By Ben Velderman
ALBANY, N.Y. – A group of pro-reform New York City teachers have watched with disgust as the United Federation of Teachers, the local teachers union, has blocked every effort to link educators’ job ratings to student learning.
The UFT’s pigheadedness toward a tougher, more meaningful evaluation system recently forced the city school district to forfeit $250 million in government aid. New York City schools could lose another $200 million in aid if an evaluation plan isn’t in place by the start of the next school year.
The reform-minded teachers, known collectively as Educators 4 Excellence, have seen enough and are jumping into the political fray.
The New York Post reports that E4E is blanketing New York City airwaves with a $250,000 ad campaign that urges Gov. Andrew Cuomo to go over the union’s head and impose a new evaluation plan on city teachers.
The ad features several New York City teachers who explain the value of rigorous teacher evaluations.
“A meaningful evaluation system will tell me what’s working and help me be better for my students,” Queens seventh-grade mathematics teacher Jemal Graham says in the ad, according to the Post.
Under the current process, teachers are rated as are either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The system is designed so the vast majority of teachers receive a favorable rating. It doesn’t provide serious educators much in the way of feedback to help them improve their classroom performance.
That’s why E4E members are asking lawmakers for an evaluation system that provides feedback to teachers based on multiple observations, student growth data and student surveys, among other factors, according to the Post.
Gov. Cuomo will introduce legislation this week for a state-imposed evaluation system, but the measure could give the city and UFT until Sept. 17 to agree on their own plan before it takes effect, reports the Post.
Educators 4 Excellence leaders say Cuomo’s mid-September deadline is too generous and would likely delay any new evaluation plan from taking effect until the 2014-15 school year.
“It will be incredibly difficult to train teachers and principals on a teacher-evaluation system that isn’t finished until the beginning of the [next] school year,”Jonathan Schleifer, E4E executive director, tells the Post. “We need a system put in place soon.”
According to the Post, E4E was established about three years ago by several Bronx teachers frustrated over the lack of teacher input on school reforms. It has also advocated for merit pay and stronger tenure requirements, and established a Los Angeles chapter in late 2011.