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Bloomberg Says Change Is Coming For Teacher Tenures

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his educational policy was put in the national spotlight Monday morning.

During Bloomberg’s nationally-televised 15-minute address this morning on MSNBC, the mayor said that he was ending tenure-as-we-know it in New York and partnering with IBM to open the first high school in the country that extends until grade 14.

The mayor praised his own record on education and announced several new school reforms, including a new tenure process that will go into effect this year. In the past, more than 99 percent of teachers in the city received tenure after their third year in the classroom. But for the 6,300 educators up for tenure this year, the mayor says the process will be very different.

“Beginning this year, our policy will be very simple. Only teachers who help students and schools move ahead significantly for at least two consecutive years will earn tenure,” said Bloomberg. “And just as we are raising the bar for our students through higher standards, we must also raise the bar for our teachers and principals – and we are."

Teachers up for tenure will now be rated either highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective, based on a combination of test score data, classroom observations, and their contribution to their school community, according to the Department of Education. The United Federation of Teachers says that coming up with an objective tenure policy is complicated, but something that teachers would welcome.

"I am glad he is now going to be responsible in the authority that has been granted to him a very long time ago in the tenure law," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

Mulgrew spoke Monday afternoon before testifying at a City Council hearing on the most recent state test scores. Elected officials say these new results proved the old tests had exaggerated gains under Mayor Bloomberg, and that a focus on scores had lead educators to teach to the test.

"They're learning less geography, science, history; getting less arts and music, physical education. They even have gym teachers who are out grading tests, so they don't even have gym that day," said City Councilman Mark Weprin.

The new reform plans the mayor announced Monday do not back off on the emphasis on testing. In fact, in addition to making it one of the yardsticks for granting teacher tenure, the mayor wants Albany to allow him to layoff teachers based on student performance instead of seniority.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg also announced a new school that will open next fall, run by the Department of Education, CUNY and IBM.

“It’s the first of the kind in the country. Together, we’ll create a school that runs from grades nine to grade 14 – yes, grade 14. All students will learn the traditional core subjects, but they’ll also receive an education in computer science and complete two years of college work,” said the mayor. “When they graduate from grade 14 with an Associate’s Degree and a qualified record, they will be guaranteed a job with IBM and a ticket to the middle class, or even beyond.”

Bloomberg’s speech was part of NBC's Education Nation summit. Tom Brokaw introduced Bloomberg, saying he was on the cutting edge of school reform and setting a standard for the rest of the nation.

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