dennis walcott

New York

With different views, city and union resume evaluation talks

They might have returned to the negotiating table, but officials from the teachers union and the Department of Education still can't agree on what they're talking about. Union and city officials met this afternoon to discuss teacher evaluations for the first time in months without a imminent deadline hanging over their heads. The city said the meeting was a first step toward a citywide evaluation deal, but the union indicated that it would continue to push for talks that focus on evaluations in just 33 schools. Earlier in the day, the union petitioned the state's employee relations board to force the DOE back into talks over a system for the 33 schools, which were supposed to be using evaluations this year. In an earlier petition, the union wanted the Public Employee Relations Board to assign a mediator to deal with a sticking point over teacher rating appeals. This petition is designed to finish the job. The 33 schools at the center of the disagreement were part of a federal school reform program that promised $60 million in funding in exchange for the evaluations. Both sides agreed this summer to work toward a deal on the pilot and to use it as a model for the citywide system, but those talks broke down at the end of last year. Shortly after, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to close and reopen the 33 schools with new teachers, and the city has insisted ever since that it only needs to negotiate a citywide deal. The city's insistence came only after Gov. Cuomo helped break a standoff on how teachers should be able to appeal their low ratings. In a letter sent to Mulgrew shortly after, Chancellor Walcott said that was all it would take to negotiate a citywide system. "With all major issues resolved, it is incumbent on us to finalize an agreement for a new evaluation system for all teachers in New York City, and to do so without delay," Walcott said in the letter.
New York

Following Bloomberg, Walcott shifts on teacher ratings release

New York

City releases Teacher Data Reports — and a slew of caveats

When the Department of Education's embargo of Teacher Data Reports details lifted at noon today, news organizations across the city rushed to make the data available. The Teacher Data Reports are “value-added” assessments of teachers’ effectiveness that were produced from 2008 to 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8. This morning, department officials including Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky met with reporters to offer caution about how the data reports should be used. They emphasized the reports' wide margins of error — 35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading teachers, on average — and that the reports reflect only a small portion of teachers' work. "We would never advise anyone — parent, reporter, principal, teacher — to draw a conclusion based on this score alone," Polakow-Suransky said. Most of the news organizations that filed Freedom of Information Law requests for the ratings plan to publish them in searchable or streamlined databases, with the teachers' names attached. GothamSchools does not plan to publish the data with teachers' names or identifying characteristics included because of concerns about the data's reliability. At least two other news organizations that cover education are also not publishing the data: the local affiliate of Fox News, according to a representative of Fox, and the nonprofit school information website Insideschools. Department officials are asking schools not to release the reports to parents. They issued a guide today advising principals about how to handle parents who demand that their child be removed from the class of a teacher rated ineffective.
New York

City alters Regents grading, credit recovery policies after audit

The Department of Education is cracking down on graduation rate inflation, following an internal audit that uncovered errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools. The audits, conducted by the department's internal auditor, scrutinized data at 60 high schools that had posted unusual or striking results. Of the 9,582 students who graduated from the schools in 2010, the audit found that 292 did not have the exam grades or course credits required under state regulations. At one school, Landmark High School, 35 students had graduated without earning all of the academic credits required for graduation. At another, Pablo Neruda Academy for Architecture and World Studies, 19 students had gotten credits through "credit recovery" that the school could not prove complied with state requirements. At two schools, Fort Hamilton High School and Hillcrest High School, an examination of Regents exams uncovered problems in the scoring of multiple students' tests. Department officials said they had asked Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon to launch inquiries at nine schools based on issues raised during the audits. (Schools where investigations were already underway were excluded from the audit.) Students who graduated without sufficient credits won't have their diplomas revoked, officials said. And schools won't have their graduation rates revised to reflect the audited numbers, either, except potentially where the city found schools had purged students from their rolls without confirming that they had enrolled elsewhere. Instead, department officials are cracking down on loopholes in city and state regulations about how to graduate students. Among the major policy changes are revisions to Regents exam scoring procedures, new limitations on "credit recovery" options for students who fail courses, and an alteration to the way schools determine whether a student has met graduation requirements. The changes reflect a new understanding of the degree to which principals had become confused with — or, in some cases, ignorant of — graduation policies. They also reflect an unusual acknowledgment from the Department of Education that its strategies for delivering support to schools and holding them accountable are not always successful.
New York

Month after turnaround news, official applications still not done

More than a month after Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would fulfill a state requirement by overhauling 33 struggling schools, the city still has not officially informed the state of its plans. The announcement, which came during Bloomberg’s State of the City address Jan. 12, was an attempt to circumvent a requirement that the city and teachers union agree on new teacher evaluations. New evaluations were a condition of the previous improvement processes the schools were undergoing with funding from federal School Improvement Grants. But turnaround, which requires schools to replace at least half of their teachers, does not call for new evaluations. The turnaround switch isn't up to the city alone. State Education Commissioner John King must sign off on the plans if they are to get the federal funds. King has said the turnaround model Bloomberg described is "approvable." But he still hasn't seen any details. That's because the city hasn't supplied them. For weeks, city officials — including Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott — had cited Feb. 10 as the deadline to complete applications detailing the turnaround plans, but the day came and went with no completed applications in sight. Department officials now say the deadline was only internal, and now the city is aiming to finish them up by the end of this week. That way, the officials said, the applications can be on the table next week when the city has its hearing about the SIG grants with state education officials.
New York

City could try to replace fewer teachers at 33 turnaround schools

Two weeks after Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan to to replace half of all teachers at 33 struggling schools, efforts are underway to soften the threat. Department of Education officials said today that the city is exploring the option of replacing fewer teachers at the schools under an allowance included in federal guidelines for the school improvement strategy known as "turnaround." The turnaround process, which Bloomberg announced two weeks ago to sidestep a requirement of other school improvement strategies to negotiate new teacher evaluations with the teachers union, mandates that 50 percent of teachers be replaced. But the U.S. Department of Education makes special allowances for some teachers who have been hired in the last two years. Now the city is looking to take advantage of that flexibility when it files formal turnaround applications with the state next month. The catch is that not every teacher hired in the last two years is automatically eligible for the exemption.The federal guidelines make an allowance only for teachers who were selected "according to locally adopted competencies as part of a school reform effort" headed by a principal handpicked to lead it. That means, according to the guidelines, the teachers should have been screened for an ability to "be effective in a turnaround situation." It's not clear how many of the roughly 3,400 teachers at the 33 schools would fall into this category. As recently as Monday, Chancellor Dennis Walcott told state legislators that there would be "possibly up to 1,500, 1,700 teachers" cut loose from the schools.
New York

Union opposition won't stop school changes, city officials vow

New York

After panel on school choice, critique of city’s system of schools

Chancellor Dennis Walcott is interviewed by WNYC's Brian Lehrer at a forum on public school options. Many of the parents and teachers attending a forum last night about school choice said it was their first time hearing Chancellor Dennis Walcott talk about the Bloomberg administration's school policies. Walcott defended the school choice model that has developed during Bloomberg's tenure at the event, which was organized by the New York Times and WNYC in conjunction with their SchoolBook reporting project. (Listen to WNYC's coverage of the event.) The event took place against the backdrop of a spate of school closures announced by the Department of Education earlier in the day. The city's closure strategy, meant to clear space for better school options, has in large part fueled the increasing number of choices that families face, especially when applying in middle and high school. Parents and teachers we spoke to said the apparent options could be dizzying, even for the most involved families. educators, some parents said they didn't think Walcott's answers got to the root of their concerns. "It's very confusing. The whole process reminds me of voting. People don't engage because there's too much information out there. They don't know how to process all of it," said Tania Cade, who has a child in third grade at P.S. 278 and another in seventh-grade at a gifted-and-talented program in Washington Heights. "I don't think that [Walcott] addressed that issue at all. It's all up to the parents, and God bless those parents who don't have the time or don't speak the language."