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Top State Education Official Will Decide NYC's Teacher Evaluation Stalemate

New York State Education Commissioner John King will soon decide on how New York City public schools will implement a new teacher evaluation system. The city and the United Federation of Teachers have not been able to come to an agreement on how to evaluate teachers. According to the New York Post, King will be the sole individual to hear the cases for and against implementing meaningful teacher evaluations:

"[King will] have until June 1 to weave the better of their ideas into a system that will be imposed on the city's schools come September.

"'I hope what comes out of it is the governor is able to...have a real deal with real enforcement that really evaluates [teachers] based on real numbers — and our kids will be the great beneficiaries of it,' said Mayor Bloomberg."

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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: May 6-10, 2013

In this week's education news: StudentsFirstNY-supported candidates win seats on the Buffalo School Board, teacher evaluation plans for New York City are being submitted to the state, Quinn proposes a plan for expanding the gifted and talented program, and the City announces progress on creating the first public school electronic bookstore in the nation.

StudentsFirstNY Candidates Win School Board Races in Buffalo
The Buffalo News // May 9, 2013

On Tuesday, May 7, Buffalo residents voted two StudentsFirstNY-supported candidates to the Buffalo School Board. The two candidates, James Sampson and Jason McCarthy, won despite strong opposition from the Buffalo Teachers Federation. StudentsFirstNY's Acting Executive Director Glen Weiner explained to The Buffalo News how much the organization contributed to Sampson and McCarthy, and why StudentsFirstNY chose to support these two candidates:

"The leader of StudentsFirstNY, the state chapter of a national school reform group headed by former Washington, D.C., School Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, said Wednesday that his group gave $10,000 to Sampson and $2,500 to McCarthy."

"The group identified Sampson and McCarthy as 'like-minded,' [Weiner] said, based on their positions on several issues. He cited charter schools and issues related to teacher evaluations as two of them.

Read the full summary of the article.

City, Teachers Union to Submit Plans on Teacher Evaluations 
New York Daily News // May 8, 2013

Today, New York City officials and the United Federation of Teachers will submit plans to state officials that will detail on each side's plan for evaluating teachers.

From the New York Daily News:

Neither side has released its plan for evaluations, which was a source of bitter controversy this year when the city lost $260 million in state funds because the sides could not come to an agreement over how to measure instructor performance.

Gov. Cuomo will impose an evaluation system on city schools on June 1 if Mayor Bloomberg and union president Michael Mulgrew still have not reached an agreement.

Quinn Wants to Expand Gifted Program
The New York Times // May 7, 2013

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a candidate for Mayor of New York City, has proposed expanding the City's gifted and talented programs with 8,700 new spots over the next nine years.

From The New York Times:

Ms. Quinn said the city's elite academic programs had become havens of privilege that for too long have shut out such students. She said she hopes to persuade the Department of Education to make the changes by September.

"Our gifted and talented programs in no way, shape or form reflect the diversity of our city," Ms. Quinn said in an interview.

Education Department Explores E-Textbooks
New York Post // May 6, 2013

The New York City Department of Education is assembling the first electronic bookstore for schools in the nation. Each year, the City purchases more than 1.5 million books, costing over $100 million dollars.

From the New York Post:

Among the flexibility education officials are looking for in the new venture would be the ability for schools to cherry-pick certain chapters from books, rather than springing for entire titles they don't need.

Schools would also be able to transfer licenses of electronic books from one year to the next, so that — like hardcover books — the digital texts could be handed out to new classes of students each year.\

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Editorial: NYC Teachers Should Not be Allowed to Stall Evaluations

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten has stated her support for the Common Core curriculum and exams, which all New York students took last month. But Weingarten wants to remove the provision that ties teacher evaluations to the Common Core test. According to AM New York, this will allow ineffective teachers to remain in schools:

"She says she wants to decouple the tests from decisions that could hurt students, teachers and schools. 'Put the brakes on the stakes,' Weingarten said in an address this week to the Association for a Better New York.

"Bad idea. While it was heartening to hear Weingarten support the Common Core standards in her presentation -- and she's right that the rollout has been ragged and messy -- a formal moratorium would be a mistake."

AM New York argues that Weingarten's position sounds like a union delaying tactic. The AFT is the parent organization of New York City's United Federation of Teachers, which has been against any sort of reform for the City's public schools. The delays could be endless, leaving New York’s schoolchildren behind:

"'Put the brakes on the stakes?' Sorry. Politicians, unions and school administrators can bicker and brawl forever about what's fair, what's not, what's reasonable and what's absurd. Procedural fights only take us so far. At some point the reform process has to begin. Time's up."

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Randi Weingarten Proposes Postponing the Use of Test Scores in Evaluating Teachers

On Tuesday, at the Association for a Better New York, UFT leader Randi Weingarten proposed that school systems across the nation and in New York postpone the use of new tests in evaluating teachers.

According to The New York Times, Weingarten claims that teachers need more time to understand the new curriculum and test before they should be held accountable for results. Her concerns focus on New York, as it is one of the first states to adopt the new Common Core standards for testing.

StudentsFirstNY’s Acting Executive Director, Glen Weiner, commented on Weingarten’s concerns:

As the education status quo calls for endless delay that would prevent progress in order to hold on to its power, our kids are falling further behind the rest of the world.

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Editorial: AFT President is Right to Support Common Core, Wrong on Timeline

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten announced her support of New York State's Common Core curriculum, the New York Daily News reported:

"Great thanks to Weingarten for stating that the lessons, known as the Common Core, promise to significantly boost achievement while fully preparing students for college or careers.

"She was also frank in acknowledging that many teachers are ill-prepared to deliver instruction that helps kids read and do math in depth."

Weingarten argues that schools and teachers need one more year to prepare for the test before it is administered. In an editorial, the New York Daily News disagrees, having supported the immediate implementation of the Common Core tests:

"Having a test that counts focuses principals and teachers to raise their games — immediately. Also, research shows that instructors whose classes did well on the old standardized tests can expect students to do well on new ones. Teachers will be judged on gains students make when compared against peers with similar kids."

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Statement by Glen Weiner, Acting Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY

StudentsFirstNY's Acting Executive Director, Glen Weiner, released the following statement in response to remarks by AFT President Randi Weingarten at the Association for a Better New York:

"Millions of New York schoolchildren can't afford to wait a moment longer to get a quality teacher at the front of their classroom. As the education status quo calls for endless delay that would prevent progress in order to hold on to its power, our kids are falling further behind the rest of the world. Gov. Cuomo’s common-sense approach to teacher evaluations is the proper course for New York. It's time to move forward and give our children the tools to succeed."

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Editorial: Common Core Curriculum is What New York Students Need

Students across New York State completed the first Common Core curriculum tests in English and math last week. The test is considered to be tougher than any other standardized test that New York state has administered, and test scores are expected to be much lower than scores from previous tests when the data is released in July.

As the New York Daily News argues, the Common Core test scores will come as a shock to many students and parents, but the tougher curriculum will help prepare students for college-level work:

"A survey by the college entrance exam service ACT found that 89% of high school teachers believed their students graduated ready to handle college-level work, but just 26% of college professors agreed."

For the Common Core curriculum to succeed, parents and teachers will need to be honest with each other and communicate openly:

"New York has embarked on raising standards and measuring students' progress toward meeting them. Success will require building public confidence by being as open with parents and teachers as possible."

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Editorial: Eva Moskowitz's Successful Charter Schools Pose a Threat to the UFT

Eva Moskowitz runs several charter schools in New York City that are performing much better than their public school counterparts. Some of these charter schools even share the same building as a public school, yet as the New York Post reports, the differences in achievement still persist:

"The figures are likewise lopsided citywide: 96 percent of Moskowitz's kids passed math and 88 percent passed English, versus 30 percent and 20 percent respectively at [public] schools."

The success of these charter schools comes as a threat to the United Federation of Teachers, especially when a successful charter school with non-union employees, shares the same building as a failing public school with UFT employees:

"Charters need co-location because they don't get public funding for buildings, so the only space available is in existing schools. The unions understand that if you end co-location, you stop charters cold."

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Buffalo Schools Won't Honor Secret Agreement With Union

The Buffalo City School District will not honor an agreement with the Buffalo Teachers Federation that promised to not use teacher evaluations as grounds for firing a teacher. According to The Buffalo News, the voided agreement came after Governor Andrew Cuomo pressured the school district to move forward with using the evaluation system:

"The state Education Department has determined that the memorandum of understanding dated Jan. 15, 2013, between the Buffalo City School District and the Buffalo Teachers Federation is void," Superintendent Pamela C. Brown said in a written statement. "The district will proceed in accordance with the department’s determination."

New York State Education Commission John King had said earlier this week, “There can be no side agreements.” He added that any district with such an agreement not to use the evaluations toward termination proceedings would jeopardize their increase in state aid and other funds. Governor Cuomo said the side agreement “was on the line of being a fraud in the ethical and legal sense.”

Brown’s decision would mean that more than $50 million in State education funding is no longer in jeopardy for the district. However, the teachers’ union is threatening to “take whatever action is necessary to enforce that agreement.”

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Statement by Glen Weiner, Acting Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY

Today’s news of the teachers’ union attempts to subvert meaningful teacher evaluations in school districts across the state, including Buffalo, through secret side deals that would strip these systems of any accountability is deeply troubling.

When Governor Cuomo and the legislature passed meaningful teacher evaluation reforms last year, and then followed up with specific mandates and guidelines this year, they did so because they wanted to ensure that every classroom has the best possible teacher. That’s what students need to have the best chance of learning and succeeding. These secret side deals and the unions’ fraudulent representations are not just an insult to their hard work; they will hurt our kids. It’s shameful and embarrassing. We hope that Commissioner King and the State Department of Education step in immediately, invalidate the bogus agreements and stop these miscarriages of justice from happening. Our students deserve nothing less.

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