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Friday, August 22, 2014

City teachers to undergo state evaluations

UTE teachers’ union head Eduardo López is seen staging a protest against the bill in front of the City legislature yesterday .
PRO-sponsored bill passes with support from UNEN, Ocaña amid protests from unions

Teachers in Buenos Aires City public schools will undergo detailed evaluations by a governmental entity, according to a bill approved by the City legislature yesterday.

The move marks a key victory for City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s administration, which had long been pushing to create a broad platform to evaluate teachers — a move that has been staunchly rejected by teachers, who staged a protest both inside and outside the legislative palace.

With 38 votes in favour and 21 against, the PRO-sponsored bill was approved yesterday after almost two years of ill-fated attempts. It establishes the creation of the “Evaluation Unit for Educational Quality and Equity,” a decentralized entity that will work within the orbit of the Education Ministry.

The unit’s main goal will be to “design, develop and coordinate the integral evaluation of the City’s educational system,” according to the legislation.

When the project was first presented last year, Macri did not have the necessary votes to discuss it on the floor — a situation that was reversed this year with his party’s majority among local lawmakers. Still, other votes outside PRO were needed for the bill to succeed, which made yesterday’s vote by lawmaker Graciela Ocaña — head of the Confianza Pública party — quite significant. Votes coming from her small party were a key factor in giving Macri’s party the necessary majority for the bill to pass.

“You can’t tackle this issue with sectarianism,” she said during the debate in response to accusations that she favoured the centre-right ruling party.

Members of Broad Front-UNEN also showed flexibility yesterday. When Macri first presented the legislation, he sought support from both UNEN and the Victory Front (FpV) — but support from Kirchnerism was firmly denied. UNEN, however, finally gave its positive vote after several key changes were made to the measure.

Despite several complaints by teachers unions regarding the law, the head of the Education Committee, PRO representative Victoria Morales Gorleri, told private news agency DyN that the law “won’t be punitive.”

Salary concerns

Since day one, teachers unions expressed their rejection of Macri’s proposal. According to Jorge Adaro — head of the ADEMYS teachers’ union — the kind of evaluations to come with this new law won’t improve the education system, and, on the contrary, will “deepen (its) fragmentation.” One of the main arguments presented by unions is that the evaluations will affect salaries and job posts. According to ADEMYS, the evaluations — which are already being implemented in countries such as Ecuador — seek to “establish a relationship between test results and salaries,” as well as the teacher’s permanence in their positions.

In addition to that, Adaro also said that results of those evaluations will be published in a “school ranking” that will determine the amount of government funding.

Adaro’s concern may find some backing. The City’s Education Minister Esteban Bullrich said that schools that “show improvement in their achievements will receive more benefits, such as libraries or trips to Bariloche.”

Adaro’s union also sustains that there is a big socio-economic factor that won’t be taken into account. In an official statement dated August 19, it claims that standardized tests don’t delve into the context that could affect performance, noting that teachers cannot be held solely responsible for performance.

During the vote, teachers stood behind lawmakers waving banners with slogans such as “You are the ones who should be evaluated.” Outside the legislative building, two separated rallies took place. On one side, there was a coalition comprised of unions led by UTE. On the other, there was ADEMyS. The reason for this split spurs from ADEMyS’ decision to go on a 24-hour strike to protest the bill, a measure that did not receive support from other unions.

Herald with Reuters, DyN, Télam

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