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Teachers union and city reach deal on evaluations

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 2/24/2012, 11:18 a.m.
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A deal is finally done.

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and New York State reached an agreement last Thursday on an appeals process for New York City teachers, which will include an independent third party overseeing the evaluation process.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew, in a statement, said that he's happy with the deal and hopes that both parties can move forward...with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's help.

"The appeal 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," he said. "I want to congratulate Governor Cuomo and NYSUT for their hard work in finding common ground on the statewide issues that separated them. Their agreement recognizes that students are more than a test score."

As part of the agreement, there will be an independent panel to review teacher ratings that the UFT believes is based on principal harassment, not job performance. There will be an independent party observing and working with teachers who are rated "ineffective." According to the state, "The commissioner has the authority to require corrective action, including the use of independent evaluators, when districts evaluate their teachers positively regardless of students' academic progress." All evaluations must be done annually by Sept. 1.

While the AmNews did contact the state Education Department for their perspective, they simply referred us back to their press release from last week.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said, "The goal is and always has been to help students--to give them every opportunity to succeed in college and careers. To make that happen, we need to improve teaching and learning.

"We owe it to our students to make sure every classroom is led by an effective teacher and every school is led by an effective principal. Today, the governor's leadership and his commitment to our students have helped us take a strong step toward that goal."

New York State Gov.Andrew Cuomo said in a release last week, "Today's agreement puts in place a groundbreaking new statewide teacher evaluation system that will put students first and make New York 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."

In December, talks fell apart due to the UFT's request for an outside arbitrator to hear teachers' appeals when they're given negative evaluations. During Cuomo's state budget address in January, he threatened to introduce a teacher evaluation system of his own if the state Education Department, the city of New York and the school employee unions couldn't agree on one.

Not setting up a proper evaluation system would've cost the state of New York $700 million in federal funding set aside for education.