Elsewhere

ROCHESTER, NY

Parents will grade teachers. A new contract for teachers in Rochester is among the first in the country to bring parents into the teacher evaluation process, and to involve teachers in the evaluation of principals, according to the Sept. 17 issue of Education Week.

Parent input will be a formal part of teachers’ performance evaluations but will have no bearing on raises or promotions.

The issue of parent involvement had held up a contract agreement for more than a year. Union officials were concerned that parents would be asked to evaluate a teacher’s competence in a particular subject. Under a compromise between the School Board and the union, parents will be asked to respond to 20 questions that hone in on their relationship with their school.

For example, parents will be asked whether teachers are available for meetings when parents request them. The form also asks if teachers call parents to report problems with a child’s school work or attendance. Another issue is whether the teacher assigns “clear and meaningful homework” and “makes clear what my child is expected to learn in … class.”

Parents are to return completed forms to their children’s teachers, who, in turn, are expected to bring the forms to evaluation sessions with their principal. Parents have the option of sending a copy of the form to principals.

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association, told Education Week that the agreement likely will encourage parents and teachers to communicate with each other, which will benefit students. “Kids tend to do better in school if they know parents and teachers are talking to each other,” he says.

Rochester Schools Supt. Clifford Janey also points out that parent feedback on teachers may help the district pinpoint areas that are working or need improvement.

Parents’ comments make up one of four areas of teacher evaluation. The others are pedagogy, knowledge of subject matter and school-professional contributions.

A form for teachers to use in reviewing administrators has not yet been written, according to Urbanski.

Beyond New York, school districts in Alaska also are working out the details of a document for parents to use in teacher evaluations. A new state law mandates that parents and community members participate in evaluating the performance of school teachers and principals.

CLEVELAND, OH

Groups sue over mayoral control. The local chapter of the NAACP and members of school unions have filed federal lawsuits to block a mayoral takeover of the city’s public schools, according to the Sept. 17 issue of Education Week. The two nearly-identical suits challenge the constitutionality of a recently-enacted state law that allows Mayor Michael R. White to appoint a new school board and chief executive officer.

“Most of our claims relate to the [Cleveland] community being deprived of their right to vote for a school board,” a lawyer for the union members told the newspaper. According to a union spokesperson, the suit cites the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a clause of the state constitution that guarantees local districts the right to have a say in how their school systems will be governed.

The state got jurisdiction over the city’s schools in 1995, when the judge presiding over the district’s desegregation case declared the 76,000-student system to be in a “state of crisis.” Gov. George V. Voinovich signed the mayoral-takeover provision into law in August of this year.

An assistant to Voinovich insists that there is nothing illegal about the new law, noting that it will give Cleveland residents the right to vote the appointed leadership up or down after four years.

Mayor White, who has engaged in bruising battles with the Cleveland Teachers Union in recent years, cannot take official control of the district without the federal court’s OK.

FLORIDA

Bingo may pay for school buildings. Under a plan proposed by two powerful state GOP lawmakers, a nightly televised bingo game run by the state lottery could raise up to $100 million for school reconstruction, according to the Sept. 19 issue of the Miami Herald. Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, has strongly opposed similar proposals to use revenues from expanded state-sanctioned gambling to fund schools.

Funding for school construction has become a top political issue, the Herald reports. Republicans have also sought to claim part of the state’s tobacco settlement for that purpose.

The secretary of the state lottery system is skeptical of the plan, noting that it would require both a restructuring of the way lottery funds are divvied up and a renegotiation of the lottery’s contract with the private vendors who administer the games.

Meanwhile, nearly a dozen low-income counties in Colorado are considering a lawsuit against the state to challenge its reliance on property taxes to pay for school repairs, according to the October 1997 issue of The American School Board Journal.