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Teachers Union Opposes $40 Mil Grant's New Evaluation System

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A group of community leaders expressed their support today, for a teacher evaluation system within the Pittsburgh Schools.

The evaluation system is being funded by a $40 million grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But the money is in jeopardy because of opposition by the teachers union.

Gathering in the cold, community leaders and parents called on the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers to adopt high standards of evaluation -- saying lower standards hurt teachers, parents.

"And most especially, lowering the bar isn't good for our children who deserve the highest quality education we can provide them," said Tracey Reed Armant of A-Plus Schools.

The union and the district agreed on a system of evaluation based on classroom observation, student performance and other factors.

But the union objects that a score of 48 percent or less would require teachers to undergo retraining.

"We all know that students who take a test and receives a 50 percent on this test -- that that is failure," said parent Dwayne Parker.

"But this is certainly far from a student's test or a child's test, this is a rigorous system of multiple measures," said Union President Nina Esposito-Visgitis.

In a dry run, 85 percent of the teachers passed and 15 percent fell below. Under the system, those struggling teachers would have two years to make improvement or face dismissal.

Esposito-Visgitis says this standard is much higher than the rest of the state, but that the school district has refused to budge.

"For the past five years, the evaluation system has been a true collaboration until it came to the cut score," Esposito-Visgitis said. "All we're asking for is that this be a 100 percent collaboration."

Still, the Gates Foundation has publicly decried the lack of progress in reaching an agreement and sources say the grant itself is in jeopardy. And parents and community leaders have grown frustrated.

"So let's fix it," Marilyn Barnett-Waters of the NAACP said. "Let's stand behind this instrument that was developed in Pittsburgh and let's make sure that every teacher in the Pittsburgh Public School, every child, has access to a quality teacher. Let's fix it now."

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