After this post, I'm afraid things are bound to get worse: I've just come into possession of an internal memo from Anderson that outlines a deal that pays Cerf's former employee, Patrick Flynn, to run the district's "peer validation" system.
The memo, co-written with Vanessa Rodriguez, NPS's Chief Talent Officer, is addressed to Anderson's five Assistant Superintendents, and cc'd to Joseph Del Grosso, head of the Newark Teachers Union (NTU). I've posted images of the memo below.
The memo outlines the new "peer validation process" for NPS. This process is critical for teachers, as it is a component of the new contract, signed this past winter, that calls for high-stakes decision making based on teacher evaluations. Peer validation, according to both Anderson and the NTU, is a way to guarantee that teachers will not be subject to the whims of vindictive administrators: it provides a way for a teacher to challenge a bad evaluation that might lead to termination.
I'll say more about the "peer validation process" later. For right now, let's focus on who is doing the validating:
We aim to create a quality process that aligns with the above principles - but we also acknowledge that this year is simply the beginning of the design and implementation process. This spring, after a competitive bid process, the district has contracted with an outside organization - the ReVision Learning Partnership - comprised of former teachers and administrators who specialize in peer observations in an urban school district setting. NPS and NTU felt it was important to select an experienced provider who has operated successfully in the context of a collective bargaining environment to the satisfaction of management and labor. (For more information on ReVision Learning, please visit their website: www.revisionlearning.com.) [emphasis mine]It's not really clear from the memo what role ReVision will be playing; will, for example, they be providing their "former teachers and administrators" as the peer validators? Or will they merely be facilitators for the process?
To see if we can pick up some clues, let's look at their website:
Edison Schools? You mean the same Edison Schools that Education Commissioner Chris Cerf joined in 1997 and ran from 2001 to 2005?ReVision’s FounderPatrick W. Flynn, Founder and Executive Director ofReVision Learning PartnershipDuring his 17 years of educational service, Patrick Flynn has worked as a teacher, teacher leader, curriculum director and executive program director in K-12 settings in over ten different states. As the Executive Director of High Schools for Edison Schools and the Chief Academic Officer for Great Schools Workshop in Sacramento, CA, Patrick worked with building and district administrations in nine states to implement systemic high school reform. Patrick currently leads ReVision Learning Partnership, LLC, providing professional development and support to districts and educational organizations in CT, NY, and LA and has consulted on school improvement initiatives internationally in the United Arab Emirates with the Abu Dhabi Education Council. As the Executive Director of ReVision Learning Partnership, Patrick has been working with New Haven Public Schools on the implementation of its nationally recognized Teacher Evaluation system. In this role he has trained district’s administrators in calibration and implementation of their teaching framework and rubric and continues to manage the independent team of validators charged with providing inter-rater reliability on all classroom observations for Needs Improvement and Exemplary teachers within the system. Patrick also works extensively with school districts in the formation of frameworks for teaching and learning and provides on-going support to administrators in supervision and evaluation techniques through one-one coaching and system wide professional development. He also serves as Executive Director for the Connecticut Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (CASCD). [underline emphasis mine]
Yes, that Edison Schools. According to Flynn's bio, he was there from 2000 to 2007, working right along side or under Cerf for most of his tenure.
Cerf's former associates have a history of getting contracts from Newark's schools. Those associates include his former company, Global Education Advisors, and Bradley Tusk, who worked with Cerf on Michael Bloomberg's last reelection campaign for mayor of New York City. Neither of those contracts, however, involved the evaluation of teachers.
The memo says this contract was put out to bid. OK, sure - let's set aside our skepticism and say that Flynn didn't get the contract because he worked for Cerf for years. There's still a problem:
Do Chris Cerf and Cami Anderson really think Newark teachers can trust an evaluation validation system that is being run by Cerf's former underling?
Again, we don't know exactly what Flynn's firm is going to be doing, but we do know the "peer validation" system is supposed to protect teachers from capricious or vindictive evaluations. But how can ReVision be an impartial party when Flynn has such close ties to Cerf?
NPS needs to open this process up and answer some questions: what are the terms of the contract, who will do the evaluating, and what other firms - firms without ties to the Commissioner - were considered?
Again, I'll have more to say about the rest of the memo later this week.
ADDING: Mother Crusader reported back in March that OPRA'd emails show another of Cerf's former Edison underlings, Steve Wilson, was invited to come into New Jersey by Cerf and start opening charter schools.
It's good to be Chris Cerf's friend, isn't it?