Thursday, November 22, 2012

Summary of Landmark Teacher Contract in Newark

A NYT editorial on the teacher contract in Newark, which was approved a week ago:

Newark and its teachers’ union deserve praise for the groundbreaking contract that the two sides have hammered out. The relatively calm negotiations that led up to the union’s ratification vote this week stood in sharp contrast to the vitriol that surrounded a similar agreement earlier this year in Chicago that led to a polarizing strike.

The need to improve teacher performance has long been evident in Newark, whose perennially troubled schools do a particularly poor job of preparing its 37,000 students for higher education.

…A new contract alone will not magically remake this system, but it offers reason for hope that the quality of teaching will improve. 

Here’s a summary of the key terms of the contract – a MAJOR step forward:

· Performance Pay: Newark will be the first city in the country to implement a comprehensive performance-based compensation system that: (a) meaningfully differentiates between ineffective, partially effective, effective, and highly effective teachers – and (b) has cash incentives for the best teachers and teachers who take the hardest assignments.  The hope is that this new system will be emulated across the state and country.  Key features:

o   Teachers no longer automatically receive step increases solely on the basis of additional seniority; only teachers evaluated effective and highly effective move up a step;

 o   Teachers will no longer be in different “lanes of pay” according to how many graduate degrees a teacher has;  Teachers who complete a district approved training program, however, are eligible for a large one-time cash bonus.  (This incents them to get real training that we approve rather than some drive-by graduate degree which has little correlation with increased student outcomes.)

o   There will be a cash incentive system under which highly effective teachers and teachers in high needs schools or shortage-area subjects (who are also highly effective) will receive additional compensation.

·      New Evaluation System and Immediate Implementation:  Another first: swift implementation (no phasing in).  Newark has already launched a new 4-level rating system aligned with the new state law.  The union has agreed to the new evaluation system and has agreed that there will be four categories of measurement as outlined in the new tenure bill. Implementation of the new system will occur in this school year.  All administrators and about 400 teachers have been trained on the new system this summer.
Key features:

o   Effectively immediately, all teachers will be evaluated on the new system.  The framework emphasizes student outcomes.

o   Effective immediately, all new hires and all teachers with a Bachelor’s degree will be on the new compensation system. 

o   Teachers currently on the MA and the PHD scale can elect whether or not to join the new unitary pay ladder.  Importantly, however,  existing MAs and PhDs who chose to stay in their  old “lanes” will only advance a salary step based on performance.  Any such individual electing to go to the new system will receive an incentive payment based on their years of service and level of education. 

·     Turn-Arounds Schools and Extended Time:  The contract will give NPS the ability to designate ten schools each year as Turnaround Schools.  For schools so designated, the new contract will allow the district to implement different work rules  to create a platform for  radical improvements.  Key features:

o   Schools will be exempt from scheduling/other constraints in the CBA.

o   Teachers are eligible for a stipend (as opposed to an hourly rate) for more instructional time, summer training, and added faculty meetings, also precedent-setting (all other CBAs extend hours through an hourly rate)  

·      Work-Rules Waivers:  Principals of non Turn-Around Schools will be allowed to petition their teachers to change elements of the CBA (except those related to compensation and time).  Key features:

o   25% of the staff can propose a vote

o   If more than 50% of the teachers approve of the change then the school will have the right to make this change.  This “waiver language” is also precedent-setting for the country as there are very few with waiver language and those that exist require generally 65% to pass.

·      Removal of other bureaucratic barriers: There are other key “wins” that involve removing barriers to success, examples include:

o   NPS can now post vacancies on-line

o   NPS can now videotape teachers

o   Approved “teacher leaves” will be limited.

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