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Newark Union Approves Merit Pay

“Newark Teachers Vote ‘Yes’ on Precedent-Setting Contract”
by John Mooney
NJ Spotlight
November 15, 2012

After a year of negotiations and three weeks of sometimes-brutal internal debate, Newark public school teachers and other staff ratified a historic labor agreement yesterday that will reshape pay and many rules for New Jersey’s largest school district.

Nearly 2,900 members of the Newark Teachers Union voted in the day-long balloting at the NTU’s downtown offices, a nearly unprecedented turnout, and the vote was closer than many expected. The final tally was 1,767 in favor to 1,088 against, or roughly 62 percent to 38 percent.

Union leaders who had backed the deal appeared as much relieved as celebratory when the numbers were announced, citing both the accomplishment of the pact but also the sizable numbers not on board.

Joseph Del Grosso, the NTU’s longtime president, said the agreement is only the first step in developing a workable system to fulfill it. That includes new teacher and staff evaluations and a program for performance bonuses to the most exemplary members, the controversial centerpiece of the deal.

“It’s a great vote, but it’s going to take a lot of work to put this together, that’s the tough part,” Del Grosso said.

Looking tired from a long day in which voting started at 6:30 a.m., Del Grosso said he didn’t entirely blame a third of his voting membership for casting “no” votes.

“It’s a difficult contract; it’s a leap of faith, it really is,” he said. “They took the leap, which I am grateful for. But we now have to show the members how it will work.”

Job Well Done

The plaudits came in from elsewhere, including Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson, who had staked much of her own standing on final passage of the deal.

“Congratulations to the teachers, parent coordinators, teacher’s aides, child study teams, and paraprofessionals who

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The Daniels record: successful innovations

by Andrea Neal
Indianapolis Star
November 5, 2012

(Second of two columns on Gov. Mitch Daniels’ legacy)

Mitch Daniels used his first term to get Indiana’s fiscal house in order. His second term sealed his reputation as the education reform governor.

“Truly historic changes” came to Indiana schools, the American Legislative Exchange Council said in its 2012 Report Card on American Education.

“Indiana moved up into the A’s for the first time after the reform-minded governor and legislature greatly improved the state charter law in 2011,” said the Center for Education Reform Report.

The Weekly Standard, a national journal of conservative thought, credited Daniels for “taking Indiana from the backwaters of education reform in America to the forefront.”

It’s a bit early to claim success. It will be several years before Hoosiers know if reforms instituted by Daniels will boost test scores. ISTEP passage rates are creeping up and graduation rates are higher, but there’s yet to be noticeable improvement on the National Assessment of Education Progress or the SAT.

Daniels took office in 2005, but his first term was consumed with budget balancing and recession, which delayed his educational initiatives until the middle of term two. Once he and School Superintendent Tony Bennett turned their sights on schools, change was fast and furious:

Collective bargaining with teachers unions was limited to wages and benefits, which means schools can pursue their own reform ideas, such as longer school days.

Teacher pay raises are now based on many factors, including student test scores, as well as the previous criteria of seniority and education. Teachers rated as ineffective can’t receive a pay increase.

The State Board of Education uses letter grades — A to F — to judge school quality instead of vague labels like commendable and academic progress. The new system take into account test scores, score improvement, graduation rates and

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When the Unions “Embrace” Weak Reforms and Try to Look Like Real Reformers

(CER President Jeanne Allen shared her thoughts with reporters in an email earlier this week. We thought everyone has a right to know what’s happening.)

The teacher evaluation piece in the Chicago contract negotiation is so weak to start that it’s almost unfathomable that the union would waste political capital on this piece. Have you looked at what the evaluation language of the new law and the Mayor’s demands actually say? It is not, as some have reported, about finite test scores. The 25% now and 40% later of evaluations that are said to be determined based on test scores are not based on one formula, yet. It’s fuzzy, as it has been in most laws recently passed and most contracts. Evaluations can include test scores, but how and who decides is still up in the air. This is not unusual in any case today, but it is underreported.

Take DC, for example. Teachers are evaluated against an average composite of predicted scores for certain kids. The extent to which their kids, over time, meet or exceed the predicted scores for similar kids is PART of their overall evaluation. “Performance” in IMPACT also includes peer, principal and some district observations, as well as factors relating to the school as a whole. And that’s only part of it. The comparisons are done by the research organization, Mathematica – externally evaluated – not a principal reviewing individual test scores.

These factors – who evaluates, how, based on what, over what time, and what the 25% of evaluation actually means (!!) has yet to be determined.

The union is not striking against evaluations, but they are using it to incite their members without informing them it has yet to be determined. They are striking against the notion that ANY evaluation is on the

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No Ruling Yet In CTU Strike

“Judge Delays Chicago Strike Ruling”
by Stephanie Banchero
Wall Street Journal
September 18, 2012

A judge declined on Monday to immediately order Chicago public-school teachers back into their classrooms, rebuffing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to end the six-day strike on the grounds that it is illegal.

The Chicago school district filed suit Monday morning asking Cook County Circuit Court Judge Peter Flynn to prohibit the union from striking, arguing that Illinois law bars the teachers from striking over noneconomic issues, such as layoffs, teacher evaluations and the length of the school day. It also said the strike, which it called a “weapon,” is a “clear and present danger to public health and safety” by keeping students out of school.

After a brief meeting with a school-district lawyer later Monday morning, Judge Flynn, a Democrat first appointed in 1999 and up for a retention vote in November, said he needed more time to look over materials before issuing a ruling. He scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.

The lawsuit came a day after the Chicago Teachers Union’s governing board declined to call an end to the strike, the first teacher walkout in the city in 25 years. The union delegates said they wanted more time to look over a tentative deal that was finalized just hours before a meeting Sunday afternoon. They also voiced unhappiness with the agreement.

The battle has catapulted Chicago into the national debate over teacher evaluations, job security and the power of labor unions and pitted Mr. Emanuel, a Democrat and former chief of staff for President Barack Obama, against organized labor.

Union leaders said the delegates would meet again Tuesday—there were no meetings Monday because of Rosh Hashana—to discuss the district’s latest contract offer, meaning classes couldn’t resume until Wednesday at the earliest. The city was hoping to force teachers back into the classroom

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Slow-Going On Teacher Evaluations

“Teacher evaluation plans moving slowly”
by Scott Waldman
Albany Times Union
September 18, 2012

Only seven local school districts have had their teacher evaluation plans approved by the state, despite a looming deadline that could eliminate some state aid.

And while many districts have been slow to negotiate plans with their unions and then submit them to the state, a delay may also be coming from the Education Department. The state has been overwhelmed by the work required to go through the evaluations, said Valerie Grey, executive deputy commissioner, during a state Board of Regents meeting last week. “I think it’s fair to say we underestimated the time and resources that we needed to review these plans,” she said.

Grey said the state did not expect the wide variety of plans it received, and thought they would be more similar. Plans are reviewed three times and can take up to six weeks for completion.

A job listing recently appeared on the state Education Department website for “an exciting opportunity to be part of the education reform efforts undertaken by the Board of Regents and the Department.” The temporary job, which pays $50 per hour, seeks educators to help review the plans, determine if they comply with the law and provide technical assistance for districts, teachers, unions and educator associations. Qualified applicants will have a master’s degree and five years in prekindergarten-through-12th-grade education.

The state had previously been using law students as interns to sift through the dense language contained in the proposed evaluations, which stretch dozens of pages.

And a serious logjam could be developing as a crush of evaluation proposals still have to come in and two deadlines have already passed.

So far, the state has approved just 75 plans and offered feedback on another 151 out of a total of 700 districts. Though the state Education

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Costly Chicago Strike

Windy City teachers are striking, leaving approximately 350,000 students out of class today. It is unclear how long these students will be out of school. The Chicago Teachers Union got nearly 90% of its members to authorize this strike, surpassing the 75% threshold required by law to authorize a strike. The teachers union says pay is not at the heart of the stalemate, but rather benefits and teacher evaluations.

Tensions with teachers unions have been brewing since Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing for longer days and tougher teacher evaluations. The CTU has made it clear they’re unhappy with Chicago reform proposals, even going as far as protesting at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house at one point. Unfortunately, this commotion is over evaluations that aren’t that strong to begin with — student performance only counts 25% in teacher evaluations, and that’s only by year five.

There’s a common misconception out there that teachers generally do not make very much money, but the average teacher salary in Chicago is $71,000 without benefits. CPS offered teachers a 16% pay raise, but the Chicago Teachers Union would not accept that offer. That raise was offered while the longer day issue was actually worked out so that current teachers would not have to work over the allotted hours they already work; CPS agreed to hire more teachers to fill in the extra hours students would be in school. The 90 minutes added to the school day would put CPS at the national average for student instructional time. Before that, CPS had the shortest school day in the nation.

Taxpayers are left to bear the brunt of the strike, as parents and students are left without the education their taxes support. Not only that, but taxpayers are the ones who have to

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Teachers Unions Demonstrate Real Agenda

Chicago Strike One More Indication That Rhetoric Rings Hollow

CER News Alert
Washington, D.C.
September 10, 2012

The teacher’s union leaders have, for the last few years, worked hard to correct the impression that their focus is on job protection, and that they, too, like the rest of the nation, are frustrated with the slow pace of school improvement. The alleged willingness of the unions to engage in conversations about teacher quality and to call for an end to failing schools has all been interpreted as a sign that they have turned the corner. Some of us have remained unconvinced, recognizing that many often confuse action with rhetoric. The Chicago teacher’s strike of 2012 settles the issue once and for all. Parents and students are left without the education their taxes support. Taxpayers in general are beholden to union demands that are focused on rights and protections, not on kids. Chicago remains among the worst performing school districts in the nation, yet instead of embracing the mayor’s rational, modest proposals to begin instituting limited performance evaluations, union leaders begin acting more like the Chicago thugs of old than the leaders they want to be considered today.

At a time when everyone in this nation is tightening belts, and with education the key to economic solvency, educators should be encouraged to stand up for accountability not ordered to strike over it.

This move by the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated Chicago Teachers Union proves the point that has been written about often: the fancy public relations ploys and rhetoric about quality is no substitute for action. The unions are thwarting even the most modest efforts to measure teacher quality. We said last year that New York’s much praised performance agreement with unions was unlikely to result in any substantive change and we were right. Just

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Poor Performing Teachers Let Go

“98 D.C. teachers fired for poor performance”
by Emma Brown
Washington Post
August 1, 2012

D.C. school officials said Wednesday that 98 teachers were fired this week for poor performance, a large-scale dismissal that has become almost routine in the city but remains rare among school systems nationwide.

Those who were dismissed — about half the number let go last year — account for less than 3 percent of the school system’s approximately 4,100 teachers.

They received low scores on the rigorous evaluation instrument known as IMPACT, which has drawn national attention as one of the first to link teacher pay and job security with classroom performance and student achievement.

That concept has gained traction among policymakers around the country, said Sandi Jacobs of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based advocacy group.

But the D.C. Public Schools system, which has dismissed nearly 400 teachers since 2009 because of poor performance, is still one of the few in which an unsatisfactory rating can lead to a rapid exit.

“Most of the new next-generation evaluation systems haven’t really hit the ground yet,” Jacobs said. “Nobody’s where DCPS is.”

This week’s firings are the second round of teacher dismissals under Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who received considerable support from the local teachers union during his 2010 campaign.

The numbers released Wednesday include only teachers in traditional public schools. Public charter schools have latitude to use their own evaluations.

Under IMPACT, teachers are observed five times each year. They’re graded on their ability to meet nine standards, including managing time, explaining information clearly and correcting students’ misunderstandings.

For some teachers — those who teach math or reading in grades four through eight — half their evaluation depends on how students fare on yearly standardized tests.

Of the teachers dismissed this week, 39 were rated ineffective on IMPACT, and 59 were rated minimally effective

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Newswire: May 22, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 21

A PIONEER FOR CHARTERS…that’s former Michigan Governor John Engler, who recently was honored by Central Michigan University’s renaming of their charter school center after him. Engler has never sat on the sidelines of reform. It never bothered him to ruffle feathers to put students front and center in school improvement. And, he challenged anyone, including the state’s powerful unions at the time who built barricades to thwart reform. Engler did all this not today, when the political environment is more conducive to reform. He was in the vanguard in the 1990s and put charter schools and other reform measures that highlighted the needs of children above all else. CER’s Jeanne Allen spoke at the dedication ceremonies, stressing how Engler’s accomplishments in Michigan, which went beyond charters, spread nationwide. Says Allen: He “pioneered a movement for student-centered funding and transparency for results. His commitment to that idea paved the way for one of the most successful and respected university authorizers in the nation to blossom and has resulted not only in an environment rich in choice and accountability here, but replication of strong charter laws modeled on Michigan’s around the country. It is fitting that his name will be on this center, the gold standard in university authorizers of charter schools.”

LIKE THEIR THINKING. The Washington Post upped themselves in their support for charter schools in a recent editorial by Fred Hiatt. Stating the very rational conclusion that, yes, teachers can be evaluated despite “hard-to-quantify variables,” just like other professions, Hiatt offers an even better way to “sidestep” critics – simply bypass the bureaucracy and go charter. Giving the principal real power to hire and fire staff, as well as make other key decisions for the school, unties the hands of educators to do what

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No Public Evals, Says Cuomo

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will not approve of making teacher evaluations public”
by Glenn Blain
New York Daily News
April 26, 2012


Gov. Cuomo flatly rejected the “total disclosure” of teacher evaluations Wednesday, putting himself at odds with Mayor Bloomberg.

Cuomo, in his most expansive comments so far on the hot-button topic, said he supports parents being allowed to see evaluations and expects to hammer out an agreement with the Legislature by the end of its session in June.

“The teacher evaluation disclosure question is a question I believe has to be answered this session,” Cuomo told reporters.

Cuomo said he disagreed with those who want to keep teacher evaluations completely private — but he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with those, including Bloomberg, who want them made available for widespread review.

“I think you have to strike an intelligent balance between the teacher’s right to privacy and the parent’s right to know and the public’s right to know,” Cuomo said. “The question is where on that spectrum” do officials set policy.

Cuomo noted other public employees, including cops and firefighters, do not have their evaluations made public.

“I believe the parents have a right to know,” the governor stressed. “I also believe in a teacher’s right to privacy.”

A Bloomberg spokesman declined to respond to Cuomo’s comments.

The mayor has pressed for full disclosure of teacher evaluation data, arguing the public has a right to see the information.

Cuomo’s stance is similar to that of state teachers union President Dick Iannuzzi, who has said he could accept parents having limited access to teacher evaluations but few others.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has also signaled his support for limiting access to teach report cards.

“Beyond the parents, I’m not sure that we shouldn’t treat teachers like every other municipal and state employee,” Silver said recently.


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