School & District Management

Teacher Contract Called Potential Model for Nation

By Stephen Sawchuk — October 21, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A teacher contract approved in New Haven that lays the groundwork for changes to the way teachers in the Connecticut city are paid, supported, and evaluated, has been hailed by union and district leaders alike—as well as federal education officials—as a potential model for the country.

“This is an incredibly progressive contract,” said Joan Devlin, a senior associate director in the American Federation of Teachers’ educational-issues department. “It addresses teacher voice, and it gives the district the flexibility it needs to make [these reforms] work.”

Ratified by teachers earlier this month, the contract awaits only the approval of the city’s Board of Aldermen. It is set to go into effect in July.

AFT President Randi Weingarten called the pact a template that could be replicated elsewhere. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, meanwhile, praised the union for agreeing to address changes to areas that have been traditionally sensitive for teachers.

Officials from both the union and district said an unusual bargaining model in which reform issues were discussed apart from bread-and-butter ones helped get the pact finalized before a tight deadline under the state’s collective bargaining law sent it into arbitration.

The contract outlines a number of areas that would be settled by two committees of union officials, district representatives, and parents. A reform committee would make recommendations on the best ways to measure student growth. It would consider growth in test scores, as well as other measures of achievement, said Ms. Devlin, who provided help to the New Haven Federation of Teachers during the bargaining process.

Those recommendations would be used by a separate teacher-evaluation committee charged with determining how to weight the student-growth data as part of an overall teacher-evaluation system capable of distinguishing among four levels of performance.

The committees’ work would also take place transparently, with progress reported to the board of education and the public, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in an interview.

The contract is expected to help move along Mr. DeStefano’s ambitious education reform agenda. A centerpiece of his campaign for this year’s election is closing the achievement gap in six years by addressing teacher effectiveness and overhauling low-performing schools. But those pending changes now bear the union’s fingerprints, too. For instance, as part of teacher evaluations, the parties plan to establish a peer-assistance and -review program for veteran teachers.

Such programs, in which struggling veterans receive assistance from other teachers before facing dismissal, have long been promoted by the AFT.

The New Haven reform committee would also work to create a schoolwide performance-pay program and a career ladder for teachers who take on extra responsibilities. Under the contract terms, the pay program would reward schools whose students made “substantial” progress, and it would charge a committee of teachers and principals in those schools with determining how to divvy up bonus funds.

‘Turnaround’ Schools

Student-growth information would also be used to rank schools, beginning in the 2010-11 school year, into three performance tiers. Tier I and II schools would be allowed to waive certain contract provisions with the approval of teachers and principals in those schools. Schools in Tier III would be subject to greater programmatic intervention by the board of education.

A subset of the Tier III schools, deemed “turnarounds,” would be reconstituted with new leadership and staff. Teachers would have to reapply, and principals would select those to be hired. These schools would also be freed up from most contract provisions and could be operated by third-party management organizations, including charter school operators. Issues such as the length of the day, working hours, and even additional compensation programs would be set by teachers and administrators.

The teachers in turnaround schools would be unionized and retain transfer and layoff rights, but they would be expected to commit to working in the turnaround schools for a minimum of two years.

Mr. DeStefano said that one or two Tier III schools would initially be designated turnarounds.

Much of the contract’s ultimate success appears to lie in the hands of the committees charged with fleshing out the contract language. “We’re really excited, but we know that this is just the beginning of the hard work,” Ms. Devlin said.

“Everyone’s got a lot at stake to find an agreement here,” Mr. DeStefano added. “We don’t want to have the board of education unilaterally implement something.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 2009 edition of Education Week as Teacher Contract Called Potential Model for Nation

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
How Whole-Child Student Data Can Strengthen Family Connections
Learn how district leaders can use these actionable strategies to increase family engagement in their student’s education and boost their academic achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management After a Rash of Student Suicides, This School District Stepped Up
Hopeless at first over a student mental health crisis, Colorado's Cherry Creek school leaders decided to build a day-treatment program.
13 min read
Image of a bridge made of puzzle pieces with the middle piece moving to connect the two sides.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management What Superintendents Say They Need More of to Help Them Manage Districts
98% of those surveyed said better data would make them more comfortable making decisions.
2 min read
Image of a data dashboard.
Suppachok Nuthep/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Principals Give Thanks—and Shoutouts—to School Support Staff
Custodians, lunchroom aides, secretaries, and bus drivers are “too often forgotten and underappreciated.”
7 min read
Image of a framed smiley face.
zakokor/iStock/Getty
School & District Management How to Recruit and Retain School Board Members of Color
Pay, staffing, and support are key ingredients to persuade people of color to run for their local school board, experts say.
5 min read
Illustration showing diversity with multi-colored human figures.
ajijchan/iStock/Getty