December 30, 2011

E4E Co-Founder Sydney Morris Speaks to the NY Daily News About Teacher Evaluations

Original article from the NY Daily News by Ben Chapman.

The city could lose nearly $60 million in federal aid for its failing schools after officials were unable to reach a deal with the teachers union on instructor evaluations.

State Education Commissioner John King had given schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott until Sunday to hammer out an accord with the United Federation of Teachers in order to keep the money for 44 failing schools.

On Friday, Walcott walked away from the tense negotiations and sent King a letter saying the city and union would “not be able to come to an agreement” because “the teachers’ union is not committed to real accountability.”

King responded to the collapse of the talks by announcing that he would immediately “suspend” the promised federal funding.

“Sadly, the adults in charge of the city’s schools have let the students down,” he said. “This is beyond disappointing.”

Union officials said they were surprised the city ended talks ahead of the deadline. Two deputy chancellors dispatched to broker a deal with the union walked away from negotiations around 10 a.m. after the sides reached an impasse over the appeals process for negative teacher ratings.

A few minutes later Walcott telephoned UFT president Michael Mulgrew to tell him the deal was off, officials said.

Mulgrew, who earlier in the year made a deal with the city to avoid 4,100 threatened teacher layoffs, told the Daily News he offered to settle the issue with an independent arbitrator.

“I’m hoping that we can somehow figure this out and that somebody will take charge and do the right thing,” he said.

The city declined Mulgrew’s offer to go to an arbitrator, but in his letter to King, Walcott said he’s ready to work directly with the state on teacher evaluations.

The federal “School Improvement Grant” the city now stands to lose would have paid for extra instructors, materials and extended instructional days at
some of the city’s worst schools, including Grace Dodge High School in the Bronx, where 200 students went without English teachers this fall.

The breakdown in negotiations also means that the city could lose out on nearly $78 million in additional federal funds that also require teacher evaluations, including more than $64 million in Race to the Top money.

Former teacher and Educators 4 Excellence school activist Sydney Morris called the breakdown in negotiations a “shame.”

“Teachers want and need a system that gives them meaningful feedback to improve their craft,” Morris said.