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Union Agrees to Teacher Evaluation System to Secure Federal Funds

By Jill Colvin | July 15, 2011 4:52pm
A new teacher evaluation system will be tested in four Manhattan Schools.
A new teacher evaluation system will be tested in four Manhattan Schools.
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MANHATTAN — The teachers union and the Department of Education reached a deal Friday that will allow the city to implement a new teacher evaluation system at four Manhattan schools in order to help secure millions in federal funding.

The Union Square’s Washington Irving High School, Murray Hill’s Unity Center for Urban Technologies, Chelsea Career and Tech Ed High School and the Bread and Roses Integrated High School in Harlem are among 33 struggling schools city-wide where the new evaluation systems will be introduced.

The agreement will qualify the city to receive up to $65 million in federal School Improvement Grants over the next two years.

All of the schools on the list are among the lowest-achieving in the state.

“With this agreement, we will be able to bring millions of dollars in federal funding to these struggling schools and recruit top quality teachers to help students succeed and mentor other staff,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

The new four-category evaluations will grade teachers as “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” or “ineffective." The city currently uses a two-category “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” ratings system.

The ratings will be based 20 percent on state tests and 60 percent on teacher evaluations, with details on the remaining 20 percent still being hammered out, a DOE spokesman said. Teachers who receive "ineffective" ratings for two years in a row can be fired — the first time teachers have ever been allowed to be fired for bad performance.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the agreement “helps lay the groundwork” for helping schools at risk for closure to turn around.

“Now,” he said, “we have to focus on providing the resources these struggling schools need to make a real difference in the lives of their students.”

The agreement comes on the heels of clashing rhetoric between the UFT and the DOE over teacher seniority rules and the "last in, first out" policy that restricted schools' ability to decide which teachers would be laid off.

The money will be used to implement two models for helping schools: One would replace the schools’ principals and allow them to hire new, higher-level teachers, and the other would partner schools with non-profits that will advise them on how to improve.

The state teacher's union is currently embroiled in its own battle with the state DOE over its push to implement tougher teacher evaluation standards this fall.