Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott have made it harder for teachers to achieve tenure, again pitting the administration against teachers and the UFT.

Under stricter evaluation criteria that recently went into effect, only 58 percent of the 5,209 eligible teachers received tenure, Bloomberg crowed at a news conference at the Department of Education last week. Thirty-nine percent of eligible teachers had their tenure decision deferred and three percent were denied completely.

“The process of granting tenure must be rigorous but it also must be consistent and transparent,” said UFT Secretary Michael Mendel. “We have serious questions about how the DOE reached these conclusions and concerns that they failed to base these decisions on pedagogy or job performance.”

Almost 99 percent of teachers who were eligible as recently as five years ago were granted tenure, par for course with school districts around the country as well.

Teachers are now rated on a four-point scale (highly effective, effective, developing, ineffective) to determine tenure. Also taken into account are classroom observations, parental feedback and student test scores.

Two weeks before Bloomberg’s press conference, UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote to Walcott advising him to consider the union’s concerns regarding the “troubling reports of teachers and other pedagogues with regard to their probationary period being extended for reasons entirely unrelated to their performance.”

He wrote that the union has been hearing anecdotal reports of teacher probations being extended because a principal failed to complete required classroom observations or was new to the school.

Mulgrew also pointed out a correlation between teachers having their probations extended and low progress report grades of their schools.

“We are outraged if teachers are having their probation extended because of the DOE’s total inability to effectively manage its workforce or for other reasons that have nothing to do with individual performance,” said Mulgrew. Thirty teachers had their probation extended in 2006. Last year, the number rose to 465.

According to New York State law, general procedures for tenure decisions are outlined but the details are left to districts. Bloomberg added last week, “We’ve turned what had been a joke interpretation of the state law to make it something that you have to work hard for, earn and show that you’re better than the average bear,” the mayor said.

According to Mulgrew, the UFT asked Walcott for more detailed information about tenure decisions so the union could assess if the DOE has complied with state law and with the contract. As of press time, the DOE hadn’t provided the UFT with that information.