Archive for October, 2013

Resolution on evaluations based entirely on test scores

The following resolution was introduced by New Action at the October 21, 2014 Executive Board. Jonathan Halabi motivated. LeRoy Barr rose and moved to table (remove from consideration without a vote), which the body did.

Resolution on evaluations based entirely on test scores

Whereas, New York State Education Law requires the use of State Measures (test scores), Local measures (often test scores), and Other Measures (including classroom observations), and

Whereas the input of the principal only occurs in Other Measures (including classroom observations), but

Whereas New York State Education Law provides that a teacher who is rated in the lowest category for Local Measures (often test scores) and State Measures (test scores) is automatically rated Ineffective overall, without Other Measures (including classroom observations) counting at all, and

Whereas, we believe that the principal’s evaluation of a teacher should be part of any rating process,

Therefore, be it RESOLVED the United Federation of Teachers make it a legislative priority to remove from NY State Law any provision that makes it possible to rate a teacher ineffective entirely on test scores, and be it further

Resolved the UFT will discuss this priority with the Mayor-Elect, in order that we might jointly lobby the New York State Legislature to effect this change.

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Report from UFT October 21 Executive Board

There were no speakers for the open mike.

Mulgrew gave the president’s report. He wrote letters to King, Walcott, Cuomo, and Duncan about massive special education violations. We need a wish list for the new administration.  We need a plan to restructure the NYC school system (we don’t want the current system; we don’t want to go back to the old system). We need changes in our teacher evaluation agreement. MOSL. Other districts in the state – some have horrible formulas, some have great formulas – he mentioned one district (I don’t think he named it) where 97% of teachers were effective or highly effective. We need a longer menu. Student projects should count. And we must restart the evaluation system, since the DoE rolled it out this year (I didn’t get his exact words, but the sense was that this was done badly).

There were no questions during the question period, but Emil Pietromonaco responded to several questions from the previous meeting of the Exec Board:  There are over 1700 ATRs, about 100 less than this time last year. There were 270 September retirements, consistent with numbers from the previous two years. There are now 17 Union Initiated grievances against the DoE’s implementation of the new evaluation system – the top four are:  1. Outside Evidence (principals rating things that were not part of an observation or an artifact), 2. Photos of lesson plans and other artifacts used for “evidence” 3. Multiple Observers 4. Goal Setting

There were many reports from Districts about various conferences and events, including the Strides Walk. George Altomare and Ellen Procida discussed a class-size win (it related to music classes, but I didn’t catch the details. George testified about teaching guitar, and Ellen mentioned something about the number 50, so perhaps the DoE was arguing that 50, which is the limit for required music classes, was also the limit for instrumental instruction)

There was no legislative report

There were two resolutions during the special orders of business.

1. Supporting Obama and the Democratic Senate Majority – this was written in relation to the fiscal cliff, so in a sense was dated. But there are new deadlines in January and February, and so the resolution was written to support and protect the Affordable Care Act, and extended by amendment offered by the Retired Teachers Chapter to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid against anything the GOP might try to pull in the Budget Commission. George Altomare motivated (and amended). Passed unanimously

2. Resolution on evaluations based entirely on test scores. Jonathan Halabi (me, New Action), motivated.  I said there were other changes that needed to be made in our evaluation system, including at the local level through renegotiation, but I was addressing a change that needs to be made in the State Law – if a teacher is rated highly by the principal on all 22 elements of Danielson, but gets I’s on both the State and Local measures, then the observations and principal’s evaluation of the teacher don’t count – are not allowed to count.

LeRoy Barr got up, essentially said that it’s complicated and that in the past principals had total control. “None of the local 20% should be based on test scores.” He then moved to table (remove the item from consideration without a yes or a no vote.)  The motion to table passed with only New Action voting against.

The resolution is posted here.

New Action Caucus has ten seats on the UFT Executive Board – the only ten seats that do not belong to Unity Caucus.

Ten is not enough to win anything – but it allows our voice to be heard, it allows us to put forward resolutions, and when there is agreement, to put forward resolutions the leadership signs onto. It allows us to offer amendments. It allows us to bring issues to the leadership.

At Exec after Exec, Unity members sit and listen. Some never speak. Most rarely speak. But New Action usually has questions, comments, resolutions, or amendments.

This year we will publish reports – sometimes on the entire Exec Board, sometimes just on New Action’s contribution.

High Stakes Tests Make Kids Sick

This Wednesday the UFT passed a resolution that says, in part

“the current intensity of the standardized test taking and test prep affects children emotionally and physically leading to anxiety, frustration, low self-esteem, headaches, and other physical ailments”

This text was offered as an amendment by Maria Ramos, a New Action leader at the September 23 UFT Executive Board meeting, and it was accepted as friendly.

Maria spoke to the amendment:

Over the years as a school psychologist in the spring just before the ELA and math tests are administered I conduct “De-Stress the Test” Workshops to students, teachers and at PTA meetings. I have also observed 2nd graders take pilot tests. I have conducted hundreds of interviews with students as well. I begin by writing one word on the Smart Board and circle it. “Tests”. I asked the students how that word makes you feel.  90% of the responses are the same: “I’m scared”, “I’m sad”, and “I’m afraid”. “I don’t want to be left back”, “nervous”, “tired”. Children also complain of sleeplessness, headaches and stomachs. This borders on child abuse.  I don’t need to tell you how stressed out teachers are. The parents’ responses are interestingly the similar to their children.

Teacher Evaluation – What’s Coming? and What Next?

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2013 Citywide Chapter Leaders Meeting).
For a printable version click: NA/UFT DA Leaflet October 2013

What’s coming?

This storm is just starting. Many teachers have as yet to be observed. We are 11 months away from year-end ratings. Very few of us have begun to digest that low scores on the 20% State and 20% Local Measures Components will trump the judgment of a principal who supports you and thinks you are effective.

And we are a full year from teachers with I’s working in fear of their jobs, and teachers with D’s having to report both to their own principal and to an outside administrator.

And, little as we like to think of it, we are almost two years from at least hundreds of tenured teachers being fired.

What Next?

We should continue fighting problems caused by the DoE’s unfaithful implementation of the system King imposed. We should look to renegotiate many of the problematic aspects.

But at its core, this is a system that rests on rating teachers based on standardized test scores, that weakens tenure. We need to go back to Albany and advocate for a repeal of the misguided legislation that led to this evaluation system.

Three Resolutions

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2013 Citywide Chapter Leaders Meeting).
For a printable version click: NA/UFT DA Leaflet October 2013

Lesson Plan Resolution

New Action Executive Board member, Bill Goldman, Chapter Leader of Tottenville HS, presented the resolution on lesson plan format on September 23, 2013. New Action wrote the initial draft, which was shaped into a bipartisan resolution. There is already a Union Initiated (UI) grievance. Our union must use all means available to ensure that the new teacher does not eviscerate our hard fought for contractual rights. We urge all chapter leaders and delegates to communicate with the members in their chapters reminding them of their rights regarding lesson plans.

Tests make kids sick

Tonight we have a resolution calling on the PEP to end the overemphasis on standardized testing. This resolution could go further, but nonetheless deserves support.

New Action leader Maria Ramos rose to amend this at the September 23 Executive Board:

“the current intensity of the standardized test taking and test prep affects children emotionally and physically leading to anxiety, frustration, low self-esteem, headaches and other physical ailments.”

Hear hear! The amendment was unanimously adopted.

Moratorium on Consequences for High Stakes Tests

No one opposes standards. But there is a vast chasm between standards and the mania for standardized testing, especially when such dire consequences are attached to the results. Standardized tests are being used to grade schools, close schools, destroy the morale of the school community and now to evaluate teachers.

New Action sharply disagrees with the UFT leadership regarding the Common Core, the new Teacher Evaluation system (or even the need for one), and the potential abuse by administrators in issuing “ineffectives” to teachers. But we wholeheartedly agree with the call to put a moratorium on consequences for high stakes standardized tests.

The Teacher Evaluation Train Wreck is Unfolding Before Us…

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the September 2013 Citywide Chapter Leaders Meeting).
For a printable version click: NA/UFT DA Leaflet October 2013

The Teacher Evaluation Train Wreck is Unfolding Before Us

Since January 2010, New Action’s record on a new Teacher Evaluation System and Teacher Tenure is clear: New Action/UFT absolutely opposes linking student test scores to teacher evaluation and tenure decisions. At the June 2013 UFT Executive Board, Jonathan Halabi, New Action co-chair, spoke against the newly imposed teacher evaluation system announced by NYS ed commissioner John King.

Today in the schools there is a mess. Principals were not well-trained in the new system, and many are making it up as they go along. Some are rating items they do not observe.  In some schools our contractual rights to plan our lessons is being infringed upon. There is routine collection of lesson plans; there are schools where lesson plan format is being dictated. There are observations being conducted not according to the agreement, or observations occurring before planning conferences, or planning conferences not scheduled at all. And when a teacher disagrees with the principal, there is no recourse.

Teachers are now reading the Danielson Framework and are angry about aspects. For the first time there is some focus on Domain 4. Will you be downgraded for not participating in an after school activity that your principal asks you to attend? For not at least once a year reporting a colleague’s disparaging remark about a child? (what if you don’t hear one?) For disagreeing with the principal’s rating of an aspect of your lesson?

 

Report from UFT October 7 Executive Board

Open mike – there was only one speaker, Marjorie Stamberg, who spoke about the repression of teachers in Mexico, especially from the south (I think she mentioned Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chiapas). Marjorie spent time this summer in Mexico. She said that she would bring the information to the Committee on Economic and Social Justice. She left packets of informational material with some of the Executive Board members (including me)

Mulgrew was absent.

Francisco Peña (New Action) asked where we were with Factfinding, wasn’t the report already due. Emil Pietronomico answered that factfinding is ongoing, and passed the question to attorney Adam Ross, who reported that the last day is November 4, and that we expect a report shortly thereafter.

Michael Shulman (New Action) asked about the City’s suit against the UFT over arbitrators. Emil passed this question to attorney Adam Ross as well, who explained that arbitrators are chosen by mutual agreement, which the City does not seem to accept means that we must agree with their choices. In addition, the City ended an effective time-saving mediation program – they force every case to trial (I’m not sure what “trial” means here – jd). They brought us to court, and we (UFT) are moving to have the case dismissed.

Joel Garcia (New Action) asked for the number of current teachers in the Absent Teachers Reserve (Excessed Teachers, often referred to as ATRs). He also asked what was going on with rotation. Emil quickly conferred, and said he would get back to us next time.

Doug Haynes (New Action) reportedly hearing anecdotally about a spike in retirements, and asked whether there actually was such a spike. Emil said he would get back to us.

Jonathan Halabi (me, New Action) asked, since observations under the new evaluation system had begun in many schools, what sorts of problems and complaints, expected and unexpected, were we hearing about, which ones were showing up a lot. Emil said issues are being reported through an online system, and that there are different issues. Most people noticed that he did not respond to the question.

There were four resolutions during the special orders of business.

1. On inclusive language (say “member” when we mean members, and “teacher” if we specifically mean only teachers – remember we organize counselors, paras, secretaries, related service providers, etc, all of whom are UFTers)

2. Improve NYC’s electoral system

3. On the 53rd Anniversary of the 1960 UFT Strike (George Altomare, in the discussion, talked about events leading up to the strike)

4. Resolution Calling for a Moratorium on High-Stakes Consequences for State Tests – LeRoy Barr motivated, strongly, this resolution which was not on the agenda, but was signed and submitted by six Executive Board members (Emil, LeRoy, Anthony Harmon, Marie Kallo, a signature I don’t recognize, and Sterling Roberson)  The “whereas”s reaffirmed UFT policy, including much that New Action disagrees with – including Common Core, and using test scores to evaluate teachers. The resolution, however, called for a moratorium on consequences for the tests.

Jonathan Halabi (me, New Action), rose to reaffirm that there were major differences on much of this resolution, but that we fully supported the moratorium, and that the resolution should get unanimous support.

Which it did.

New Action Caucus has ten seats on the UFT Executive Board – the only ten seats that do not belong to Unity Caucus.

Ten is not enough to win anything – but it allows our voice to be heard, it allows us to put forward resolutions, and when there is agreement, to put forward resolutions the leadership signs onto. It allows us to offer amendments. It allows us to bring issues to the leadership.

At Exec after Exec, Unity members sit and listen. Some never speak. Most rarely speak. But New Action usually has questions, comments, resolutions, or amendments.

This year we will publish reports – sometimes on the entire Exec Board, sometimes just on New Action’s contribution.