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D.O.E. and Unions to Resume Eval Talks

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 05:07 PM

Department of Education officials said they plan to meet with leaders of the teachers' and principals' unions in the next few days, in order to discuss the future of a new teacher evaluation system in New York City. The D.O.E. faces a fast-approaching deadline of Feb. 15 to submit a plan to state education officials on how the city will train principals and teachers on a still-to-be-negotiated evaluation system.

School Chancellor Dennis Walcott, testifying in Albany on the governor's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, assured lawmakers that the the D.O.E. "will engage key stakeholders," including both unions. Michael Mulgrew, the teachers' union president, agreed to meet, and the city reached out to the principals' union on Tuesday, said Erin Hughes, a D.O.E. spokesperson.

State Education Commissioner John King set the February deadline in a letter to Walcott after the city failed to reach an evaluation agreement tied to $240 million in state education aid -- money already budgeted for the current fiscal year. King threatened to withhold or redirect even more funding, totaling about $1 billion, if the city and its unions did not come up with a plan, timeline and budget for key aspects of an evaluation agreement.

Walcott said he would respond to King's letter with a letter of his own that he plans to send on Monday.

In addition, the city and unions face a September deadline by which they must fully implement a teacher evaluation agreement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week, or the city will forfeit yet another increase in state education aid.

King has chastised the city for failing to take key steps toward laying the groundwork for a new teacher evaluation system, such as training principals. Principals have also expressed fear that implementing a new system correctly would fall on their backs.

The city's education officials defended the steps it has taken and suggested that the commissioner had not taken "a deep dive" into New York City's preparations, including a teacher effectiveness pilot now taking place in 215 schools.

"Over the last three years, we have worked to prepare our educators for the adoption of a rigorous, multiple-measure teacher evaluation and development system," Walcott told lawmakers Tuesday. "We did so because we know that teacher effectiveness is a critical factor in improving student outcomes."

But the pilot is in a minority of schools, and the city needs more formal training on a broader level to make sure schools are prepared to implement a new evaluation system, said Chiara Coletti, chief spokeswoman for the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

"There is some real anxiety among our principals and assistant principals," Coletti said, "about embarking on an evaluation of teachers that might be based on an evaluation system that has been hastily cobbled together, requires an unrealistic amount of time to execute, and for which there has only been superficial training."

Meaningful training, Coletti said, cannot take place until the city and teachers' union actually reach an agreement.

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