Teacher Evaluation Talks to Continue Over Weekend

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With less than a week to go before the state's Jan. 17 deadline, there are signs that the Bloomberg administration and the teachers union are getting closer to a deal on teacher evaluations.

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew sent a letter to his members Friday saying he expects negotiations to take place throughout the weekend and into next week.

A spokeswoman for Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Department of Education staff "have cleared their schedules this weekend and are working to reach an agreement."

Mulgrew also told Schoolbook that the two sides have made "some progress" in recent days, specifically about having conversations between teachers and principals before any classroom observations.

"Those we're much more comfortable with," he said. "I think both sides understand that it is in the best interest of the children to have a constructive dialogue as part of the evaluation process."

The city stands to lose $250 million in state aid if there's no agreement by the 17th for rating teachers with a combination of classroom observations and student achievement, as measured on test scores. With time running out, each side has been pointing fingers at the other. The union ran television ads this week accusing the mayor of playing "my way or the highway," while the mayor complained that the union threw out extra demands during negotiations.

Mulgrew scheduled a delegates assembly Thursday, for an up or down vote in case there is an agreement. He said this would give the state's education department a few hours, before the midnight deadline, to approve a deal.

In his letter to his members, Mulgrew said:

"If a tentative agreement is reached, it will be up to the DA, the highest decision-making body of the UFT, to decide if we will accept it as a union. If no agreement is reached with the city, the DA will serve as a planning and operational meeting to push back against the mayor as we have so many times before."

He also said members would be leafleting outside schools on Monday and at major transportation hubs to "engage parents and the community and put pressure on the mayor to get to a fair deal."

Mulgrew may be feeling pressure within his union. Some dissident factions believe he hasn't fought hard enough against the Bloomberg administration's reforms, and there are members who oppose tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.

But he told Schoolbook that if the city and the union reached a deal, that would be a good thing.

"If we can bring forth a deal that shows that the teachers for the first time in a long time in New York City will actually have a system that is designed to support them and help them develop, I think they will be very happy."

Meanwhile, on his weekly WOR radio interview, Bloomberg said he's an optimist and that he expects a deal will happen.