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NYC's Evaluation Impasse: From 'Transformation' to 'Turnaround'?

New York City schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott has lobbed the next volley in an escalating conflict with the teachers' union—and the state department of eudcation—over a new evaluation system.

He plans to convert many schools using the "transformation" School Improvement Grant model— the least aggressive of the U.S. Department of Education's four options—as well as those using the "restart" option, to a "turnaround" model that would require schools to replace at least half their teachers.

In a letter today to John B. King Jr., the state commissioner of education, Walcott writes that the district plans to use the rehiring process to screen teachers' competencies, essentially allowing for an end run around the issue of teacher evaluation. (Thanks to GothamSchools for the link to the letter.)

"As a requirement of the turnaround model, the [city education] department is committing in these schools to measure and screen existing staff using rigorous, school-based competencies, and to rehire a significant portion of them using this criteria. We believe that this requirement is achievable within the DOE's current collective bargaining agreement with the UFT," he writes.

The district believes this shift will allow it to meet the criteria of the SIG grant, which does not require teacher evaluation as part of the "turnaround" model. (Evaluations are required under the "transformation" model.)

King recently decided to withhold SIG funding from New York City, and other school districts, because they have not struck an agreement with their teachers' unions on the details of such a system.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew clearly thinks that the switch will not pass legal muster. "As far as the 'turnaround' model goes, the mayor knows perfectly well that under state law these kinds of initiatives have to be negotiated with the union," he said in a statement.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg clearly supports this step; he referred to it in his "State of the City" address, in which he also proposed a plan to give the best teachers up to $20,000 in bonuses. More coverage of the speech and its fallout can be found at GothamSchools.

No word yet on how Commissioner King will respond to this latest turn of events.

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