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Caught In Their Own Web Of Deception and Deceit:
Bloomberg, the DOE and Teacher Evaluation Negotiations

After he blew up the teacher evaluation agreement that had been reached between the UFT and his own NYC DOE negotiating team, Mayor Bloomberg appeared at a hastily called press conference yesterday to spin an entirely fictional account of what had transpired. The UFT had made agreement impossible, he claimed, because of our unreasonable demands for more arbitration dates that would make it impossible to “fire bad teachers,” our “last minute” insistence upon a sunset clause that would have made the entire system a “joke,” and a “middle of the night” effort to change the scoring metrics for teacher evaluation so “no teacher” would be rated ineffective. Each of these claims is a lie, pure and simple. Here I will address the last two of Bloomberg claims, as I was personally involved in the negotiations around them.*

To finalize an agreement over teacher evaluations in New York, two different documents must be developed: a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which lays out in legal language the agreement between district and the union over the new evaluation system, and an application from the local school district to the New York State Education Department which provides scores of assurances that the specific evaluation plans laid out in the MOU conform to state law. Both the head of the school district and the head of the union must sign the local school district’s application. During the last week, as the UFT and the DOE met long into the night in an effort to reach agreement on the terms of the MOU, we asked, again and again, more insistently at each turn, to see the DOE’s draft of their application. It was not until late into Wednesday evening, barely 24 hours before the deadline, that the DOE finally gave us their draft of the application. When we read the draft, it quickly became apparent why they had resisted sharing it with us. Included in the draft were  numerous scoring tables and conversion charts which the UFT was now seeing for the very first time. These tables and charts were very important: embedded in them were fundamental decisions about the shape of the evaluation system. By waiting until the very last minute to provide the union with these numbers, the DOE was trying to sandbag us: it was now impossible to properly vet those numbers before the deadline.

The UFT would have been completely justified in ending the negotiations, then and there. But we did not. Our Measures of Student Learning team met with our DOE counterparts and I met one-on-one with Deputy Chancellor Shael Suransky in efforts on our part to put together an agreement over the scoring numbers and ratings that would ensure that teachers would receive fair and accurate scores and ratings. Bloomberg’s description of these discussions could not be further from the truth: far from a last minute effort on the part of the UFT to change agreed upon scoring metrics, the union was doing everything it could to rescue the negotiations from a bad faith maneuver on the part of the DOE that could have easily derailed any agreement. We agreed to a three part solution: a joint UFT-DOE committee would have to approve the growth formulas which would be used for all of the measures of student learning; any scoring metric which unfairly skewed ratings would have to be recalibrated; and a special expedited appeals process would be established for final ratings which were not concordant with the different component ratings. On Thursday morning, I confirmed this three part agreement in a telephone conversation with Suransky. Over many years of working with the Bloomberg DOE, through the chancellorships of Joel Klein, Cathy Black and Dennis Walcott, I have seen a great deal of cynicism on the part of the mayor and the top DOE leadership, but Bloomberg’s lie that the UFT engaged in an 11th hour effort to undo agreed upon scoring metrics in an effort to protect “bad teachers” is surely a new low in misrepresentation.

The Mayor’s claim that the UFT introduced a “last minute” demand for a sunset clause on the agreement is refuted by the very draft application shared with us. On the very last line of this section of the draft application, the DOE itself had written that the agreement would only last through the 2013-2014 school year. The preponderance of applications from school districts around New York approved had similar sunset clauses: given the sheer complexity of the new teacher evaluation systems required by New York State law, they reasoned that it was only prudent to revisit their implementation in a year or two. All of these applications have been approved by the New York State Education Department. It was the Mayor who, after an agreement had been reached with a sunset clause, insisted on undoing that clause and blowing up the entire agreement. The Council of Supervisors and Administrators, negotiating for a new principal evaluation, also had their agreement blown up by Bloomberg on the very same issue.

After two years of continuous efforts on the part of the UFT to negotiate a teacher evaluation system which would provide New York City public school teachers with the means to hone our skills and craft, and provide our students with the highest quality education, it is now painfully clear that Mayor Bloomberg has no intention of negotiating such an agreement.

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* When the negotiations on teacher evaluation began two years ago, I was a UFT Vice President, and I served as co-chair of the union’s Teacher Evaluation Negotiations Committee. Last September I resigned my position as UFT Vice President to become the Executive Director of the Albert Shanker Institute at the American Federation of Teachers, the UFT’s national union, but I made a commitment to the UFT to see these negotiations to completion and remained involved in them.

 

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12 Comments:

  • 1 Watching from a distance. NY teacher evaluation blows up. « Fred Klonsky
    · Jan 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    […] You can read UFT leader Leo Casey’s description of the bargaining here. […]

  • 2 Why did the negotiations fall apart at the last minute? A Vengeful Mayor? Next Steps? | Ed In The Apple
    · Jan 18, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    […] One of the union negotiators detailed the process including links to department documents which are direct contradictions to claims of the mayor. […]

  • 3 Remainders: Inspectors, anger in reactions to eval deal collapse | GothamSchools
    · Jan 18, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    […] A top UFT negotiator says the city kept parts of its evaluation plan secret until the last minute. (Edwize) […]

  • 4 phyllis c murray
    · Jan 19, 2013 at 3:03 am

    The Mayor must “Do the Right Thing” and make Education a priority in New York City and stop blaming teachers and unions for negotiation failures. Our children are waiting for the quality education the Constitution of the United States guarantees. So,”Do the Right Thing, Mr. Mayor!” http://www.bronx.com/news/education/2713.html

  • 5 Remainders: Inspectors, anger in reactions to eval deal collapse | New York City Informer
    · Jan 19, 2013 at 4:37 am

    […] A top UFT negotiator says the city kept parts of its evaluation plan secret until the last minute. (Edwize) […]

  • 6 Kuntakinte
    · Jan 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Bloomberg blew up the deal because he was not looking for a deal; it’s his way or the highway. In going forward, the UFT should follow a 3-part strategy: Any negotiations on this question should be accompanied by borough-wide town meetings, regular school level and citywide protests. Therefore, we should plan:
    1) Negotiations comprehensively
    2) Borough-wide Town Hall Meetings
    3) School-Level and Citywide Protests

    This is a strategy to educate the public and involve the public and teachers in the conversation.

  • 7 Juan Nieves
    · Jan 20, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    It has become painfully obvious that the mayor has zero interest in the education of minority students. We can also see how he made his money.

  • 8 unfairly blaming the teachers
    · Jan 21, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Where is the needed “media propaganda” from the side of the teachers, to counteract the propaganda that paints us as lazy bums who supposedly think we are above being evaluated?

    I for one would be happy to see some of that PAC money go to help set the record straight: that in NYC (and more and more across the nation), great teachers are being driven out of the profession.

    How? By the use of the “business model” to run public education. For example, money is spent [this kind of money seems to come from a never ending bankroll!] using “constructive dismissal” techniques against veteran teachers — including the use of subjective teacher evaluations and blame-the-teacher overuse of achievement test scores (even where kids have abysmal attendance and no support system at home to get to bed on time, do their homework, and eat breakfast before school, etc.), as a misleading excuse to fire even excellent [read: higher up on the pay scale due to their being in the system long enough] teachers.

    Other aspects of the “business model” include crony appointments of individuals with little or no teaching experience as supposed administrators, who are then given the task of evaluating teachers. Too many of these crony appointees to the “Leadership Academy” have been trained to do nothing but meet DOE goals for saving money, by getting rid of veteran, experienced teachers whom these supposed principals and vps are truly not qualified to evaluate, in too many cases.

    I envision a TV commercial which shows a revolving door: In goes a dewy-eyed TFA-type idealistic youth, and out comes a rumpled, ravaged, disillusioned still-young ex-teacher, carrying a briefcase labeled “Graduate School in anything but Teaching”.

    If Bloomberg’s “Business Model” continues much longer, public education will consist of a series of inexperienced blundering novices who never get to the point of becoming professional teachers, let alone any “master teachers” — continually being replaced by more “fresh meat” who “do their time” and make a hasty retreat or are driven out by incompetant principals.

  • 9 Gregg Lundahl
    · Jan 22, 2013 at 6:14 am

    The usual bad faith effort of this mayor has sullied future deals. Forget the handshake, he is not a man of his word, and be sure to read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line.

  • 10 Kuntakinte
    · Jan 27, 2013 at 12:41 am

    While mayor Bloomberg is slashing school budgets, and cutting off the lifeline of workers citywide, his financial coffers have grown exponentially. The Attorney General should immediately launch an investigation into how Bloomberg came on the job worth ‘only’ four billion dollars and twelve years later, he’s already worth more than twenty-two billion dollars, especially when he avowedly accepted to take in only “one dollar” for his annual salary as mayor of the City of New York.

  • 11 Andy
    · Feb 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    This mayor bought his third term by buying all politicians and broke all the laws, that are made for all New Yorkers. He thinks, just because he has the money power so he can literally do anything and get away with it. Christine Quinn must be held accountable for supporting his third term. New York City is in a mess all because of these two individuals. He is going after teachers and lost his battle twice, in courts. He went after school bus drivers and lost that one too. It is time to get rid of him as a mayor of New York City, before he does more damage to the city.

  • 12 Bridgette Jackson
    · Feb 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    There are several ways of changing the way in which teachers are evaluated. One way could be to incorporate registered, approved school volunteers in a “checks and balances process” where they also sit in on teacher evaluations and combine their observations with that of administrators. Any discrepancies between the two would be discussed in a post conference before a final rating is submitted.

    -Bridgette Jackson
    Author of Drive Thru Teachers: The McDonaldization of the Classroom Teacher