Friday, December 7, 2012

With hubbub over teacher evaluation deadline, city escapes scrutiny for missing C4E deadline by months

There has been much public furor over the coming deadline for a new teacher evaluation system in NYC that will be based at least in part on student test scores.  Though supporters like Commissioner King and Merryl Tisch say a new system is necessary to have a more objective basis for teacher evaluation, experts like Bruce Baker of Rutgers and many others have shown that the “growth scores” the evaluation system will depend upon are not only highly volatile from year to year, but are also demonstrably biased against teachers with low-performing students.  And unlike the teacher data reports, the growth scores do not even attempt to control for the class size; meaning that a teacher who has a class of 30 or more will be unfairly judged compared to another who will be teaching 25 or fewer students.

First, Governor Cuomo set a deadline of January 17, 2013, and warned if the UFT and the city did not agree he would withhold about $300 million in additional state aid. Then the corporate reform troika of Students First NY, Students for Education Reform and Educators for Excellence held rallies to highlight the issue. (Ironically, though all three organizations are aligned with the charter school lobby, charters will NOT be subject to the same requirements and will likely get more funding whether or not they adopt a new test-based system.) 
Now, Chancellor Walcott has set his own deadline of Dec. 21 and threatened that if the agreement is not made with the UFT by then, he will cut school budgets mid-year, leading to loss of staff, afterschool programs, higher class sizes etc.
But there is another larger pot of money with its own set of deadlines that has been entirely ignored.
In 2007, the state passed a law called the Contracts for Excellence (C4E), to settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, in which the state’s highest court found that NYC students were deprived of their constitutional right to an adequate education, in part because of excessive class sizes. As a result, the law required NYC to reduce class size in all grades in exchange for additional state aid.  Each year, NYC receives more than $600 million in C4E funds.  
Yet last year, class sizes went up for the fourth year in a row and are likely to increase again this year, though the state has never withheld a penny from NYC as a result.
In addition, the city has openly violated the public process set out in the law for several years, shutting out parents and other stakeholders in the following ways: 
  • ·         The DOE no longer holds borough hearings on its C4E plan; though these are required by law. Instead, District Superintendents provide brief and sketchy power points at CEC meetings that omit mentioning its legal obligation to be reducing class size and its abysmal record in this regard.
  • ·         The city’s “proposed” plans are not even presented to the public until late in the fall, and the state often does not approve the plan until months after the funds have already been allocated, making a mockery of the entire process and the public input that is supposed to inform the plan and the state’s approval.
In fact, the State Education Department is so behind its own schedule that it has not yet APPROVED last year’s city’s C4E plan; even though the money has long been spent. 
This year, there has been NO posting of this year’s city’s plan, NO hearings scheduled, and NO public input elicited, though the state’s deadline for publicizing the plan was September 14, and districts were supposed to post their assessment of public comments by October 25, 2012.

Contrast the way NYC has just ignored its obligations with the posting of C4E plans by the cities of Rochester, Buffalo, Binghamton, and countless others.
It is terribly sad that, in contrast over the intense scrutiny the state, the city and the corporate reform crowd have given the looming deadline a teacher evaluation system, months and years can pass without any accountability for the city’s failure to comply with any deadline when it comes to a law that was supposed to fulfill our children’s constitutional right for a sound basic education.
See below the answers I just received from the State Education Department, when I asked the agency about the status of  the city's C4E plans, last year and this year.
Letter from NYSED re NYC's C4E plans 12.12

1 comment:

TeachmyclassMrMayor said...

My question to the state based on its answers is, huh?