evaluation changes

Proposal may let teachers avoid unpopular requirement: being evaluated by outside observers

PHOTO: Monica Disare
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia at the School of Diplomacy in the Bronx.

New York City teachers may not have to share their classrooms with “independent observers,” after all.

Under new rules passed Monday, the city will be able to apply for a waiver that will allow it to bypass one of the most unpopular provisions of the state’s teacher evaluation law — the requirement that teachers and principals be evaluated by someone who doesn’t work at their school, starting in the 2016-17 school year. Union officials said the city is likely apply for one of the waivers.

“We hope that we and the DOE, together, will consider putting in an application for a waiver, so that any additional funds we may have spent can instead be sent back to the classroom,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

Educators and district leaders have objected to prospect of the outside observers, since finding qualified people from outside a school is likely to pose a logistical challenge for districts. Others argue they will undermine principal autonomy and lack the understanding of each school environment necessary to fairly assess teachers.

The waivers don’t get rid of the observers entirely. Teachers who were rated “ineffective” this school year would still be required to have a classroom observation by an outside observer next year. (Only 1 percent of the city’s teachers earned the lowest rating last year, though.)

The move is a continuation of the Regents’ effort to effectively allow districts to ignore a 2015 law changing the rules for teacher evaluations. Last year, the Regents allowed districts to apply for waivers to postpone negotiating details of the evaluation systems. In December, they prohibited the use of grades 3-8 English and math state tests in the evaluations.

The new rules make it likely that New York City will qualify for a waiver. Districts can apply if they have a large number of teachers or principals, or if they can show that independent observers would cause them financial hardship. Chancellor Carmen Fariña warned last year that finding those observers would be costly.

“If you think about the requirements of this, large city districts, as well as some of our small cities, have incredible constraints,” State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”