Low-performing boro schools still in limbo

Grover Cleveland High School is one of 33 low-performing schools eligible for School Improvement Grant funds that remain a sticking point between the city and the UFT's negotiations on a teacher evaluation system. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers
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Praise rang out from Albany last week as state education officials and the state teacher’s union inked an 11th-hour deal on a teacher evaluation system, but closer to home the fate of some of Queens’ lowest-performing schools is still uncertain.

The state Education Department and the New York State United Teachers union had been wrangling over an ambiguous law written in 2010 as part of the state’s application for a $700 million federal Race to the Top grant. In January, the U.S. Department of Education put the state on notice that it was in danger of losing those funds due to the impasse.

At the same time, the city Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers had hit a roadblock in negotiating their own evaluation system. As a result, state Education Commissioner John King announced New York would stop making payments of School Improvement Grants to 33 of the city’s lowest-performing schools, including nine in Queens: Newtown, Grover Cleveland, Queens Vocational-Technical, Flushing, August Martin, Richmond Hill, John Adams, William Cullen Bryant and Long Island City high schools.

Under pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state education officials and the state teachers union came to an agreement last Thursday that lays out a guideline for school districts to rate teachers as either ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective based on classroom observations of teacher performance (60 percent) and student achievement on state and local tests (40 percent).

The agreement also established a process by which city teachers deemed ineffective can appeal their rating to an independent third party.

“The appeal process will not go into effect unless and until Mayor Bloomberg negotiates agreements with the UFT for an overall teacher evaluation deal or for schools eligible for School Improvement Grants,” a statement released by UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “The mayor’s obsession with closing schools presents a significant barrier to us reaching that overall agreement.”

Bloomberg praised the statewide framework and said that while it resolved the lion’s share of most of the difficult issues between the city and the UFT, there were still other issues both sides had to discuss before finalizing an evaluation system.

“Nothing in this deal prevents us from moving forward with our plan to replace the lowest-performing teachers in 33 of our most-struggling schools, so we can immediately begin turning them around and giving our students the support they need,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 7:51 am, February 23, 2012
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