the deets

Cuomo: Process to impose city's eval system would start in May


Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to have state education officials impose teacher evaluations on New York City would begin in just three months, he announced today in Albany.

Premiering a slate of budget amendments that he will formally propose on Thursday, Cuomo said he would ask legislators to approve an amendment that would allow the state education commissioner to select a plan well in advance of Sept. 1, the deadline for districts to have evaluation plans in place for the 2013-2014 school year.

“What this law will say is that the State Education Department must render a decision by June 1 for the September deadline,” Cuomo said.

In late May, the city and United Federation of Teachers would be asked to submit their proposals for what an evaluation system should look like, according to Lawrence Schwartz, Cuomo’s top aide. But all of the details would be fully up to State Education Commissioner John King, as long as they follow the state’s evaluation law, Cuomo said.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew signaled that he would not mind letting King have the final say on the evaluation system that is adopted in the city.

“We’ve seen the kinds of plans the state has approved. We are comfortable with them because they are about helping teachers help kids, which is something that we don’t often hear from the city,” Mulgrew said. “So while I would prefer to get to a negotiated settlement, with this in place I know a deal will get done.”

Under the proposed law, King would have “the same legal authority that any school district has in designing an evaluation system,” Cuomo said. That means he could impose a deal for just one year — as many districts across the state did this year and Mayor Bloomberg has refused to do — or for multiple years.

But a multiyear system system that King imposes could be superseded by a deal in the city, Cuomo said. “That’s the prerogative of the mayor — assuming mayoral control continues,” he said.

The law itself would be permanent, so that if New York City in any year in the future does not have an evaluation system in place, the state education commissioner could step in, Cuomo said.

In a joint statement, King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch indicated that they were not eager to receive new authority over teacher evaluations.

“Hopefully, Governor Cuomo’s leadership will push New York City and its bargaining units to reach an agreement,” King and Tisch said in a joint statement. “But if they can’t meet their responsibility, we stand ready to move forward to meet the parameters the governor has laid out.”

Advocates of new teacher evaluations championed Cuomo’s announcement. But they were also cautious, noting that exactly what King would impose is not yet clear.

“Obviously we await the details of the legislation, which are important, and the decisions that face the State Education Department will be critical,” Micah Lasher of StudentsFirstNY said in a statement. “But this is a big day for New York City’s kids, and New York State’s status as a leader on education reform.”

And Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of Educators 4 Excellence, which this week launched a television ad urging Cuomo to take quicker action, praised Cuomo for “taking the bull by the horns and getting something done” in a saga where stalemate has been the rule. But he urged Cuomo to restore the state aid he withheld from New York City when it failed to adopt new teacher evaluations last month.

“With a state plan now imminent, we are urging the governor to revisit the decision to rescind $250 million in aid to New York City students and teachers, who by no fault of their own will face the unfortunate consequences of the failure of their local leaders to get the job done,” Schleifer said.

Cuomo did not put that option on the table today. Schwartz said the objective in having King impose an evaluation system, in addition to helping teachers improve, would be to ensure that “the schoolkids in New York City won’t lose out on the additional $250 million next year.”

dollars and cents

New York City teacher salaries to range from $61,070 to $128,657 in new contract

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
The pay increases included in the new contract are marginal. UFT President Michael Mulgrew (right) and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza (left) announced the new agreement Thursday along with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Starting salaries for a first-year New York City teacher will increase over the next three years to $61,070, up from $56,711 this year, according to a salary schedule released Friday by the United Federation of Teachers.

Unlike the first contract under Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in 2014, the pay increases included in the new contract are marginal. In that contract, starting teacher pay jumped by almost 20 percent — nearly $10,000 — because city teachers had gone without an updated contract for five years.

[Related: More money for New York City teachers in contract deal, but is it a raise? Some are pushing back]

The 2019-2022 contract, announced four months before the current one is due to expire, includes annual raises of 2, 2.5, and 3 percent. Teachers have criticized the increases as insufficient to keep up with rising living costs.

“Furious my beloved @UFT wants me to support a contract that doesn’t even include cost of living increases when I teach in one of most expensive housing markets in USA,” tweeted Samantha Rubin.

Under the contract agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the UFT’s members, the maximum salary for teachers will rise from $119,565 to $128,657. The proposed salary schedule details how much teachers earn based on how many years they’ve been working and how many education credits they’ve accrued.

The union posted the schedule as part of a massive document dump aimed at explaining the new contract. Those documents include an outline of the proposed changes and the agreement signed by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, which also made several policy changes that will affect schools and classrooms.

Friday afternoon, the UFT’s 3,400-member delegate assembly will meet and vote to recommend the proposed contract to all 129,000 members.

Some members have complained that the vote feels rushed. The agreement was announced Thursday afternoon and the memorandum was still being finalized in the hours before the delegate vote.

“It strikes me as sort of Republican Senate power play to just ram something through before anyone has a chance to read the contract,” said Will Ehrenfeld, an American history teacher at P-Tech and a union delegate. “I think it’s really unacceptable to not get details.”

Mulgrew defended the process, saying “everyone is going to have a couple of weeks to read the entire memorandum.”

You can read the full memorandum below.

Christina Veiga and Alex Zimmerman contributed.

Teacher quality

Teachers getting better under Tennessee’s controversial evaluation system, says new analysis

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick/Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s overhaul of its system for evaluating teachers has coincided with real and measurable benefits for students and teachers alike, says an analysis released Thursday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The controversial changes — which since 2011 have required more frequent and rigorous evaluations aligned to student outcomes — have rankled teachers but also made a difference when it comes to teacher retention and students’ academic growth, according to the research and policy group, which backs extensive reforms to teacher preparation and evaluation.

Teachers earning highly effective ratings are generally being retained at a higher rate than less effective teachers across Tennessee. An increasing number of districts logged the highest levels of student growth on state assessments during three school years ending in the spring of 2017. And a recent survey found that 72 percent of educators believe the evaluation process has improved their teaching, up from 38 percent in 2012.

However, other research paints a much less encouraging picture of evaluation reforms, particularly a recent study commissioned by the Gates Foundation that showed few gains in student achievement under the extensive changes, including in Tennessee’s largest district in Shelby County.

The newest analysis spotlights Tennessee as one of six places that are pioneering evaluation systems aimed at improving the quality of teaching. The others are New Mexico and districts in Dallas, Denver, the District of Columbia, and Newark, New Jersey.

All six use both student test scores and classroom observations to evaluate all of their teachers every year, giving significant weight to student learning. They also feature at least three rating categories, a big change from the days when teachers were assessed as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory, with almost all earning the former rating.

Perhaps most significantly, each of the systems highlighted in the analysis link evaluation results to opportunities to earn higher pay. In Tennessee, districts are now required to differentiate compensation based on educator ratings or one of two other criteria: additional roles and responsibilities, or serving in hard-to-staff schools or subject areas.

The changes have happened in the decade since the National Council on Teacher Quality analyzed state and local regulations affecting teachers and called out evaluation policies across America as broken, counterproductive, and badly in need of an overhaul.

Not surprisingly, the switch to new systems has been hard.

In Tennessee, educators found the revamped evaluation model cumbersome, confusing, and opaque after its launch was rushed to help the state win a $500 million federal award in 2010. That feedback contributed to ongoing tweaks to teacher training and evaluation systems, outlined in another new report from FutureEd, a second policy think tank favoring evaluation reforms.

“None of these systems were perfect out of the gate,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, the group behind this week’s analysis. “System leaders recognized this and worked continuously to enhance system design, implementation, and use.”

But the backlash continues to bubble up in Tennessee, especially as the state’s messy transition to a computerized assessment has undermined the credibility of student test scores and prompted a recent legislative order to mostly disregard this year’s results in evaluations.

Last April, the testing problems overshadowed another study by Brown University researchers who reported that Tennessee teachers are showing substantial, career-long improvement under the state’s reforms. The finding was important because of some previous research that teacher improvement is relatively fixed, with most development coming in the first three to five years of a teacher’s career and then plateauing.

Despite the upbeat assessments in the NCTQ, Brown, and FutureEd reports, the future of Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system — which is now fully integrated into other systems for teacher preparation, licensure, support, and dismissal — is uncertain due to testing headaches that call into question the evaluation’s accuracy and fairness. The Gates study, which also found that low-income Memphis students didn’t necessarily get more access to effective teachers under evaluation reforms, hasn’t helped.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has championed the reforms started by his Democratic predecessor and is urging the next administration to stay the course. His education chief says the latest analysis is a testament to the importance of incorporating student achievement into teacher ratings.

“Our evaluation model has developed the capacity of teachers to improve, put student growth at the center of our work, and established an expectation of continuous improvement,” Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement. “Even better, it’s working.”