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Cincinnati Teachers' Contract Would Link Pay to Performance

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The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers and the city school board have agreed to a new contract that would give teachers a greater voice in the district's reforms while holding them more accountable for their job performance.

The tentative three-year agreement, expected to be approved this month by the union and the board, calls for teachers to be evaluated more often and links more of their salary steps to performance.

The district also agreed to raise its hiring standards for teachers by adopting a pre-hiring examination and an assessment of each teacher's performance at the end of his or her first year in the classroom.

In exchange, teachers would take on greater roles in the district, which has been retooling its management and educational practices with the help of the local business community. (See Education Week, May 19, 1993.)

Teachers would gain a voice in helping principals interview and select candidates to fill vacancies in schools. Under the new process, seniority would less often be the determining factor in whether a teacher was hired to work in a school, according to Tom Mooney, the president of the union.

The shift is necessary, he argued, because many Cincinnati schools have distinctive educational programs that require teachers with special training and a commitment to the approach.

"The union simply has to recognize that it's not just generic qualifications as a teacher that are important,'' he said. "It's interest, commitment, and specific qualifications or relevant experience for that school or assignment.''

New Roles for Lead Teachers

The proposed contract, reached after a tense period in which the union threatened to call a strike vote, was reached with the help of negotiation consultants.

The agreement also contains new roles for the city's lead teachers--experienced teachers who are selected to play leadership roles and who receive additional pay.

In the schools that make up the city's "pilot mini-district,'' which was set up to implement reforms advocated by the business community, new "instructional-leadership teams'' would share in the management of the school. The teams would include lead teachers.

To address the problem of inexperienced faculties in inner-city schools, the contract calls for such schools to receive the same proportion of experienced and lead teachers as the average district school.

Teams of up to three teachers also would be allowed to transfer into inner-city schools together, which Mr. Mooney said would be an incentive to teachers reluctant to move on their own to troubled schools. In addition, experienced and lead teachers in inner-city schools would receive 10 days a year for professional development.

On the district level, curriculum councils created by the union in each major subject area would work with the district's streamlined quality-improvement department to insure that effective instruction, the best materials, and sound assessment practices were used.

The contract calls for teachers to receive raises of 2.5 percent retroactive to January, 3 percent in January 1995, and 2 percent in January 1996. If voters approve a school-tax levy that is expected to be on the ballot in November 1995, teachers will get another 2 percent increase in 1996.

By 1995, the district plans to develop a new evaluation process that would be used more frequently. Teachers would be evaluated after their first, third, and fifth years, when they apply for tenure, when they change subjects, and when they apply for lead-teacher status.

In addition, teachers who have not otherwise been evaluated would be reviewed every fifth year. Under the current system, critics have noted, teachers could go for decades without being evaluated.

Superintendent Michael Brandt praised the contract for delivering the accountability sought by taxpayers. He said a new budget panel called for in the contract would help the public and employees understand the district's tight finances.

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