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Educators 4 Excellence
March 27, 2012
Teacher group: Reward top-rated teachers with more pay, duties
Sketch of a teacher "career ladder" from Educators 4 Excellence's new report on teacher pay. (Click to enlarge) Teachers should be paid more — but they should have to prove their value before getting big raises or better positions. That's a central idea of a paper about teacher pay released today by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence. The group convened a 16-teacher policy team last fall to study past and current experiments in teacher pay, survey city teachers about their views, and come up with recommendations about how to change the way city teachers are paid. Currently, city teachers earn a starting salary of $45,530 and see their pay rise in small increments each year and as they accumulate additional credentials such as a master's degree. Large salary jumps come late in teachers' careers or when they move into administrative positions. The group's recommendations include increasing the starting salary by a third; creating a "career ladder" so teachers can be rewarded for strong performance without leaving the classroom; introducing bonuses for teachers who receive top ratings on new teacher evaluations; and paying more to draw teachers to hard-to-staff subjects, such as science or special education. Educators 4 Excellence is aligned with school reform groups that have battled the teachers union in the past, and some of the group's previous reports have influenced city and state policy proposals. But the teacher pay report does not side neatly with either Mayor Bloomberg or the UFT. It does not call for merit pay tied to student test scores, which Bloomberg has supported and the city teachers union has said it would never accept, nor does it support Bloomberg's recent proposal to offer permanent pay raises to teachers who earn top ratings on new evaluations. But it also does not call for union-backed school-wide bonuses of the type distributed under a city program that was aborted after it did not lead to increases in student performance. "We are not interested in replicating failed experiments. As teachers, we already work hard, and we know that more pay will not make us work harder," reads the report. "But we do want to be recognized for our successes. We want to build up our supply of excellent teachers by recruiting and retaining professionals who might otherwise choose other fields."
March 7, 2012
Teacher group: Principal evals should count attrition, discipline
Principals are already evaluated on test scores, parent and teacher surveys, and their compliance with an array of policies. But their performance should also be assessed on new measures, including teacher retention and the number of students suspensions under their watch. Those are key recommendations being published today in a new paper by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence. A policy team of 18 public and charter school teachers reviewed research, examined current policies, and surveyed 197 colleagues to reach their conclusions, which will be discussed tonight at a panel on principal evaluations. The paper, called “Principals Matter: Principal Evaluations from a Teacher's Perspective,” seeks to emphasize the teacher’s point of view on the issue. That includes the proposal that principals “be given credit” when effective teachers stay at their schools. In a city where half of all teachers leave the profession after five years, the paper concludes that “effective teacher retention data can illustrate a principal’s ability to support teachers and should be one component of a principal evaluation system." The paper also recommends that student suspensions should be considered when measuring a principal's success at developing a safe and culturally responsive environment.
February 3, 2012
Cuomo’s education deputy takes agenda to city teacher group
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top education aide took his boss's message on the road Thursday night for a speaking event with city teachers. Speaking at a Midtown hotel on a one-man panel moderated by three teachers from the group Educators 4 Excellence, Deputy Secretary for Education David Wakelyn primarily discussed teacher evaluations and why, nearly two years after a state law was signed requiring that they be toughened, nothing had changed. The meeting was notable not for what Wakelyn said — his comments hewed closely to what the governor has said about evaluations in recent weeks — but because it happened at all. Wakelyn has been relatively quiet since becoming Cuomo's education deputy in September. But now Cuomo has made his education agenda a priority for 2012 and has increasingly sought to exert greater influence over policy. The event began with a question from Dan Mejias, a teacher at JHS 22 Jordan L. Mott, one of the 33 low-performing schools slated to close and reopen with new teachers under Mayor Bloomberg's "turnaround" plan. Bloomberg devised the turnaround plan to sidestep a requirement under a previous plan for the schools that the city and its teachers union agree on new evaluations. Mejias said his school had shown progress with federal money it received under the previous model, known as "transformation," and wanted to know what the governor planned to do to force both sides to drop what he saw as pure political gamesmanship. "The NYC DOE is threatening to fire half of our staff, the UFT is willing to protect every single teacher at all costs, and none of this is beneficial for our students," Mejias said.
January 18, 2012
Proposed change in union rules would give retirees more votes
A policy change up for approval by teachers union leaders today would increase the weight of retired teachers in union elections. The proposal, which the union leadership's say is meant to make voting more democratic, has roiled critics who say it represents a bid to consolidate power by a leadership that fears dissent. At issue are the union's complex rules about how to count votes from its different constituencies during leadership elections. Under the bylaws, active teachers and members of other UFT chapters, including paraprofessionals and nurses, get one vote each. If 25,000 current teachers cast votes, 25,000 votes are counted. But the votes of retired teachers are capped, a provision that union leaders have said was aimed to limit retirees' influence. Since 1989, if 25,000 retired teachers vote, only 18,000 of those votes would count. In 2010, when the union elected Michael Mulgrew president, retired teachers' ballots counted only for seven-tenths of a vote. Under the proposed policy, that cap would be raised but not eliminated: 23,500 votes from retired teachers would be counted.
November 30, 2011
Pioneers in teacher prep chart changes in training landscape
If the people on a panel Tuesday about teacher preparation didn't convey the urgency they felt about improving teacher training, then a flash poll of the audience surely did. More than two-thirds of the audience, made up primarily of young teachers, said they didn't think their masters degrees had made them better at their jobs, according to electronic votes that were tallied in real time. With that context, a five-member panel of advocates for alternative certification and training dove into a 90-minute discussion about how traditional theory-driven teacher training had failed the profession, particularly in high-needs urban schools. Research has shown that having a masters degree does not make teachers more effective, and local, state, and federal efforts are underway to re-imagine how teachers are trained. Panelists largely agreed that many traditional education schools lack accountability, aren't willing to share performance data for their graduates, and have a detached relationship with the public schools where their graduates eventually work. "For too long schools of [education] have sat back and spun out academic theories of what should work in the ideal school with the ideal conditions," said a panelist, Bob Hughes, president of the nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools, which trains and certifies teachers and operates 99 schools in New York City. "And they've been divorced from the reality of what happens in schools ."
July 27, 2011
Fewer teachers granted tenure this year, but denials hold steady
Percentage of Teachers Who Had Tenure Denied or Extended In a stark departure from tradition, more than 40 percent of city teachers up for tenure this year did not get it. Just over 5,200 teachers were up for tenure this year. Of them, 58 percent received tenure and 3 percent were denied it, effectively barring them from working in city schools. The remaining portion -- 39 percent -- had their probationary periods extended for another year. The number of extensions inched up in 2010 to 8 percent, but skyrocketed this year after the Department of Education revamped the tenure evaluation process in an effort to make the protection tougher to receive. Yet the rate of tenure denials actually fell slightly from last year, from about 3.3 percent in 2010 to 2.7 percent in 2011, or 151 teachers, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg's insistence that the figures were the first step toward "ending tenure as we know it." The numbers, which Bloomberg touted at a press conference today, confirm anecdotal reports pointing to a sharp rise in the number of probation extensions under the new system. Before last year, that option was rarely used and the vast majority of teachers received tenure almost as a formality.
July 26, 2011
E4E rescinds its invitation to teacher who disrupted event
A veteran teacher who disrupted an Educators 4 Excellence panel last month has learned that he isn't welcome at the group's future events. Stuart Kaplan, a nine-year teacher at High School for Law and Public Service in Brooklyn, joined Educators 4 Excellence because he believed that the teaching profession could be improved by more dialogue. "I feel that there needs to be discussions between educators. It was my hope that they wanted to foster a real conversation," Kaplan said of E4E. He signed a pledge required of all members to agree to certain policy positions help by E4E and he attended several events, which are closed to the general public. But he publicly disavowed his membership last month after a blow-up with founder Evan Stone at a teacher evaluation panel. Annoyed that the group had released a teacher evaluation proposal earlier in the day because he believed too little feedback from E4E members was solicited, Kaplan repeatedly interrupted Stone, prompting an early end to the event But E4E did not remove him from its email list, and he received invitations to additional events, including one tonight, which he accepted. Last week, Stone personally called him to inform him he wasn't welcome unless he recommitted to E4E's core principles. Kaplan refused and Stone said that he would be barred from attending future events.
June 6, 2011
A school administrator suggests that E4E revise its tactics
A new challenge to the Educators 4 Excellence group comes from an unlikely source: a school administrator who says he agrees with many of the group's positions. In a new post in our Community section, John Galvin, the assistant principal at I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, targets the group's requirement that people who attend certain E4E events sign the group's "Declaration of Principles and Beliefs." Galvin writes: If you want to sponsor events that are closed to the public and only open to your members, that is your right. However, if you want to engage the public in debate and to test your ideas to the widest audience possible, then it makes no sense. It raises questions about the motives of your group and the commitment of your group to engage in honest debate with those that agree and disagree with you. Galvin describes attempting to sign up to attend the group's panel last week on teacher evaluation, and then being disappointed to find out that, in order to RSVP, he had to click a button indicating that he signed on to the declaration. (Many of our commenters logged similar complaints.) In an e-mail, Educators 4 Excellence founder Sydney Morris explained that teachers become members of the group by signing the statement. She defended the group's right to hold private members-only meetings. Her full statement:
June 3, 2011
A teacher evaluation panel dissolves early after dissent
A panel discussion that featured officials on each side of the teacher evaluation stand-off was halted abruptly last night after a disagreement escalated. The disruption did not stem from the teachers union and Department of Education official on the panel, but from a small group of audience members protesting the event itself. “Okay, I’m going to cut it off,” said moderator Evan Stone, following a crescendo of interruptions that built up for nearly five minutes. Stone is a founder of Educators 4 Excellence, which hosted the event. “Clearly, we’ve broken a lot of norms of respectability.” The interruptions came from at least three people in an audience of more than 100, most of them teachers. They began in response to Stone's handling of the panel and then escalated into an airing of grievances that targeted Educators 4 Excellence and its teacher evaluation recommendations, released yesterday, which the protesters said did not reflect their views. “I am a teacher and I have never been asked what I thought,” yelled out Stuart Kramer Kaplan, one of the protesters. (Click here for video of the exchange.)
June 2, 2011
Teachers with E4E outline how they would like to be evaluated
In advance of an event tonight about the future of teacher evaluations, an organization of young teachers has outlined how its members would ideally be measured. The proposal from Educators 4 Excellence signals a departure for the group, which formed last year to lobby against seniority-based layoffs that would put many of its 2,500 members at risk of losing their jobs. E4E enters the teacher evaluation debate as the city and teachers union are locked in negotiations to hammer out evaluation rules. Their standoff could cost the city millions of dollars in funds for low-performing schools. E4E's proposal builds off the state's new teacher evaluation law, which requires districts to evaluate teachers using 20 percent state test scores, 20 percent local assessment results, and 60 percent subjective measures such as observations and surveys. The proposal recommends that administrators, colleagues, and "outside master observers" all assess teachers, using formal rubrics that E4E sketches out, and that results of student surveys and "support of the school community" be factored in to teacher evaluations.
February 14, 2011
Teachers group mirrors city recommendations for layoff reforms
A teacher advocacy group supported by prominent opponents of the law requiring seniority-based teacher layoffs has unveiled one of the first detailed proposed alternatives to that law. A task force of 11 members of Educators 4 Excellence, the group of teachers critical of many union work rules, presented their recommendations to Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this month. The group is financially backed by the Gates Foundation and is linked to the advocacy group Education Reform Now. Much of their proposal is composed of recommendations that are already being pushed by Bloomberg and Chancellor Cathie Black. In speeches and editorials, the Bloomberg administration has strongly advocated scrapping seniority-based layoffs. Instead they propose laying off teachers whose principals have rated them as unsatisfactory or who currently lack full-time teaching positions in schools. E4E's proposal goes one step further, arguing that teachers who have racked up high numbers of unexcused absences during the school year should also be among the first to lose their jobs. Under the plan, teachers who were absent more than 22 days last school year and this one without a doctor's note would be laid off first. Still, the city could be forced to lay off far more teachers than who might be covered in E4E's proposal. The most conservative recent estimates indicate that the city may be forced to lay off more than 6,000 teachers if severe state budget cuts go through.
January 26, 2011
As layoff threats multiply, teachers union debates its own
The city's teachers union doesn't spend much time fighting opposition from factions within itself, but a new group of teachers critical of many of the union's work rules are garnering unusual attention from its president. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew spoke at a meeting of Educators 4 Excellence last night, a group started last March by two elementary school teachers in the Bronx. Founded with the goal of injecting teachers' voices into citywide education policy debates, the organization has attracted Gates Foundation funding and support from prominent groups like Education Reform Now, which is pushing for an end to seniority-based layoffs.
June 3, 2010
Klein celebrates no layoffs, hits the bar with young teachers
Question: If you're Chancellor Joel Klein, how do you celebrate not having to lay off your newest 4,400 public school teachers? Answer: By partying with a few dozen of those rookie teachers, of course. Chancellor Klein spoke to public school teachers, most of them recent hires, hours after Mayor Bloomberg announced there would be no teacher layoffs. By "partying" I mean sipping what looked to be Coke while addressing a small crowd of young teachers at a Hell's Kitchen bar. The teachers were a sympathetic crowd: Brought together by Educators 4 Excellence — a group created by teachers who hope to influence the public debate over seniority and teacher evaluations — the teachers gathered Wednesday evening to hear Klein speak.
April 8, 2010
A new union of teachers forms over happy hours and Facebook
Sydney Morris (left) and Evan Stone (right), two teachers in the Bronx, founded Educators 4 Excellence to give teachers frustrated with how they're evaluated a voice in policy debates. New York City's teachers union likes to say that it speaks for all teachers. But two young teachers at a Bronx elementary school are starting an organization with a distinctly different point of view. Both in their third year of teaching at P.S. 86 in the Bronx, Evan Stone and Sydney Morris started "Educators 4 Excellence" last month out of frustration with how their work is supported and evaluated. One of their first battles will be against the state's "last-in, first-out" law, which forces the city to lay off newer teachers in advance of their more experienced colleagues. "We want it to be the ostensible solution to a lot of screaming on both sides," said Stone, 25.
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