A Few Teachers Beg Albany to Help Evaluate Them in New Ad Campaign

It's not every day that employees ask their higher-ups to evaluate them more rigorously, but that's what a few city public school teachers asked for in an ad campaign launched by Educators 4 Excellence yesterday.

There's surely nothing wrong with wanting to be held to a high standard. But, some critics have dismissed the credibility of E4E's campaign due to the financial support that it has received from big money players in the ed-reform movement, *including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- an organization known for promoting teacher evaluation policies that undo many of the safeguards to job security that you'd expect a teacher to want.

The teachers in the E4E commercial, which can be seen above, call on Albany to intervene in the stalled negotiations between the United Federation of Teachers and the City.

"A meaningful evaluation system will tell me what's working and help me do better for my students." Jemal Graham, a seventh grade math teacher in Queens, says in the video-ad.

A "meaningful evaluation system" is certainly ideal, but the city's real hang-up in its negotiations with the UFT is over whether or not the Department of Education will have the power to fire teachers -- not whether the evaluations provide "meaningful" enough feedback. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city rejected the UFT's demand to have the evaluation deal sunset in June 2015 because it could block the city from firing teachers who were found ineffective for two consecutive years.

To avoid missing out on increases in state funding, a bunch of other districts in the state agreed to one-year evaluation deals. Bloomberg has repeatedly called those agreements fraudulent -- arguing that the teacher's unions won't have anything to lose. Gov. Andrew Cuomo rebuffs that claim, noting that districts and unions will be compelled to extend those deals due to the annual threat of losing increases in state aid if no evaluation deal is in place.

We reported earlier today that Cuomo is expected to introduce legislation at some point this week that would grant the state the authority to arbitrate a deal between the UFT and the city if the two parties fail to reach an agreement by the September deadline. The two sides have already missed out on $250 million in state funding increases for the 2012-2013 school year, when the two sides failed to come to an agreement on a teacher-evaluation deal in January.

"New York has missed every deadline for the implementation of this evaluation system and we simply can't afford to kick the can down the road any longer," said Sydney Morris, a co-founder of E4E said in a release. "Our teachers are tired of empty promises, ready for a system that will give them the feedback and support they need and deserve, and want enough time to be able to implement this effectively so that it actually improves teaching and learning."

Speaking without any real authority -- just common sense -- one would assume that most teachers aren't champing at the bit to put a system in place that reduces their job security. And, while it's nice that Cuomo will ensure that the city won't lose out on $220 million more dollars, (the state likely owes the city billions by the way), Bruce Baker, a professor of education at Rutgers and a statistical analyst, told the Voice last month that the evaluation measures used by the city and the state aren't very reliable measures of teacher performance:

"My concern would be over the rigidly specified heavy use of things like either the city's value-added measures, or especially the stage-growth measures which the state is kind of mandating be part of the evaluations . . . I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing better evaluations, and that we shouldn't be smartly integrating data into the evaluation, including student performance and growth data. What I am saying about [these] policy prescriptions is they're trying to do it in a particularly dumbass way."

So, it would appear that E4E is calling for evaluations that will likely bring more job loss than phenomenal feedback. But, why should E4E take heat for its ads?

After all, it's just an organization -- as described to Gotham Schools -- started by a couple of fed-up city teachers, Morris and fellow E4E cofounder Evan Stone. Through perseverance and determination for educational justice, E4E grew in just three years from a small band of passionate educators into a full-on national organization with reach in multiple cities, an impeccably designed website, and enough funding to launch a week-long television ad-campaign in New York City.

Rafael Gondim, an seventh-grade teacher in Queens, says during his spot in the ad that he just wants to get better.

"With feedback and support, I will be a stronger teacher for my students," he said.

*previously stated that E4E also receives funding from Democrats for Education Reform


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