UNITY DOMINATED UFT DELEGATE ASSEMBLY VOTES FOR MINOR TWEAKS IN THE TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM WHILE MORE CAUCUS CALLS FOR REPEAL OF EVALUATION LAW
Most of the Unity dominated Delegate Assembly, including a huge group of retirees who do not have to work under the new system, agreed with the President that evaluations only need to be tweaked but there was strong support for MORE’s position to scrap the whole system among the Delegates.
As usual, President Michael Mulgrew ignored Roberts’ Rules of Order in conducting debate. No speakers were permitted to oppose a Unity Caucus resolution reinforced the UFT’s support for the evaluation law. However, the UFT is calling for a moratorium on using the results of high stakes tests for teacher evaluations until alterations to the local portion of the Measures of Student Learning portion of the system can be worked out in contract negotiations. The Unity sponsored resolution was on the regular agenda. It was introduced a few minutes after Delegate Megan Moskop from MORE introduced a resolution for next month during the new motion period calling for the UFT to support legislation to scrap the entire teacher evaluation law.
When Megan raised the MORE resolution, Mulgrew had no choice but to allow her to speak on its behalf as it she had obtained the floor. In Megan’s speech, she emphasized how using high stakes tests to evaluate teachers is a huge step back for the teaching profession, our members and the students. Megan skillfully pointed to some of the points made by Mulgrew in his Presidents’ Report about how misuse of standardized testing and education profiteering is bad for kids as well as teachers.
MORE also had excellent literature in support of this resolution which noted that the UFT had a task force report in 2007 that completely opposed using high stakes tests in any way shape or form to evaluate teachers. MORE also was highly critical of the Danielson observation system in the resolution saying it “subjects teachers to a cookie-cutter observation system that limits professional autonomy and reduces teaching to a series of numbered scores.” Megan received energized applause when she concluded her remarks by saying teachers need a voice and that the entire 3012c law needs to be repealed.
When Megan finished speaking, UFT Vice President Janella Hinds rose to defend the evaluation system law. Janella said that MORE misunderstood the new system as it rates teachers based on multiple measures which the UFT likes. This was also emphasized in the Unity Caucus literature that was handed out before the meeting. Janella argued that the new system took the power to rate teachers negatively out of the exclusive hands of principals. She added that we do not want to go back to the old system where ratings were exclusively the purview of principals. In addition, Janella objected to the criticism of the Danielson framework which she claimed was not part of the evaluation law. She also disagreed that tenure was weakened under the evaluation law as she pointed out that each teacher rated ineffective would be visited by an independent validator the following year.
Janella also said that the problem was not so much the law as the Department of Education’s inept implementation of the law and that is why the UFT filed 17 grievances against the DOE on evaluations. She closed by saying that how her students do on the Regents is a very important part of what she does and that MORE is trying to organize through fear which is not good. Her remarks were politely, if not enthusiastically, received.
When a Delegate raises a resolution for the following month during the new motion period, one speaker is allowed both for and against the motion and then it is voted on. The Unity majority voted against trying to repeal the evaluation law.
Instead, they had their own resolution on the regular agenda that was introduced by Staff Director Leroy Barr several minutes later. Leroy stated that even though the new evaluation system isn’t working, we can’t go back to the old system because we favor multiple measures to evaluate teachers. He added how we have to fix what is broken in the new system by changing the way the local 20% of teacher ratings are measured. He argued how we should be judged by student work including projects, group work and homework. The Unity resolution is also calling for a moratorium on using standardized tests to evaluate teachers.
Next up after Leroy was a Unity Delegate who told us that we have to stop worrying about being observed. He claimed he wanted more observations. (A big Unity theme of the day was that the observations have to be for support and to improve teaching).
At this point Mulgrew did his usual abuse of parliamentary procedure as someone called for debate to be closed. Anyone who can read knows that Roberts’ Rules, the dictionary and common decency all tell you that it isn’t debate until both sides are heard. According to brother Mulgrew, it is up to the body to decide if the minority should be heard so he allowed the Unity majority, including the large bloc of retirees who don’t have to worry about evaluations, to close debate. The vote to tweak the evaluation system was largely in favor. (I voted no. Some Delegates who supported MORE’s call to repeal the evaluation law also voted for Unity’s resolution to tweak it. I guess something is better than nothing.)
There was another motion that called for an end to high stakes testing for grades Pre K to 2. This was motivated illegally by Mulgrew from the chair and then by Vice President Karen Alford. Mulgrew stated that both State Education Commissioner John King and Chancellor Dennis Walcott told him they were against standardized testing for pre K to grade 2 but Mulgrew went on to say that 36 schools were giving bubble tests to kids of this age and that he talked to a teacher who reported that some of these students could not even hold a pencil.
When the two officers completed their speeches, Mulgrew called on a Delegate who asked if tests to see how well English Language Learners understand the language would be included in this resolution. Mulgrew did not know which prompted a retiree to move that the motion be tabled. A motion to table is not debatable but since this was a Unity person who made the motion to table a Unity resolution, there was real confusion in the room.
Unity people didn’t know what to do so Mulgrew once again ignored Roberts’ Rules by dismissing the voices yelling out that a motion to table is not debatable, as he allowed Leroy Barr to speak against the motion to table. The UFT’s parliamentarian said nothing. After hearing from Leroy, the Unity majority killed the motion to table and supported the ban on standardized testing for our youngest kids. (I voted for the ban for the record.)