An Open Letter to New York City Parents
New York City is losing its teachers.
More than 66,000 have either resigned or retired since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools.
Teachers leave one of the toughest jobs in New York City for a variety of personal and professional reasons, but the most common single reason is a lack of support from supervisors and the Department of Education.
Teaching is a craft that is acquired over time, and teachers desperately want to improve their skills. That is why the United Federation of Teachers led the campaign to create a better teacher evaluation system, one that put a priority on helping all teachers do their job better. The UF T’s role was critical in creating the new system, and in going to Washington, D.C. to help get federal funds for it through the Race to the Top program. Starting last spring, many of our members with expertise in evaluation worked for months on the state subcommittees designing the new system.
We have been trying to work with the Bloomberg administration to iron out the final details of the new system, but the administration has refused to engage in meaningful talks about teacher and principal improvement. Instead it has focused on ensuring that administrators have unlim- ited power over their employees. If we agree, it will mean that supervisors’ decisions can never
be properly reviewed, much less overturned. This would be true even if their negative rating of
a teacher or a principal can be proven to be the result of their refusal to inappropriately change
a student’s grade or to give students credit for courses they have not properly completed.
Make no mistake about it. The administration has put tremendous pressure on principals to make their schools appear to be successful. But any claims of success ring hollow in the light of national tests that show very limited student progress for the system as a whole, and state measures that show that while the high school graduation rate is increasing, the number of graduates ready for college is only about one in five.
The sad truth is that Mayor Bloomberg’s “reform” agenda — raising class size across the system; closing schools and “warehousing” the neediest students; pushing art and music out of the schools to make room for more test prep; turning a deaf ear to parents’ concerns; and appointing a completely unqualified publishing executive to be Chancellor
— hasn’t made our schools better.
A real teacher evaluation system that helps all teachers improve while providing checks and balances is a critical step toward stopping the hemorrhaging of our teaching force and making our schools more effective. At the same time it would help ensure that teachers who cannot succeed in the classroom leave the profession.
We have an open offer to the administration to continue our negotiations on this issue, or even to take it to binding arbitration. It’s time the administration sat down with teachers and principals to come up with an agenda that will actually help our children learn.
United Federation of Teachers