By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, a former public school teacher, said he agreed with the new teacher evaluation system unveiled by New York State Education Commissioner John King on June 1, but he also stated that the Bloomberg Administration and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) should have come up with an agreement on teacher evaluations so that it would not have been necessary for the the state to step in.
“Had the UFT and the mayor put down their swords and talked like adults, we would be discussing a plan crafted by teachers, parents, and administrators, rather than by Albany,” said Albanese, who taught health at John Jay High School in Park Slope more than 30 years ago. “Instead, they bickered and put our school system at the mercy of the state,” he said. Albanese left teaching to go into politics and served as Bay Ridge’s councilman for 16 years.
The failure of the mayor and the UFT to come to an agreement on how the performances of teachers in classrooms would be evaluated forced the state to step in and set up a system, Albanese said. The lack of an agreement also cost the state’s education system an estimated $250 million in federal money, officials said.
Under the evaluation system King announced on Friday, 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation grade would be determined by how well students perform on standardized tests. Another 20 percent will come from an assessment by a local panel. Sixty percent would come from classroom observations by the teacher’s supervisors. If a teacher receives the lowest grade two years in a row, that teacher would be fired, even if he or she has tenure. Starting in 2014, five percent of the score will come from students surveys.
"At first glance, Commissioner King appears to be imposing a pretty reasonable teacher evaluation plan on the city. Unlike the Bloomberg administration, King does not seem to delight in the firing of teachers. The new system adopts several provisions that I have discussed at length on the campaign trail, including flexibility and local control of the factors that go into evaluating teachers. It makes room for principals, teachers, and students to have a say,” Albanese said.
“Make no mistake: this isn't a major victory for anybody. As someone who taught in our classrooms and served in government, I won't be satisfied until we have a sea change in the relationship between City Hall and our schools,” he said.
Both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and UFT President Michael Mulgrew expressed support for the King plan.
“New York City teachers will now have additional protections and opportunities to play a larger role in the development of the measures used to rate them. Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s desire for a ‘gotcha’ system, as Commissioner King noted today, New York City ‘is not going to fire its way to academic success.’” Mulgrew said in a statement on June 1.
Mulgrew also hinted that the UFT is willing to wait it out until a new mayor is elected. “The precise measures of student learning established by this ruling will be in effect unless and until they are altered in collective bargaining with the new mayor who takes office in seven months,” he said.
Bloomberg called the new system, “a historic chance to help our students and improve our schools by giving our teachers the support that they need to grow professionally, and by giving our principals who manage the schools the tools they need to remove teachers who – after getting additional support – just don’t seem to be able to measure up.”
Taking a shot at the UFT, the mayor said that King’s decision was “a huge rebuff to the UFT’s obstructionism and a great victory for our students.”