King and New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi announced the agreement, which they said would make New York state "a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement."
"This agreement is exactly what is needed to transform our state's public education system, and I am pleased that by working together and putting the needs of students ahead of politics we were able to reach this agreement," Cuomo said.
New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi said, "We believe today's agreement is good for students and fair to teachers. It includes two principles we believe are essential. First, a child is more than a standardized test score. While there is a place for standardized testing in measuring teacher effectiveness, tests must be used appropriately.
"Secondly, the purpose of evaluations must be to help all teachers improve and to advance excellence in our profession. This agreement acknowledges those key principles."
Mayor Bloomberg said the agreement was good news. "It will help us to create a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation system that will ensure that teachers who are rated 'ineffective' can be given the support they need to grow -- or be moved out of the classroom."
He added, however, that the agreement had no effect on his plans to close the 33 schools. "Let me make two points. First, nothing in this deal prevents us from moving forward with our plan to replace the lowest-performing teachers in 33 of our most struggling schools so we can immediately begin turning them around and giving our students the support they need.
"And second: While there are still issues that the city and UFT will be discussing in order to finalize an evaluation system, this resolves the lion's share of the most difficult issues. And the details remain to be worked out by staffs, but keep in mind, the UFT and the city are always talking, and there are always things that we are coming to agreements on."
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said, "The UFT and the governor have reached an agreement on an appeal process for New York City teachers that includes the kind of independent, third-party component that the UFT has been seeking."
But he added that Mayor Bloomberg's rationale for closing the schools was now history. "Chancellor Walcott asserted that the city needed to close 33 SIG schools because there was no agreement possible on an appeals process for teachers. That process has now been laid out for the SIG schools. Despite this agreement, Mayor Bloomberg still seems determined to close those schools."
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio agreed. "This agreement erases the Bloomberg Administration's flawed rationale for closing 33 schools and firing half of their teachers - a plan intended as a threat to wring concessions from the UFT. The mayor must immediately halt those plans and recognize that today's historic announcement deserves the city's complete support."