September 17, 2012
In the 2011-2012 school year, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott vowed to push forward an array of policy changes — from the way teachers are hired and fired to the ways schools prepare boys of color for graduation and college. So how did they do?
We’ve rounded up all of last year’s policy promises and checked up on the city’s progress on each. Today, we’re looking at proposals to bolster teacher quality, a longtime pet issue for the Bloomberg administration.
We found that the city has fulfilled one promise completely, to create a new Teaching Fellows program just for middle schools, but several others fell off the radar or were pushed to the margins by ongoing negotiations over new teacher evaluations. Each promise is in bold, followed by an explanation of how far the city has come toward meeting it.
In future posts, we’ll tally the city’s progress on creating new schools, engaging parents, helping high-needs students, and improving middle schools.
- The city will adopt new teacher evaluations that adhere to the state’s new evaluation law. (When: Many times)
Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock should know the answer: not yet, despite one close call and a helping hand from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. City and union officials are meeting regularly to negotiate an evaluation deal, this time in hopes of meeting the state’s January deadline. They say they are “optimistic” and “hopeful” they’ll reach an agreement in time to qualify for state funds.
- Teachers with top ratings on teacher evaluations will get a $20,000 pay raise. (Bloomberg’s State of the City speech, January 2012)
The city still has not adopted new teacher evaluations, so the proposal is moot. But the teachers union, a longtime opponent of individual merit pay, quickly passed a resolution opposing it, so its future prospects are not bright.
- The city will repay up to $25,000 in student loans of teachers who are in the top of their college classes. (State of the City)
With student debt at an all-time high, the teachers union has said it’s interested in this idea, but city-union relations have been so bad that it hasn’t advanced. Even so, the city recruited new teachers this year with the possibility of loan forgiveness. “More details on this opportunity will be available shortly,” the city’s recruitment website has read for months.
- The city will give a retirement incentive to teachers who have spent more than a year without a permanent position. (Walcott’s ABNY speech, May 2012)
The union is on board with the proposal — and said it had suggested the idea for dealing with the costly Absent Teacher Reserve years ago, when city officials favored a more punitive approach. Negotiations are underway but so far have yet to yield a buyout option. Union officials say one could still come this fall, and some members of the reserve pool are factoring the possibility into their job hunts.
- The city will block elementary school students from being taught for two consecutive years by a classroom teacher rated “unsatisfactory.” (ABNY)
Walcott said the policy would be a fallback option in case teacher evaluations were not in place this fall. They aren’t, so this policy should have kicked into effect this month. But asked shortly after school began whether the department had followed through with the plan, Walcott said a system is in the works to help schools execute it, but he could give no specifics. The change would not affect many students or teachers: The only students who would have been barred from being placed in a U-rated teachers’ class this year were the 4,000 students who had any of the 217 U-rated teachers last year.
- The city will move to fire all teachers who get two consecutive unsatisfactory ratings. (ABNY)
The city has always had the right to remove teachers with double U-ratings but has rarely used it, union officials said. The shift would apply to few people, although the number of teachers with two consecutive U-ratings nearly grew slightly between 2011 and 2012. The new policy would only apply to the teachers who were U-rated for incompetence, as opposed to poor attendance or other factors. Some of them have already left the system, but many remain. UPDATED: Officials said the department plans to start the process of removing 250 teachers from the classroom over the coming school year, though not all will be removed at once.
- A “new class” of Teaching Fellows will get training to work only in middle schools. (Walcott’s middle school speech, September 2011)
Of the 900 new Teaching Fellows the city selected this year, 100 were picked to join a brand-new “apprenticeship” program just for middle schools, the Bronx Middle School Classroom Apprenticeship. From March until May, they worked in groups alongside existing teachers in Bronx middle schools while getting special training on how to tackle the unique issues that middle schools face.