Mayor Bloomberg vowed Wednesday the city will use students’ test scores to decide if their teachers should get tenure – defying the Legislature and angering the union.
Bloomberg made the aggressive move in a speech in Washington as contract talks with the teachers union have stalled – and hundreds of millions of federal dollars hang in the balance.
“You can evaluate teachers on any criteria you want, just not on student achievement data,” Bloomberg told an audience that included U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “That’s like saying to hospitals: ‘You can evaluate heart surgeons on any criteria you want – just not patient survival rates!'”
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew reacted angrily to the plan, which would affect about 6,000 teachers this year.
“This really blew my mind today,” Mulgrew said. “The state education commissioner and [Regents Chancellor] Merryl Tisch have both said publicly that the test scores are broken, and then the mayor stands up in public and says he wants to use the broken test scores to evaluate teachers.”
The union last year persuaded the Legislature to pass a law barring the use of test scores in tenure decisions.
City lawyers say they found a loophole in the law – which expires in June – that allows them to use student performance to evaluate teachers who are up for tenure this year.
The mayor said he didn’t consult with the union before going public with the plan. The UFT contract expired Oct. 31.
“They certainly know our views,” Bloomberg said. “If [teachers] can’t cut the mustard, sorry, you can’t work.”
The mayor also outlined several other proposals that raised the ire of the union – including abolishing the “last-in, first-out” law that mandates that layoffs occur according to seniority.
Tisch said she thought the mayor gave a “helluva speech.”
She said many factors could affect test scores, like principal quality and makeup of the student body.
“We cannot deny that student test scores are a significant indicator of success,” Tisch said, “but it’s not the only indicator, and it’s not in a vacuum.”
The mayor also said he would continue to push the state to lift the cap on charter schools, which would allow him to open 100 new charters in the city in the next four years.
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