The City and the Union Talk Teacher Evaluations, Again

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After a few weeks of attacking one another in the press, city education officials and the teachers' union have started negotiations over a new teacher evaluation system, again, although they did not get very far in talks on Tuesday.

Talks broke down at the end of last year, after both sides could not reach an agreement in time to meet a Jan. 1 deadline for a federal grant aiding 33 struggling schools. At the time, the city and the union were in conflict over how to handle teachers who had received two ineffective ratings, and what recourse those teachers would have to overturn their evaluations. But after a last-minute deal was brokered by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, that issue has been resolved and the city and the union have moved on to fighting over the fate of those 33 schools.

Although the original rationale for closing these schools has evaporated -- the city could recover the grant money by agreeing to a teacher evaluation deal for just those 33 schools -- Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is still planning to close and reopen them this summer, removing many of their teachers.

There would be about 1,750 teachers, the Daily News reports today, who would lose their jobs and be replaced at the new schools that reopen in the same buildings with the same students.

Finding a new reason to publicly justify closing some of these schools could be difficult for city officials. While some of them have low grades on the city's progress report, New York 1 reports that others have shown improvement and are now succeeding according to the city's own metrics. W.H. Maxwell Career and Technical High School is one of these -- it has gone from an F to an A on the progress reports over the last three years. Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott cited the school's place on the state's "persistently low achieving" list as a reason for closing it and replacing its teachers, but the state's Education Department does not update that list every year and the one currently in existence is based on three-year-old data.

Hours before the city and the teachers' union resumed talks on Tuesday, the union, which is led by Michael Mulgrew, asked the state's labor review board to intervene and order the city to negotiate an evaluation system for the 33 schools. The Daily News reported that while the two sides still met to negotiate, the chancellor "blasted Mulgrew for not attending and both sides reported no progress.''

In private school news, Jenny Anderson, a reporter for The Times, writes that New York City's new for-profit schools like Avenues and Léman Manhattan are taking a distinctly different approach to college counseling than the old guard private schools. They are beginning college admissions preparation earlier, in some instances as early as the ninth grade.

Gardner P. Dunnan, head of the upper school at Avenues and the former head of the Dalton School and the School at Columbia University, supports beginning early. “In addition to being good education, it’s the best way to capture the interest of colleges,” he said.

Larry Momo, head of college counseling at Trinity, said his school took a different approach. It does not begin the college planning process until students are juniors. “We don’t want to turn high school into a staging ground for the college admission process,” he said.

For more in city school news, see GothamSchools' morning round-up.

This morning at 8:10 a.m., Chancellor Walcott will be on PIX 11's morning news show, on Channel 11. Then at 6 p.m., his public schedule has him attending a District 18 town hall at Public School 66, a K-8 school in Canarsie, Brooklyn.

At 2:30 p.m. today, public school advocates who oppose many of the Bloomberg administration's education policies will visit the work places of three mayoral appointees on the Panel for Educational Policy, a board controlled by Mayor Bloomberg. The group is protesting what it calls the board's "puppets" -- the 13 people appointed by the mayor to enact his schools agenda. At 2:30 p.m., the group is going to CUNY offices on 80th Street; at 3:30 to Inwood House, where the panel member Linda Lausell Bryant is executive director;, and at 4:30 to CUNY offices at 57th Street. Several panel members work at CUNY schools.

And from 10 a.m. to noon, the St. Joseph's School for the Deaf in the Bronx will host its annual "World Read Aloud Day."